Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that influences people’s behaviour by causing unexpected fluctuations in their mood. They often experience moments of extreme happiness, and in the blink of an eye, they undergo manic or depressive episodes.
Those in relationships with people with bipolar disorder have to possess a uniquely sufficient amount of patience because of the unpredictability of their illness.
For instance, people with bipolar disorder might suddenly become talkative and happy. But shortly after, they turned irritable, depressed, and withdrawn.
Bipolar disorder affects more than half a million people in Canada. Without proper care, statistics show that about 10- 15% of them will die. However, like all mental health conditions, people living with bipolar disorder are not defined by their state. They can thrive with the right kind of support.
Bipolar disorder needs medication treatment to curb the symptoms and stop future episodes. So, let us find out what to do when someone with bipolar disorder pushes you away.
1. What to Do When Someone with Bipolar Disorder Pushes You Away?
Some appropriate ways to respond when someone with bipolar disorder shuts you out are given below.
1.1. Offer Unconditional Support
Assuring them that you are willing to be part of their lives, even though they have pushed you away, is vital. You can emphasize to them that you are available for them. This way, you can gradually get them to feel safe to open up to you again without feeling pressured.
This can be achieved by simply enquiring: ‘How did your day go?’ or, ‘Is there something you require?’ These simple questions could make a difference because they often push people away to avoid burdening them with emotional problems.
This can show them they still have you as a companion regardless of the distance.
Additionally, bipolar disorder often causes people to fixate on activities or tasks. Checking in on them may help them to detach and focus on something else.
1.2. Respect Their Boundaries
You can feel hurt when someone you deeply care about shuts you out. Hence, you may not be able to accept this decision easily. However, you need to understand that the dynamics of bipolar relationships may not be similar to those in ordinary relationships.
People with bipolar disorder may go in isolation because they may feel overwhelmed by experiencing several emotions simultaneously. You can let them have space as they readjust and process their feelings.
Show consideration for their needs and acknowledge their boundaries. You can let them be alone and provide them with sufficient time. Through this arrangement, you can understand each other without conflicts.
This can increase the amount of trust in the relationship. However, remember to set your boundaries as well.
1.3. Be Patient
Firstly, you need to understand and accept that there is currently no cure for bipolar disorder. Thus, you need to show a lot of patience when in a relationship with a person with bipolar disorder.
Their constant mood fluctuations may take a toll on you. Furthermore, you cannot understand the bipolar disorder struggle of a person overnight.
Mental illness is complicated to adjust to. Hence, imagine how hard it must be for a bipolar person. Try to remain calm whenever you can. If you intend to be in this person’s life, you should be ready to compromise accordingly.
Keep in mind that a manic episode or depressive episode can last for days, weeks, or months. During that time, your bipolar partner or family member will need your utmost support to get through it.
Losing your temper is something you should avoid as much as you can because you need to remember that these people are also in distress. Thus, having patience with their frequent mood swings can be enough to ease their discomfort.
Remember, you can achieve this process only over time. Your relationship can go through several ups and downs during this course. However, the key to having a successful relationship with someone with bipolar disorder is patience.
1.4. Encourage Them Constantly
Bipolar persons may shut out everyone in their lives because they might fear not being understood. People might perceive them as dramatic due to their constant mood swings. However, if you are trying to be supportive, these are the situations that you should be more careful about.
Do this through constant encouragement. Remind them that the behaviour isn’t their fault. Most importantly, you are not holding it against them. Motivate them to take their medication frequently. This shows them your support in their struggles.
Say something like: ‘It is okay. You can do it another time when you are feeling up to it. Being different makes you special.’ Remind them that you will never give up on them, no matter what they may do or say during their mood swings and unstable episodes.
This encouragement can give them the strength to handle their mental health.
Keep in mind that psychological support is part of any healing process.
