How to Talk to Bipolar People

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Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depressive illness) is a disorder that causes extreme shifts in emotional states. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder is most likely to develop in a persons late teens or early adult years. Communicating with someone who has bipolar disorder can be very frustrating. However, by keeping a few things in mind, talking to people with bipolar disorder can be made easier.

  • Educate yourself. Often, people with bipolar disorder will say and do hurtful things to the people they love. Understanding the disorder can help you distinguish when these hurtful things are simply the product of the illness. Arming yourself with this knowledge can reduce the stress and frustration of talking to someone with bipolar disorder. Moreover, poor insight is a symptom of bipolar disorder. Thus, you may notice an extreme mood shift before the individual suffering from bipolar does. If you are educated as to the symptoms of a severe mood shift, you may be able to help steer them clear of it. For example, you may be able to alert their counselor.

  • Take them seriously. One in five patients with bipolar disorder will commit suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Consequently, medical attention should be sought if an individual suffering from bipolar disorder begins to talk openly about suicide. One option is to contact their counselor. Another option is to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

  • Know the elements of good communication. According to BC Partners for Mental Health and Addiction, individuals with bipolar disorder can experience stress when they have difficulty understanding what is being said to them or what is expected of them. Stress is a common risk factor for relapse, and thus knowing the elements of good communication is critical when talking to an individual with bipolar disorder.

    According to the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addiction, good communication includes: clear and concise sentences, using a calm and pleasant voice, and displaying a willingness to listen. Moreover, it is recommended that you are conscious of your non-verbal communication as well as your verbal communication. You can find a toolkit with advice on specific language to use at the link below.

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