According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder is a manic depressive illness affecting the mood, energy levels and day-to-day functioning of sufferers. It is a long-term condition that requires life-long management. Sufferers of bipolar disorder may become easily agitated, be unable to sleep and experience times of extreme sadness or hopelessness intermingled with bouts of extreme elation. Caring for a spouse with bipolar disorder can lead to physical and mental exhaustion and missed work hours due to the demands often placed on caregivers. Fortunately, the N.I.M.H offers advice for living with a bipolar spouse.
Living with a Bipolar Spouse
Read information about bipolar disorder from the National Institute of Mental Health and other reliable resources to better understand what your spouse experiences on a day-to-day basis.
Encourage your spouse to seek ongoing treatment for his bipolar disorder. Because your spouse's illness can worsen without treatment, making manic and depressive episodes more frequent, it is important to offer assistance with the treatment plan recommended by his therapist or physician. Offer to accompany your spouse to counseling appointments or support groups even if you don't participate in discussions.
Help enforce routine meals and bedtimes if your spouse feels anxious or frustrated when his daily routine is inconsistent or unpredictable. Encourage your spouse to wake, eat, take his medication and go to bed at the same time each day, especially during manic and depressive states.
Invite your spouse out for positive activities, especially during depressive states. Go on walks, ride bikes or encourage your spouse to engage in other outdoor activities that he enjoys. During cold weather, invite your spouse out for a movie, his favorite sporting event or enjoy dinner out with friends.
Recognize the warning signs that may indicate your spouse is entering into a manic or depressive state. Speak to his physician if you notice that your spouse is more easily agitated than usual, has trouble sleeping or generally seems out-of-sorts. Talk to your spouse and encourage him to talk back. Listen to him and offer emotional support and understanding.
Take care of yourself during your spouse's manic and depressive states by taking time out for you. A study conducted by the N.I.M.H shows that caregivers under stress may make it difficult for bipolar patients to follow treatment plans, increasing the likelihood of more frequent bipolar episodes. Spend time alone or away if you feel frustrated and seek help from a support group or mental health specialist if you feel overwhelmed.
Tips & Warnings
- Call your spouse's physician or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK to talk to a trained counselor if you believe your spouse may be thinking of harming himself.
- Never leave a suicidal person alone.
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