How to Be Understanding With People With Bipolar Disorder

Two Poles.
Two Poles.

My Experience with Someone Close Who Has Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder. This mental disorder is more than difficult for the person diagnosed with the disorder, but it is often not discussed that it may be even harder on the bipolar person's family and friends. Growing up, I always knew that my loved one wasn't like most more ways than one. She would have months of depression and then the next month, like a giant light-switch, she would flip a 180 and act the exact opposite. If you know anything about bipolar disorder, you will know that "bipolar" means "two poles"...more specifically a person who goes through depressive episodes and manic episodes...sometimes more than two episodes within a given year. There are different types of bipolar disorder and many different signs and symptoms that I will discuss in this hub; however, my main objective is to assist, even in a tiny way, the loved ones of bipolar people with the coping skills and empathy needed in situations involving bipolar people.

I will begin with the emotional polar extreme - mania. Amongst the many experiences with my loved one's manic episodes, one particular experience sticks out in my mind. When I was about the age of ten, my loved one spilled a pot of chili on the white kitchen floor. She threw an uncountable amount of curses around and she literally scrubbed the floor on her hands and knees for close to an hour or maybe longer...long after the chili was entirely cleaned from the floor. She was extremely irritable during these episodes, snapping at people around her for minor reasons. I never quite understood why she was so annoyed by normal everyday occurrences...and I came to think that that was just normal way to act. Now, the more I read and educate myself on Bipolar Disorder symptoms, I realize that many people diagnosed with bipolar disorder act the same way that my mother has acted all of these years, including the tendency to make spontaneous and sometimes dangerously over-the-edge decisions. There are other symptoms and signs of this disorder that are exacerbated in a state of mania or depression, which I will discuss in detail later.

During my adolescence, my loved one went through a depressive state that felt like it lasted for years. I am sure she had manic episodes in between these depressive episodes, but all I can recollect was the hopelessness and grief radiating from her every pore. In the midst of her depression, and possibly what triggered so many bouts of depression, came a menace to my her health...addiction. I believe that addiction is something that she has struggled with her entire life; however, it seemed to escalate during this particular period of time. Symptoms of her depressive state of mind included constant crying, a hopeless outlook on life, lack of motivation to perform at her job, lack of energy and constant physical illnesses. One of the worst symptoms that rears its ugly head in a state of depression is the suicidal thoughts. There were many times where I had the feeling that my loved one was going to try to take her own life...because she thought her life was that horrible.

I am not trying to discredit my loved one as a good person or shed a negative light on her by any means; however, people with bipolar disorder tend to not think of anyone but themselves because of the chemical imbalances going on in their brains and bodies. Because of this lack of awareness, the other people around them tend to suffer just as much as they do. Remember, there are ways to coping and understanding the bipolar person. As difficult as it is to empathize with a person whom you feel is just so is possible! You have to be willing to open your mind and realize that this disorder cannot be easily overcome by willpower for the person who bears it. A regimen of the proper medications, self-awareness, and personal spirituality are great for the bipolar person to come out of the holes of depression and mania. For the family members and friends of the bipolar have to learn empathy and patience and realize that they do not want to seem so "selfish" and that these feelings and actions are not always controllable.

Other Lesser Known Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

To fully understand this mental disorder you have to be able to notice and be patient with all of its side symptoms. Besides the major two symptoms of bipolar disorder, Mania and Depression, there are other lesser known symptoms that seem to be present in the vast majority of people living with bipolar disorder. In fact, some of these lesser symptoms can sometimes lead a psychologist down the right pathway of diagnosis for those with bipolar disorder.

As much as sixty percent of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder also struggle with addiction of some sort, in at least one period of their lives. These addictions can include sexual addictions, drug & alcohol abuse, and gambling addictions. When sexual addiction occurs in a person with bipolar disorder, it is usually a side effect from their states of mania. Over-heightened senses and an overabundance of certain hormones feeds the bipolar person's need to find sexual gratification. Research has shown that drug and alcohol abuse with bipolar persons seems to relate to a need to self medicate in times of mania and depression. Cocaine and methamphetamines seem to be a self-medication for bipolar people during times of elevate their mood. Alcohol and pain meds tend to be used to calm the states of mania. Unfortunately, addiction to any of these substances is unhealthy to the body...and in this case makes the bipolar person's mental state even worse. Gambling addictions are also a side effect of manic goes along with split-second decision making and wreckless spontaneity associated with bouts of mania.

