Bipolar disorder — what to say, what not to say

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Bipolar Disorder What to Say, What Not to Say ByAndrea Bledsoe, PhD| Medically reviewed byPat F. Bass III, MD, MPHWhat you say to your loved one with bipolar disorder can make a difference either in a positive way or in a harmful one.Bipolar Disorder: The Nine Worst Things to SayYou may have been surprised by your loved ones diagnosis and his behavior may be very frustrating, but no matter what he does (or doesnt do) and how upset you get, do your best to avoid saying the following:1. Youre crazy.2. This is your fault.3. Youre not trying.4. Everyone has bad times.5. Youll be okay theres no need to worry.6. Youll never be in a serious romantic relationship.7. What's the matter with you?8. I cant help you.9. You dont have to take your moods out on me Im getting so tired of this.The truth is that bipolar disorder is ageneticmedical illness and itistreatable. Your loved one may cycle between being depressed with very little energy to being hyperactive or manic. This is all part of the illness and he cant help it. Its important that you be supportive, without nagging him. It will also help you if you know what to expect and how to spot when your loved one is not doing well or has stopped taking his medication.Not finding someone to love romantically is something your loved one may be concerned about, so be careful not to reinforce that idea, even in frustration, especially since its not true. There are plenty of people with these illnesses that getmarried. It just means that they have to do their best to get the condition under control, says Jeffrey Rakofsky, MD, a psychiatrist at the Emory University Bipolar Disorders Clinic in Atlanta.Bipolar Disorder: The Eight Best Things to SayWhat should you say to be supportive and help your loved one to do his best to manage the condition without being too pushy? Some of the best words of encouragement include:1. This is a medical illness and it is not your fault.2. I am here. We'll make it through this together.3. You and your life are important to me.4. Youre not alone.5. Tell me how I can help.6. I might not know how you feel, but Im here to support you.7. Whenever you feel like giving up, tell yourself to hold on for another minute, hour, day whatever you feel you can do.8. Your illness doesn't define who you are. You are still you, with hopes and dreams you can attain.Kristin Finn, author ofBipolar and Pregnant, a mental health advocate and member of the speakers bureau of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 30 years ago and is the mother of a 17-year-old daughter with bipolar disorder. Finn stresses that as important as it is to know what to say, it is also important to know when not to say anything. Finn says when her daughters mood changes suddenly, the best thing she can do is give her daughter space and not ask Whats wrong? or Is it something I did? She adds, Remember its not about you. Youve got to let the person experience what they are experiencing.Finn also recommends suggesting asupport groupto your loved one or finding books about the condition that may help him realize that he is not alone and that lots of people live with bipolar disorder every day.Dr. Rakofsky adds another important point to remind your loved one of: People with bipolar disorder are often very creative [and] talented. We have people like Vincent Van Gogh and other artists and actors out there that speak to that.