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Bipolar Family Support Group: Living with a Bipolar Person

bipolar family support group

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A bipolar family support group can be an integral part of your life if you live with someone who has this mental health condition. When you participate in any kind of support group, it can help you navigate challenging situations. You can learn more about other people in a similar situation, and you can share your feelings. A family support group is an excellent form of self-care for so many people.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

A mood disorder that was at one point called manic depression. When you have bipolar, it can lead to extreme mood swings. Someone with this chronic condition might have extreme emotional highs. These highs are called mania or hypomania. 

When someone is in a manic episode, they may feel energetic, euphoric, or irritable. An episode of mania can lead to reckless behaviors as well. Mood swings can cause problems in judgment, behavior, and thinking. When someone is experiencing depressive episodes, symptoms may include sadness and hopelessness. 

While it’s a lifelong condition, it is a manageable disorder. The mood swings and other severe symptoms of bipolar sufferers can be managed by following a treatment plan. Most treatment plans include a combination of medical therapies and counseling and regularly working with a mental health professional. 

How Bipolar Affects Relationships

Whether it’s a family, friends, or romantic relationship, any kind of mental illness can have an impact on your relationships. Living with bipolar disorder’s extreme highs and lows and accompanying symptoms can be difficult for loved ones to deal with.

If you care about someone who has this mental health disorder, you have a lot on your plate. You may find that you have to learn how to cope with the challenges of the symptoms. You want to be a positive support system to the person, which can create distress for you.

Some of the effects on families and loved ones include:

  • Guilt, grief, worry, and other types of emotional distress
  • Problems maintaining normal routines
  • Dealing with dangerous or unexpected behavior
  • Financial stress
  • Strained marital relationships
  • Health problems from stress

If you’re a family member of someone with a mental disorder, it can be difficult for you to manage your own emotions, let alone show emotional support. The most important thing for you to realize is that there’s no wrong or right way to deal with your feelings.

At times you may feel grief, and other times you could feel anger or frustration. Learning how to cope with your natural feelings and reactions will help you. There are a few general things you can do. First, educate yourself as much as possible about the illness. This will help you learn that it’s not your fault, nor is it personal if your loved one behaves in a certain way. The specific ways the condition impacts relationships depends on the type of relationship.

For example, if you’re in an intimate relationship with someone who has this diagnosis, there can be periods where they’re frequently initiating sex. Then, during episodes of depression, they may altogether avoid any kind of sexual contact.

You may see effects on your partner’s career and work because of their disorder, and it can put pressure on you to be the primary financial support system for your family.

You could also see that your partner’s diagnosis affects their parenting ability. Noticing the symptoms can be confusing and scary for children, but these symptoms can be significantly minimized and stabilized with treatment.

The Benefits of a Bipolar Family Support Group

When you have a loved one dealing with a severe mental diagnosis, self-care is essential for you. If you don’t take the time to care for yourself, you won’t support anyone else.

There are many ways to practice self-care, one of which is participation in a family support group, such as a NAMI Family Support Group. You might also find referrals through the Bipolar Support Alliance. 

Depression and bipolar support groups can be something that a nonprofit organizes. Community organizations, hospitals, or clinics can also manage support groups or run them entirely by members. You might feel more comfortable in an online support group community, where the group members are not face to face, or you might prefer the structure and interaction of face-to-face meetings.

There is usually a group leader. This leader might share similar experiences to group members, or it can be a facilitator with professional credentials, like social workers, crisis counselors, or psychologists.

Group therapy is different from a support group. Group therapy is a form of treatment for mental health symptoms led by medical professionals. If you’re the loved one of someone with a mental disorder, a support group is a chance to talk, share stories and hear from others in a similar situation as your own.

Some of the benefits of a bipolar support group for families include:

  • You’ll feel less isolated and judged since you’re with a community of people 
  • You can reduce your feelings of depression or anxiety, and you can learn positive coping skills 
  • A support group gives you the chance to talk openly and honestly about your emotions in a confidential setting 
  • It’s a time to understand coping mechanisms that you can put into action in your daily life
  • By being around other group participants who have similar situations to your own, you can learn more about the disorder your loved one is facing.
  • Support groups tend to be empowering and provide a sense of control to improve your emotional health. 
  • You may feel hopeful with your participation and productive discussion 
  • Being in a group setting can help you get feedback and learn more about treatment options and additional resources you might not have considered otherwise

What About a Bipolar Spouse Support Group?

The benefits above are for any loved one of someone dealing with the disorder, including spouses of persons with this condition. If you’re taking care of yourself, finding time to work on the issues you’re dealing with, and you have an outlet to share what you’re feeling, you’re going to be in a much better position to support your spouse.

It’s possible and is often the case that when a bipolar disorder or other mental health challenges are involved in a marriage, it can still be happy and healthy. That does rely on your spouse accepting their diagnosis and following their treatment plan, and again, on you taking care of yourself.

Participating in a support group even before your spouse accepts help for their disorder may help you encourage them to get help. You can learn more about how other people have found support for their spouses when facing a similar situation.

The big takeaway is that if you love someone with this bipolar, help, and hope are available. You have to care for yourself as much as you’re working to support that other person, though. Create a self-care plan that involves taking time to do things you enjoy, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and perhaps also participating in a support group.

A bipolar family support group or a bipolar spouse support group can give you strength and power when you need it most. Your participation might also ultimately help other people as well, just by you sharing your experiences.

If you, or someone you love, is struggling due to bipolar disorder, call 858-465-7722, and a care coordinator at The Mental Health Center of San Diego will happily discuss options and details involved to find support that you need. with