Dealing with a bipolar family member takes patience, education, and compassion. Finding these qualities in yourself will often have a dramatic effect on the person who is bipolar and the quality of your relationship.
Understand that bipolar disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis
Bipolar disorder or manic-depression, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and moods, with or without one or more depressive episodes. Bipolar disorder should be treated by a psychiatrist.
This means that it is not the fault of your family member any more that it would be if they had a serious physical illness. Starting from this point may help you to be more compassionate and understanding.
Learn to view the behaviour of your family member in the context of the illness
If a bipolar person becomes angry, moody or defensive, it is often a symptom of their illness. This requires patience and compassion among the other family members.
Understand that the illness causes a sense of internal chaos for your family member
Allow yourself to imagine what it would be like to wake up not knowing that day whether you would be plummeted into the depths of depression or elevated into a frenzied state of energy. Attempt to empathize with that.
Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of mania and depression
For instance, a person who brags or chatters on about themselves would normally be seen as arrogant or self-centred. This behaviour, and other irresponsible and risky behaviours that may be equally unappealing to you in someone with bipolar disorder, is a sign of mania. Recognizing that this is a symptom of the illness, and not just bad behaviour, may help you to be more compassionate.
If possible, participate in your family member's treatment
Family therapy and support is integral to the quality of life of a person with bipolar disorder.
Compliment them on a daily basis
Tell them something good about themselves or that you love them. If you are not comfortable doing so, try to help around the house for them. You could tidying their home, sweeping up, or washing the dishes for them. Even just being there for them and treating them as patiently as you are able will be helpful.
Be aware of your own behaviour and your underlying feelings toward your bipolar family member
If you are anxious or angry with that person or their behaviour, this will be transmitted to them. People who have bipolar disorder may perceive anxiety and anger as threats, thus making them defensive.
Look after yourself too
Your own emotional wellbeing is just as important as is your family member's bipolar disorder. If their illness is emotionally draining you, you will be unable to help them, and this will result in you having to deal with two problems – yours and theirs. So don’t feel guilty about being happy and having your own life.