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Caring for a loved one who has bipolar disorder can feel like an emotional roller coaster. One moment everything is calm. The next moment, a sudden mood shift or behavioral change turns your household upside down.
These unpredictable shifts may leave you on guard, never knowing what to expect.
Caregiving responsibilities can feel overwhelming. Caregivers of loved ones with bipolar disorder report
Some have to reduce work hours or quit their jobs to accommodate caregiver responsibilities, which cuts their income and adds even more stress.
Spending most of your day caring for someone who has a mental health condition leaves you with less time to focus on yourself. It becomes harder to manage the many needs of your loved one living with bipolar disorder if you’re neglecting your own health.
Too much stress could affect your ability to help your loved one
Here are a few ways to find support to prevent caregiver burnout while providing the best care for your loved one who has bipolar disorder.
Learn as much as possible about bipolar disorder. The more you understand the condition, the better you’ll be able to make informed decisions about your loved one’s treatment.
Your loved ones’ doctor is the best source for details about bipolar disorder. They can offer advice on how to manage difficult behaviors. They can also refer you to other reliable sources of information.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance provides information about bipolar disorder and other mood disorders. Its website offers:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) aims to make mental health services and information more accessible to the public. Its website offers:
Since 2007, the International Bipolar Foundation has offered various resources, educational tools, and connections to families affected by bipolar disorder.
Its website has information on bipolar disorder, including:
Your doctor may be able to point you to other bipolar support resources in your area.
Support groups provide a forum to meet other people with bipolar disorder and their loved ones. You can share your experiences, ask questions, and learn strategies that worked for other caregivers. Being part of a support group can make you feel less alone.
Caregiver volunteers run some support groups. Mental health professionals lead others. Today, these groups are available in person and online.
You can find a support group through these organizations:
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness
- 7 Cups
- My Support Forums
- National Federation of Families
Support groups might differ depending on who is running them and the topics they cover. If you join a group and find that it doesn’t work for you, it’s perfectly fine to switch to another.
The stress of caring for someone with bipolar disorder can build up if you don’t find an outlet for relief. If you’re feeling stressed, frustrated, or worried, it’s essential to get these emotions resolved.
You might start by talking with an understanding friend or relative. But because stigma surrounds bipolar disorder, it could be easier to open up to a professional.
Talk with a counselor, therapist, or other mental health care provider who has experience treating caregivers. Together you can work through any negative emotions, like guilt or shame, that you might be feeling.
If talk therapy isn’t enough to ease your stress and anxiety, you might need medication.
You can find a mental health professional in your area through:
- The American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator
- The American Psychiatric Association’s Find a Psychiatrist
- The National Register of Health Service Psychologists
Taking care of another person can leave you with little to no time to care for yourself. You can’t be much help to your loved one when you feel exhausted, stressed, and burned out.
Here are a few things you can do to improve your own health and mental well-being:
Don’t forget to eat. Prep well-balanced meals ahead of time or have ready-to-prepare options in the freezer so you don’t have to resort to junk food when you’re hungry.
Stay active. Exercise is important for your physical and mental well-being. If you don’t have time for a full workout each day, try to sneak in a 10-minute walk or lift weights while you watch TV. Try to get the person you’re caring for to exercise with you, so you’ll both reap the benefits.
Rest. A good night’s rest is essential for helping you recharge. If your loved one has sleep disturbances and keeps you awake at night, try to take naps during the day.
Don’t isolate yourself. Caregiving is more than a full-time job, which can make it hard to get out and see friends and family. Try to make time. If possible, ask a relative to step in or hire a caregiver for a few hours. Social interaction is important for your mental health.
Caring for someone with bipolar disorder can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming. It’s important to care for yourself as well. The better you feel, the better equipped you’ll be to help your loved one.