A more frightening symptom of bipolar disorder is hallucinations. These hallucinations can be one of two kinds, or both - visual and auditory. Not only are these hallucinations terrifying for the person experiencing them, but they are also terrifying for the family members and friends around that person. Studies have shown that these hallucinations usually arise when the bipolar person is in a manic episode, or on an overabundance of medications that do not fit their illness...including pain pill cocktails. When I was about sixteen years old, my loved one with bipolar disorder went through one of her manic episodes, but at that same time she was also taking too many medications. I believe her psychologist and doctor had her on a total of about twelve different medications, all at once. Anyone in their right mind would know that this many medications would give hallucinations to even a totally stable-minded no doubt this plethora of pills messed with her mind the way it did. She experienced visual and auditory hallucinations during this period in time. I was worried for her physical safety and mental safety so my stepfather and I ended up committing her to the hospital to ween her off of the medications she was taking. After she was off this wave of pills, the manic episode levelled out and she did not show any signs of hallucinations after that.

Last but surely not least of these lesser known bipolar symptoms is delusions. With my bipolar loved one, they seemed to be more of delusions of grandeur during the manic times...but during the depressed times they could be dark delusions of misery. My heart aches to think of the torture that her mind has been through between the addictions, manic and depressive states, hallucinations and also delusions. I am sure that it is difficult for a bipolar person in these states of mind to determine what is reality and what is not. Delusions of grandeur are evident when people that are bipolar feel like that are unstoppable or almost super-human like in some cases. An example would be Napoleon Bonaparte. Look into his life and you will see the many times where he seemed to exhibit the signals of ever-increasing delusions of grandeur...ever heard of the "Napoleon complex"? Point and case. Delusions defined simply are thoughts about yourself that are far-fetched, and to the sane person, obviously untrue. I am sure that all of us have some sort of delusion in our lives at one point or another, but the difference is that bipolar people tend to have more than one in a lifetime...they probably experience delusions at least once a year!

Different Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are variants of bipolar disorder. Someone with bipolar disorder could be bipolar 1, bipolar 2, cyclothymic, mixed or even a rapid-cycler. Each of these types of bipolar disorder come with certain levels of symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder 1 is the first type of bipolar disorder because it is the first to be used as a diagnosis. Bipolar disorder 1 involves heavy mood swings, including severe phases of mania and depression. Bipolar disorder 2 involves more depression with less severe bouts of mania...called hypomania. A person who is considered to have mixed bipolar disorder can have mania and depression at the same time...which is quite dangerous if untreated. Rapid cyclers are known to have a minimum of four bouts of mania and depression alternating throughout a given year, sometimes they can have more than ten. This is exceedingly difficult for the people around the bipolar one never really knows what to expect from the bipolar loved one. It's kind of like walking on egg shells...twenty-four seven! I believe my loved one has this type of bipolar disorder, as she has been known to have more than four bouts of depression and mania in the period of a year.


Jim Carey
Jim Carey
Tim Burton
Tim Burton
Virginia Woolf.
Virginia Woolf.

Ways To Ride the Emotional Roller-Coaster Without Falling Out

Musician Sting, the actor Jim Carey, the composer Beethoven, the inventive guitarist and musician Jimi Hendrix, the comedian Ben Stiller, and film-maker Tim Burton are among the famous and highly talented people who are living (or have lived) with bipolar disorder. If you have ever learned about the author Virginia Woolf in school or elsewhere, you would know that she suffered from depression...most likely bipolar disorder and she was unable to cope with her depressive episodes in the end. But there are ways to cope and as a society we are becoming more and more educated about psychological disorders and how they work...which in turn aids in saving those people that battle this disorder. Lately I'm beginning to wonder if Charlie Sheen isn't bi-polar...I know he says he's "bi-winning", but he seems to have all the classic traits of bipolar disorder.  At the same time, I can't help but like the man!  The mere fact that there are so many brilliant people in the world that live happily with bipolar disorder today demonstrates that it is possible to get on with your life, whether you are the person with bipolar disorder or the family member or friend of the diagnosed person. It is also possible to take those experiences and teach others...through writing or painting or acting. Let your experiences inspire you to help others.

