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Bipolar Disorder and The Effect On Families

Discover the impact of bipolar disorder on families, from emotional strain to financial challenges, and learn effective strategies for seeking support, improving communication, and maintaining relationships in the face of this mental health condition.
Animated vector of a wife and child counselling a dad struggling with mental health
Written by
Bloom Clinical Care Counselling and Therapy Services
January 23, 2023

What are some ways bipolar disorder can impact a family (financial, physical, emotional, etc)?

Quite often a family trying to support a loved one experiencing bipolar disorder may seem like two parties in crisis trying to help each other but end up making the situation worse for each other. In many cases, both parties can end up with huge emotional wounds that keep making things worse.

Bipolar disorder typically involves huge mood swings which often makes it difficult for the family members to predict the baseline behavior of the person experiencing bipolar disorder. This can lead to conflicts and tension amongst family members which may result in resentment towards the person experiencing bipolar disorder. 

The stress from terrifying psychotic experiences, conflicts, tensions, resentment and an implicit blame for not taking responsibility to get better brings guilt, shame and a sense of helplessness to the person experiencing bipolar disorder making things worse for the person. 

Same feeling of guilt, shame and helplessness is also shared by the family members for not being able to help the loved one.

Quite often, people with bipolar disorder may exhibit impulse control issues that can lead to risky behavior or real (or perceived) threat of harm to self or others that may keep the family members on their toes. Impulsive / risky behavior may also end up getting the person involved in conflict with law leading to families to deal with legal issues and also financial stress. 

Another challenge that may come with bipolar disorder is inability to maintain stability in mood that can result in job loss or relationship break down wreaking havoc on the financial or emotional front for the families.

What are some tips on how to ask family for support?

Before asking for support, it is important that an environment of trust and support is established. The culture of blame needs to be replaced by a culture of appreciation. Open and direct but non judgemental communication, culture of understanding and patience and willingness to work together at the pace the person is comfortable with helps in asking family for support.

How common is family estrangement in bipolar disorder? Why does it happen?

The shame, stigma and quite often the denial state of the person experiencing bipolar disorder and lack of psycho education on the part of families is a huge obstacle in accessing much needed support for the person or the family. This results in both - the family and the person feeling unsupported and misunderstood. 

This may lead to strained relationships making communication a bigger challenge. People with bipolar disorder in general seem to struggle with communication skills. Dependency on family members due to challenges in maintaining steady employment may lead to financial strain and low self esteem and confidence. 

Managing symptoms of bipolar disorder is a challenge. Mood swings, impulse control, prevalence of substance use, side effects of medication and often hallucinations and delusions make it extremely difficult for people with bipolar disorder to maintain stable relationships.

Tips to improve and keep relationships when living with bipolar disorder.

  1. Learning effective stress management strategies
  2. Disciplined lifestyle
  3. Healthy habits like yoga, mediation, exercise, diet and sleep
  4. Developing insights into their triggers, anticipating triggers and coping with triggers including strategies to avoid triggers
  5. Practicing empathy for honest, open and assertive communication
  6. Peer support and learning from peers who have lived experience
  7. Seeking professional support of health care professionals like psychiatrist, pharmacist and therapists
  8. Developing better insights through psycho-education etc can be instrumental in improving and keeping healthy relationships which in turn helps people to improve their quality of life

We May be Able To Help You

At Bloom Clinical Care Counseling and Therapy Services, we are Social Workers registered with the OCSWSSW. We have  25+ years of experience in supporting people experiencing grief & bereavement, depression, anxiety, guilt, anger, low self-esteem, stress, relationship issues and other mental health challenges. We do not require any referrals and are always welcoming new clients.

If you are looking for therapists near you in Toronto, Bloom Clinical Care is located at 1200 Markham Road, Suite 306C, M1H 3C3. We also offer virtual therapy options by phone or video call across Ontario. Help is available, and we may be able to help

Struggling with you mental health? We may be able to help. Book a free consultation today.
Disclaimer: This article is solely intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as professional advice. The content of this article should not be used as a substitution to therapy, counselling, medical attention, or any kind of professional help. The author and Bloom Clinical Care Counseling and Therapy services strongly encourages readers to seek guidance from appropriate professionals if they are in need of assistance.

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