Bipolar disorder can create catastrophic life disruptions if left untreated. It can ravage relationships, interfere with employment, and even bring physical harm to the sufferer or those around them. Even with treatment, life does not simply become easy for sufferers of bipolar disorder.
If you know someone with this disorder, it can be difficult for you to understand what they are going through, potentially causing you to make insensitive remarks or add strain to your relationship. Here are a few of the struggles people living with bipolar must face.
People with bipolar disorder must cope with their illness in many different ways. Simply taking the medication does not cut it. Setting up a daily routine is one of the best ways for bipolar people to stabilize themselves. Of course, this also means that deviation from the routine can trigger an episode. Routines will often include set times for meals, exercise, social interaction, relaxation, and sleep. If something disrupts this schedule, the person may be pulled into a manic or depressive episode.
For example, if a person with bipolar disorder wanted to take a vacation to another country, the time zone shift may interrupt the schedule their brain has learned to expect. Even if they follow the proper sequence, the times have been disrupted, bringing potential for an episode during a time that should be fun and relaxing.
Difficulty Maintaining Relationships
The symptoms of bipolar can make it very difficult for the sufferer to maintain positive relationships in their life. An episode can cause them to lash out at loved ones, behave irresponsibly, and act in an unsettling manner. Manic episodes can result in irresponsible spending, sometimes leaving the family to pick up the credit card bill. Depressive episodes may lead the person to withdraw, avoiding loved ones and causing a rift in the relationship. Psychotic episodes are frightening to those around the person, making them uneasy when around their loved one.
Treatment can remedy many of the harmful symptoms, but often relationships must be repaired from incidents that occurred before treatment. A person with bipolar disorder needs love and support just as any person does. They may blame themselves for their symptoms and the subsequent damage to important relationships. This means it is important that loved ones remain understanding.
Self-Medication and Addiction
About 56% of people with bipolar disorder will experience addiction in their lives. This is due to the high rate of self-medication when adequate treatment has not been prescribed. Alcohol and drugs offer temporary relief from many symptoms, making them tempting to a person who does not know there are other options for relief.
Unfortunately, these substances will actually aggravate many of the symptoms of bipolar disorder after their temporary calming effects fade. This forms a vicious cycle where the person feels worse after the effects have worn off, leading them to try and self-medicate again. If your loved one is coping with substance abuse, it is important that they get treatment for both their bipolar disorder and their addiction.
Having someone in your life with bipolar can seem intimidating. If they are not receiving treatment, it becomes even more difficult to keep them in your life. The first step is to be sure they are receiving help. Only when the person is able to manage their own problems will they be able to address any pain they may have caused others.
In the meantime, try to remember that these episodes are a reflection of the disorder and not a true representation of the person you care about. Don't take the symptoms of their disorder personally. They will come back around, and soon the relationship will begin to mend.