If you know a woman who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the experience can be frustrating and confusing. The uncertainty of the illness may leave you feeling hopeless. With proper treatment, however, a woman can live with this condition and learn to manage the symptoms. Bipolar disorder can sometimes lead to dangerous behavior, so medical intervention is almost always necessary. Become familiar with the symptoms so you can recognize if you need to seek help for your loved one.
There are several different types of bipolar disorder, but this article addresses the most prevalent type, known as bipolar 1 disorder.
Understand the symptoms. Bipolar disorder is identified by the presence of both depressive episodes and manic episodes.
Recognize a depressive episode. Feelings of sadness that last for more than two weeks, worthlessness, an inability to concentrate, a loss of pleasure in most activities, significant changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and thoughts of suicide are all symptoms of a depressive episode.
Recognize a manic episode. A period of elevated or irritable mood lasting longer than one week, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, excessive involvement in pleasure-seeking or high-risk behaviors like gambling or sexual promiscuity, and distractibility are all symptoms of a manic episode.
Get help. Bipolar disorder can be debilitating. A woman struggling with this disorder may be unable to ask for help. Isolation can occur during the depressive episodes, as well as embarrassment or denial, which may lead a woman to avoid asking for help. Irrational behavior during the manic episode may be frustrating for her, and may lead her to want to avoid the entire situation. If you know a woman who is struggling with these symptoms, help set up appointments for a counselor and a psychiatrist so she can be assessed.
Participate in treatment. Although you may feel frustrated and not understand why someone you care about is dealing with bipolar disorder, it is important to be involved in her treatment. Attend therapy sessions, help monitor her medication and engage in treatment activities with her.
Educate yourself. Understanding bipolar disorder and the effects it has on your loved one is important. Research reliable websites dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar (like the one listed in Resources) and become familiar with the medications your loved one is taking. Report any concerns you may have to her physician. Don't be afraid to get involved.
Be patient. The treatment of bipolar disorder is a process that can take a while. Encourage the woman you love and be supportive. If you become concerned that she may hurt herself, contact her doctor immediately or go to the nearest hospital .
- Bipolar disorder can cause cause impulsive and dangerous behaviors. If your loved one expresses a desire to harm herself or is engaging in high-risk behavior, seek help immediately.
Kristen Fowler has written articles for the "Hampton Roads Health Journal" and "The Oyster Pointer" since 2007. She is a licensed professional counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist with a master's degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Kristen is an outpatient therapist in private practice.