1.5. Maintain an Atmosphere of Consistency Around Them
Remember that people with bipolar disorder may not have control over their outbursts. Expressing themselves might be challenging because of their inability to control the fluctuation of their emotions.
Hence, you need to be the voice of reason to maintain consistency in how they respond to their manic or depressive episodes.
Sometimes, this mental condition affects someone’s ability to separate reality and fantasy, making it difficult to make sound and rational decisions. For instance, someone may get so excited over receiving a bonus in their workplace. Hence, they may choose to make a very unrealistic purchase.
In such situations, you have to help them reason. But, you need not do it harshly. Help remind them about things they planned to do and the consequences of making reckless decisions.
You can help them devise a routine schedule. Your support can help them remain calm in intense situations where they feel like losing control.
You could make them resort to other techniques when they lose control—maybe holding their breath until calm or whatever works for them.
1.6. Listen to Them
Try to be a good listener. Bipolar persons are usually not very good at communicating and expressing their feelings appropriately. Often, they have difficulty putting their emotions and feelings into words. Hence, it is hard to understand the matter they attempt to communicate.
So, always listen properly to know what they require. This way, you can realize how to be supportive. This will provide the relationship with a safe environment where the bipolar person feels comfortable turning to you for help. They can also confide in you about the challenges they face.
It also helps them communicate correctly. Because as you listen to them, you can understand their perspective. Thus, you won’t be offended when dealing with delicate issues. When it is your turn to respond, try using phrases that sound less judgmental.
‘How can I best support you? I understand, and I’m here for you. You don’t have to handle this alone.’ All these are some perfect examples.
With this approach, a bipolar person can feel less inclined to push you away during distress. Hence, you become someone to whom they can turn to.
1.7. Avoid Trying to Fix Them
You may be urged to solve their problem because you care about them. However, this may not solve a problem you cannot understand. There is no cure for bipolar disorder. So when they confide in you, they are not looking for advice but support.
Try not to advise them on how to fix their problem, but instead focus on showing your unconditional support regardless of what they are going through. When they are confused and have excess emotions, giving unsolicited advice could trigger a worse reaction, including an agitated outburst.
Don’t criticize and mock them. Also, avoid unnecessary humour in such moments because it may not be received well, even if it is genuine. Focus on being supportive about what they need, and avoid being judgemental.
Avoid phrases, namely: ‘You are acting weird or crazy, or it is normal. I have gone through the same thing before.’ Such statements make them feel guilty rather than uplifted. These may also end up triggering them.
Remember, your role is not to fix them. But to be someone who makes them feel safe.
1.8. Empathize With Them
It would be best if you understood that persons with bipolar disorder are pushing you away because they need to work through their emotional troubles and not because they want to ignore you. This is the initial step to show that you empathize with them.
It is a difficult time for both of you in the relationship. You may find it hard to focus on supporting their feelings instead of challenging them because you also feel hurt. However, remember that they are not doing it intentionally.
And they need your unconditional support. You can’t allow your ego to get the best of you. Do not make the situation worse.
Furthermore, go ahead and research bipolar disorder to understand more about their behaviour. This way, you can know how to respond appropriately to sudden changes in their moods.
This can help you cope better with the person suffering and maintain healthy relationships.
Additionally, you should know that their manic and depressive mood swings are more extreme than the normal anxiety or tantrums. Bipolar disorder is one of the recognized psychological health issues.
Please don’t compare it to your everyday sadness. Ensure this does not affect your relationship with a bipolar person.
1.9. Assist Them to Seek Treatment
If you are unsure how to help someone struggling with bipolar disorder, you can carefully suggest involving professional help. A professional is trained to handle mental health issues.
Bipolar people may hesitate to go to a professional because they don’t prefer to be labelled. However, you can find a way to convince them that getting help is what matters.
Furthermore, you can help in the search for a therapist or recommend someone that you know. Consequently, this recommendation will assure the bipolar persons that they can trust this person since you know them well.
