Does tough love work for people with bipolar?

Do you or someone you know have bipolar disorder? It’s a type of mental health disorder that can cause a person to experience episodes of extreme emotion. These emotions swing back and forth between mania and depression. A person who experiences bipolar disorder can go through periods of instability in mood, energy and more. These periods of instability can also affect a person’s decision-making, leaving them reeling from the consequences of these emotional highs and lows long after an episode passes. Bipolar disorder can be distressing to both the person experiencing it and their loved ones. If you’re a friend or family member who is affected by your loved one’s bipolar disorder, you may be unsure of how you can help. Do you show them “tough love”? How can you be there for them? It can be tricky to know how to deal with this disorder, but you can learn more about what helps in the paragraphs provided below.

Is “tough love” an appropriate response for dealing with bipolar disorder?

People who have bipolar disorder often struggle to cope with their mental health condition and may feel animosity or dislike toward themselves. It’s most often not a good idea to show a person with bipolar disorder “tough love” in an effort to help them get better. This type of response can make a person feel less willing to reach out for help when they want it and can be isolating for a person to experience. Instead of resorting to this method, you could consider trying a few of the methods listed below.

What are some ways you can help a person who has bipolar disorder?

  • Be open to learning — Something you can do to put yourself in a position to provide better support to your loved one with bipolar disorder is to learn more about the condition itself. Tough love may not be effective, but you can better understand your loved one by learning about the condition they deal with each day and how it can affect their daily life. Teaching yourself about the condition can help your loved one feel better understood and may help you be more sympathetic to their struggles. If you haven’t done your research already, you’d likely benefit from starting.
  • Be present for them — One way you can help your loved one deal with their bipolar disorder is by consistently being present for them. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they may do, but that you let them know you’ll always be there for them. Bipolar disorder can often make a person feel isolated and alone, but knowing that they have someone who will show up for them can really help.
  • Create an action plan — Instead of giving them tough love, you can work with your loved one to write down an action plan. This plan should be for when they experience episodes, as well as the periods in between. This action plan should be mutually agreed upon and should be created during a period of emotional stability. Be sure to include actions to take if your loved one may start feeling suicidal or on an extreme high during an episode. You can also detail plans for how to deal with the periods that occur in between the highs and lows or if your loved one starts to feel an episode coming on.
  • Encourage them to seek mental health counseling and treatment — Instead of showing them tough love, you can help your loved one who is dealing with bipolar disorder by encouraging them to use mental health resources. One of the best resources for those with a mental health condition like bipolar disorder is therapy. Therapists that use process-based approaches can provide their clients with customized treatments that are unique to them and focused on long-term goals or outcomes. Many treatment centers offer therapy for adolescents and adults.

Lightfully wants to help your loved one manage their bipolar disorder without using tough love

Our Lightfully team mission is to work with individuals to change their life compassionately. We strive to provide high-quality mental health care to various types of clients through a focused approach to process-based therapy. The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. Lightfully offers various layers of service to both adults and teens through our residential, virtual, partial hospitalization (also called our Day Treatment programs), and intensive outpatient programs. We regularly see clients who actively manage mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and trauma disorders. If you have a loved one who is struggling to deal with their bipolar disorder, tough love may not be the best approach, but going to therapy may help. Our licensed, clinical experts see each client as a complex and layered human – not just a diagnosis. We value our clients as they are and hope to enrich their lives through treatment. Our vision for the future is an authentic and loving community where everyone can be seen, heard, and valued as they are. Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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