Bipolar disorder causes extreme shifts in mood, from very high manic episodes to very low periods of depression. Mania can happen frequently or very rarely, depending on the person. While mania may feel better to the person than the episodes of depression, the high is often beyond what is comfortable or easy to control, causing a new set of problems. Helping a loved one through a manic episode can be difficult and exhausting, but learning how to help calm a manic episode can make it a little easier. Remember that your support should never replace professional help from a mental health expert.
Understand Manic Episodes
Recognizing the symptoms of manic episodes and understanding how they work can help you better handle the situation. Mania presents differently in each person, so knowing how your loved one acts during a manic episode is important. You might notice the symptoms slowly increasing before the person reaches full mania, which can take anywhere from a couple days to several months.
A sudden improvement in your loved one's mood can indicate that a manic episode is coming. Sleeping less without feeling tired the next day may be a sign in some people. Other potential signs include impatience, irritability, rapid speech, unrealistic ideas, poor decision-making, euphoria and behavior that disrupts everyday life or relationships with others.
Work With the Treatment Team
Working with your loved one's treatment team helps him get the best care possible. If possible, create a plan before a manic episode begins. For example, the person's mental health provider might decide you should call at the first signs of a manic episode to set up an appointment. If your loved one has a manic episode, support the treatment recommended by his care providers.
Certain situations or external factors may make mania worse. For example, some people find that alcohol or other substances make the situation worse. Encourage the person to stay away from those triggers to help calm the mania faster. You might try to have the person enjoy a quiet evening at home with you instead of going out with friends where alcohol is served. Limiting activity and stimulation can help calm mania.
Do Damage Control
Mania often causes a person with bipolar disorder to make poor decisions. Poor financial decisions are very common. When possible, put limitations on what your loved one can do during a manic episode to cause damage. For example, you might lower the credit limit on her credit card, so she can't charge large amounts. Look at the person's usual destructive behaviors during mania, and determine what you can do to minimize those behaviors.
You can also help her think through her impulsive behaviors or at least try to delay them. If she wants to invest in a "get rich quick" scheme, suggest that she hold off to see if something better comes along, or ask her to run the idea by other financially responsible people to see what they think about the idea. If she wants to make a big life change that affects her stability, ask questions about things such as how she will finance her new life and what will happen to her current responsibilities.
You can't force a person to take medication or follow treatment protocols, but you can provide encouragement to do those things. Keep in mind that medicine isn't always a cure-all. The person may have side effects he doesn't like while on his medication, which may cause him to skip taking it. You can be supportive and encouraging when it comes to his treatment, but avoid arguing with him about it. Listening to him and simply being with him can help him feel less isolated.
Take Care of Yourself
Even though bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that the person can't control, it's still an exhausting situation for a loved one to handle. It's important to take care of yourself while you're helping someone through a manic episode. Don't overlook your basic needs, and don't take on too much responsibility or guilt about the person's actions. If things get physical during a manic episode, you may need to call the police for help. You can also lean on the person's mental health care team for support when you can't handle the situation.
- Psych Central: Bipolar Disorder: Helping Your Loved One Manage a Manic Episode
- WebMD: Bipolar Disorder: Helping Someone During a Manic Episode
- Psychology Today: 11 Ways to Help a Friend With Bipolar Disorder
- HelpGuide.org: Helping Someone With Bipolar Disorder
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Bipolar Disorder
- Healthline: Coping With Mania
Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.
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