How to help someone with symptoms of bipolar disorder — even if they don't want help

Photo by RaChil of the Cwafty Blog
Think about your highest high. No, I’m not talking about drugs. I’m talking about high on life.

Do you remember what it felt like? To feel like everything was going right in your life. Where you didn’t even want to go to sleep because you felt so good, and your cheeks hurt from smiling so much.

Now, imagine your lowest low. We’ve all had them. When all you wanted to do was cry and sleep — wishing that you could numb the pain. And you couldn’t help but think to yourself, “Will this ever get better?” — maybe even questioning your will to live.

Now picture that a big, blue genie approaches you. And he says, “Remember your lowest low? I can erase that feeling forever.”

You smile. “Sign me up!” you exclaim.

But then the genie wags a finger at you. “Not so fast,” he says. “There’s a catch. Remember how you feel during your highest high? If you give up your lowest low, that’s what I want in return. You will also never feel your highest high.”

What would you say? Would you give up the bad feeling — even if it meant giving up the good feeling as well?

This is sort of a look into the decision a person with bipolar disorder is faced with. Except their highest high and lowest low feel even more extreme than it is for the average person. I think, for those with bipolar, it is the hardest for them to seek help. Because although medicine can help their depression to go away – it can also take away their “manic” stage.

Bipolar disorder affects more than 10 million Americans. It is marked by stages of mania — elevated mood and excessive energy — and depression. A person diagnosed with bipolar disorder could cycle back and forth between the two stages multiple times a week — or months at a time.

PsychCentral reports that, often times, people with bipolar disorder will seek out treatment during their depressive stage and then stop taking the medicine during their manic stage — thinking they are better.

But, often times, when someone stops taking the medication because they miss their “manic stage” or because they think they’re better, they are even more likely to self medicate with drugs and alcohol when the depression stage returns.

I decided to write about bipolar disorder after a woman sent me an email after reading my blog for the first time (one of the nicest emails I’ve ever received, by the way). She told me that, late last year, her daughter’s friend killed himself. He was in his early 20s when he died. She told me that he demonstrated the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Which is why no one ever knew anything was wrong — because they only saw him during the manic stage when he was loud, extroverted and very happy. She told me that she thinks her daughter’s friend used alcohol to cope with the pain and that he was drunk upon taking his life.

While the manic stage may feel great, this man’s story showed me that the depression stage can kill you. As many as one in five people with bipolar disorder take their lives, according to statistics. This is even higher than the number of people diagnosed with depression who take their lives, which is about one in seven.

Since bipolar disorder is more difficult to detect than depression disorder, how can you tell if a friend has the disease? Someone going through the mania stage often talk a mile a minute, sleep very little and are hyperactive, reports But the mania stage isn’t always fun and games. People during this stage are also more likely to gamble, engage in inappropriate sexual activities, and become impulsive and easily angry or irritable. They are also more likely to have unpredictable mood swings.

HelpGuide reports that some of the common symptoms of bipolar depression are feeling hopeless and worthless, loss of energy, concentration and memory problems and thoughts of death or suicide.

If you or someone you know has these symptoms, get them professional help immediately.

If a person refuses help, remind them that they are not alone and give them this piece of wise advice by HelpGuide — “If you’re reluctant to seek treatment because you like the way you feel when you’re manic, remember that the energy and euphoria come with a price. Mania and hypomania often turn destructive, hurting you and the people around you.”

Also, let them know that treatment doesn't always mean medicine.

If you don’t want to take medicine, talk to your doctor about natural treatment options. Regular exercise, getting to bed earlier, a diet of nutrient-dense foods and eating fatty fish at least two times a week could decrease some of your bipolar symptoms. View more natural treatment ideas on WebMD.

But, let me stress again, it is imperative to go to a doctor if you think you may have bipolar disorder or if you suspect someone else may have it. Even if you don't want to take medication, a doctor can discuss other options with you. But bipolar is a lifelong disease — and just "living" with bipolar could have very dangerous consequences for both yourself and for others. And I don't want there to be any more people taking their lives because of the disorder because they didn't get help.

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