I think the problem with most people that live or are close to a person with bipolar disorder is their lack of knowledge on the subject of bipolar disorder. I have been reading and studying Bipolar Disorder for a few months now and feel like I more thoroughly understand the side effects of this disease and I do not feel as angry towards my loved one for some of the occurrences when I was a child. As much as I always felt that she could help herself with these problems, I know now that she can only help herself to a certain degree. She cannot overpower a chemical imbalance within her just does not work like that! I know some people believe that through spirituality and self-empowerment that it is possible to overcome depression and mania...which that may be true. But for most normal people that are not on a specific "path of enlightment", this theory does not fully pan out. It would take a person of a very strong mind and will to overcome a mental disorder without medications and proper psychological treatment. Nonetheless, we must encourage our loved ones to do their best to understand their well as ourselves.

If you feel alone and do not know anyone who is in the same position as you (having a bipolar loved one), there are support groups all over the internet. You can get online and chat with someone who may be dealing with the same problems as yourself, or send emails with encouraging words. Read about bipolar disorder and the different symptoms that are enveloped in this illness. Whether you are bipolar or you are close to someone who is bipolar, you are not alone in this journey.

© 2011 Author Nicole Canfield

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Comments 20 comments

Mystical Avenger 3 days ago

I live with someone that has bipolar/ mental problems and let me just say it's not easy at all. Dealing with the bipolar part is hard enough. Like you mentioned there's highs/lows and it's good knowledge to learn when trying to deal/ process it all. For a long time, about 10 years or so it took me to figure out how to "deal" and let me just say you have to take it day by day. God bless.

Anndrea Baily profile image

Anndrea Baily 5 months ago from South Africa

Reading your hub and being bipolar and depressed my self is though. Im living with my mom that is also bipolar. Its though. We both deal with it different but your story opened my eyes in a different way. Would like more of your stories.

lambservant profile image

lambservant 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Very good hub and I appreciate your efforts to inform people. Psychosis (delusions and hallucinations) can also be caused by lack of sleep, which is another symptom of both depression and mania.

Although I get what you mean, I think referring to people other than those with bipolar as normal can be hurtful and demeaning. I know you didn't mean to be so, but as one who struggles with bipolar, it makes me feel less than other people. A person with diabetes, or cancer are considered normal, they just have a disease. It's the same with anyone else who has a biochemical disease. Besides, what is normal anyway?

Also, identifying someone by their diagnosis (he's a bipolar, or bipolars are...) is wrong I feel. They are a person with bipolar. One might think this is just semantics or splitting hairs, but it does not feel that way for the person with the condition. Insert your name into that sentence and try to see how it feels. The stigma of bipolar, and mental illness in general, is astounding. If you look in a dictionary, one meaning of stigma is a mark of disgrace. I have felt that attitude from a few. One wouldn't say, "Oh Susan is a cancer," or "Cancer's are not normal." Can you see the difference? Susan is Susan, a person, who has a disease called cancer. Your loved one is just a person who has a disease. It is true, that because bipolar symptoms affect how one behaves, abnormal behavior, people tend to see things differently. At the end of the day, it is about giving someone with bipolar the dignity that everyone deserves.

Nonetheless, I hear a very strong love and compassion from you about your loved one and other's who have bipolar. I can see where it was very frightening and confusing to you growing up. So the fact that you wrote this hub to help others understand and deal with it is very moving to me. I thank you for it. God bless you on your journey with your loved one. You are a good, supportive woman and family membern.

Jennifer Bart profile image

Jennifer Bart 3 years ago from Texas

Very informative and well organized hub! I appreciate this because I myself struggle with Bipolar.