Additionally, if bipolar persons are comfortable with it, you can drive them to these sessions and show your support. If they are uncomfortable with physically meeting a therapist, help them sign up for online therapy. The online therapy platforms include Better Help and Talk Space.
Also, if you are in a romantic relationship with someone experiencing this mental health condition, consider couples counselling for successful, healthy relationships.
However, please don’t force them. Make it seem like a simple suggestion. They should consider it without feeling pressured and only when they are ready.
1.10. Avoid Making Them Guilty
You may try to help them by reminding them how fortunate they are to get this life. However, this will only make them miserable. It reminds them of how much they are failing everyone around them.
They are going through depression, and reminding them makes them feel worse. Statements evoking guilt should be avoided because they may serve as a trigger.
Focus on getting them the medical help they need and support them. Otherwise, the guilt may only serve to make them worse.
2. Closing Notes
According to research, one percent (1%) of Canadians over the age of 15 reported symptoms meeting the criteria for bipolar disorder in the past 12 months. 1 in 50 adults aged 25-44 or 45-64 report having symptoms related to bipolar disorder at some point in their lives.
The proportion of men and women meeting age criteria for bipolar disorder declines slightly with age. (2002 Mental Health and Well-Being Survey, Statistics Canada)
The best way to help them is to be understanding, patient, and supportive. Accept the possibility that you may never be able to feel or associate the pain they go through their whole lives. However, you should be aware that they still need you. Give them space when they require it.
So, if you have any relationship with a person experiencing a bipolar struggle, you should know that people with bipolar disorder push their loved ones away for unrelated reasons.
During their manic episodes of mood disorder, your reaction is very crucial to the well-being of the relationship. Similarly, you should still find a way to be supportive because they still need help.
Lastly, don’t hesitate to call for help if their isolation starts to worry a bit much. Call the police or a healthcare specialist. Please don’t give up on them, regardless of how much they push you away.
Q1. What to Do if a Person With Bipolar Disorder Has Suicidal Tendencies?
When a bipolar person pushes you away for a long time, it is something to worry about. So, if you detect any psychotic symptoms or other signs of suicidal thoughts, you should call the police for help or call any suicide helpline numbers.
Q2. How Do We Know That Someone With Bipolar Disorder Is Having Difficulty Coping?
Someone with bipolar disorder may become so frustrated that they pick up unhealthy behaviour. These include self-isolation for a long time, aggressive behaviour, self-harm, avoidance of treatment, and substance abuse.
All these signs are dangerous, and you must promptly approach a healthcare professional. If it gets worse, call 911.
Q3. Do Bipolar People Feel Guilty for Their Actions?
Yes, they do because they also have a conscience like anyone else. Furthermore, they will often feel guilty for their actions after their mood swings. Their actions can be impulsive and out of character.
They often regret what they did during those episodes when they are in a stable state.
Q4. Do Bipolar People Experience Memory Loss After Their Mood Swings?
Memory loss is not commonly linked with bipolar disorder. However, some people with bipolar disorder may not completely recollect their activities during extreme manic or depressive episodes.
This can happen, especially when these mood swings involve hallucinations or delusions.
Furthermore, few of the bipolar disorder medications do result in memory loss as a side effect.
Q5. Does Someone With Bipolar Disorder Get Offended Easily?
Yes, someone with bipolar disorder can easily get offended or intensely react to teasing or slight criticism. This is due to the instability in their mood changes. However, this does not occur consistently. The way bipolar disorder affects people varies.
Q6. Has the Change in Perception Toward Mental Illness Increased the Rate of Bipolar Disorder Patients Willing to Get Medical Help?
Over the years, the stigma behind mental illness has reduced with people becoming more understanding. Hence, more people are becoming comfortable admitting that they experience mental health problems and seek help without being judged.
Nevertheless, many people with bipolar disorder feel less inclined to get help from a mental health professional due to fear of being labelled insane. Hence, a fair amount still don’t get the treatment.