Bipolar Disorder: Helping Your Loved One Manage a Manic Episode
“Depression and bipolar disorder are often family diseases,” according to Psych Central associate editor and author Therese Borchard. So when your loved one is going through a manic episode, you may naturally feel helpless and hopeless.
What can you do? Fortunately, there are many ways you can successfully support your loved one and help yourself. Renowned expert David Miklowitz, Ph.D, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute and author of the best-seller The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide and Bipolar Disorder: A Family-Focused Treatment Approach, offers his insight below.
1. Recognize the warning signs.
According to Miklowitz, episodes of mania “vary considerably from person to person.” For some people, it takes several months to reach a full manic episode, while others’ symptoms peak in a day or two.
Still, there are similar symptoms loved ones can watch out for. Essentially, these early warning signs are a “muted form” of mania, he said. For instance, your loved one may begin sleeping less (staying up later and later and waking up earlier) and not feel tired the next day.
Also, “look for a sudden improvement in mood,” which often follows a depressed episode. Miklowitz clarified that this doesn’t mean your loved one has simply gotten over the depression. Rather, they’re “upbeat and optimistic in a way that doesn’t seem realistic.” He described it as a giddy feeling.
Your family member might seem impatient and easily irritated. He may talk rapidly and express expansive and unrealistic ideas. For example, he may start pursuing financial schemes or go from being interested in websites to wanting to revise the World Wide Web, Miklowitz said.
Functional impairment is telling, too. Is your loved one’s behavior interfering with her life, including their work, relationships and other activities? Fights with others are often signs of trouble. In fact, Miklowitz worked with one family where the wife could anticipate a manic episode just by her husband’s behavior at their son’s soccer games. When he was well, he’d cheer with the rest of the parents. When he was ill, he’d scream and argue with the coaches, one time even running onto the field.