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 3 years ago from the Ether Author

broken-angel: That's wonderful and encouraging to hear. Thank you for sharing and for being open-minded. You are very strong. Blessings.

Broken-Angel profile image

Broken-Angel 3 years ago from Colchester

Thank you for sharing this, i am bipolar myself it is hard for people around us to deal with us at hard times but i am learning when i have episodes and trying to educate not only myself but loved ones. I have told them if they feel im swinging and i do not see this to just let me know and to be prepared lol. Im getting there slowly and i have found i can actually live a normal life. x

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

marc - Thanks for the compliment!

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

shehzter - I am so happy you found encouragement in this article. I struggled with understanding folks with bipolar disorder my entire life, but I realize that most of them cannot help it. And you're right, with a combination of meds, therapy, and self-entitlement, bipolar people can overcome. Thanks and Blessings to you, sweetie.

shehzter profile image

shehzter 4 years ago from Kandy, Sri Lanka

Hi, this hub is so well written and so well researched. I have bipolar disorder and I absolutely hate it. You speak about patients being so selfish during an episode. That is so true. My selfishness hurts people and I hurt coz i know i hurt them. And i think for a bipolar patient medicine is essential. No amount of will power ever helped me. In fact the times I have stopped taking pills i have been driven dangerously close to suicide. I wish people would understand us more. So many have told me to just get a life. I try, but its so difficult sometimes.

Anyway at the end the patient has to fight the illness.No amount of pills or psychotherapy will help if the patient does not fight it. It is so difficult but there is no alternative.

So Kittythedreamer thanks so much for the hub. Please write more hubs on this. Coz when people like me stumble upon these, we feel more encouraged and we are encouraged that there are people who care and understand. That's exactly what I felt. God's Blessings.

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

Carolinemd21 - Do you live in MD? I was born and raised there. Glad you liked this hub. It is difficult, but easy to understand if you take the time to understand it. Blessings.

carolinemd21 profile image

carolinemd21 4 years ago from Close to Heaven

I loved this article. It was very useful I also know someone I know with bipolar disorder. It is tough for all of the people who love them.

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Millenium - That makes sense, sounds like she's very aware of her condition. Many bipolar people aren't so open to hearing about themselves's sort of like someone pointing out our own problems, you know? But that's awesome that she's able to be told when she's close to going over and therefore it helps bring her back to reality.

Millenium profile image

Millennium 5 years ago

What a helpful lens. I have known people with bipolar disorder and she said to let her know if she was tethering on the edge so to speak. That by doing so, it would help her to at least, be a little more conscious that it was happening.

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

thanks so much, amillar! and to you and yours!

amillar profile image

amillar 5 years ago from Scotland, UK

This is a well written and useful hub Kitty. All the best to you and your family.

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

hi, marcoujor. my loved one is doing just fine, thank you for asking! it is very important for family members and friends of bipolar people to understand why bipolar people struggle and why their actions aren't necessarily on purpose or their fault...once the understanding comes into effect, life becomes much easier for everyone! :)

marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

kittythedreamer~~ Thank you for writing such a powerful HUB that helps so many understand the importance of family understanding/ support. I hope your loved one is doing OK now.

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

very glad that you all enjoyed this hub. bipolar disorder is a very hard thing to be diagnosed with, and also hard for loved ones to cope with. we have to learn patience and empathy for those that do have bipolar and try not to take some things so personally. people with bipolar have to learn how to determine real emotions from emotions that their brain is telling them to have.

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juanitallama 5 years ago from Utah

Hey I like your hub. I am Bipolar and have been trying to teach my family how to handle it and respond to it and it is hard.... I just got married too and my husband's parents are divorced so it is like I have 3 families I have to teach how to deal with it.... it can be rough. My mother's father is really bipolar so she can relate to you. It is a hard thing. I appreciate your comments.

L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

An insightful view into bipolar disorder--not only for those who have the condition but for their loved ones. I can see why so many people with the disorder develop addictions--it has to be their way of trying to cope with the severe range of emotions.

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