Bipolar Loved One in Denial

When a family member is suspected of being Bipolar - what is the best way to approach/treat our loved one? Our loved one does not see the signs and symptoms that are so clear to everyone around. Our loved one definitely needs to seek out treatment to recognize and treat this horrible imbalance that is controlling their life and upsetting everyone around them. However, until our loved one accepts there is a problem...there is no opportunity for treatment. We, the ones that love and care so much - don't know what to do when we see all the symptoms of bipolar. How can we approach/direct or even suggest our love one seek treatment in order to control and accept this disorder?


Ben's Answer:

That's an excellent question, and a very hard one to give a good answer to. So much depends on the personality of the person, as well as their pattern of mood episodes. Crying one minute, laughing the next? Manic and grandiose? Agitated and paranoid? Deeply depressed and wasting away in bed? Each one of these states would require a somewhat different approach in terms of the urgency of the situation, and the amount of effort or even manipulation might be called for to try to get them some help.

One option might be to do a sort of intervention with all members of your family and closest friends of your loved one, and present them with your concerns and the options that you are giving them. With some people this would work - especially if there is a lot of depression.

If a person is experiencing paranoia, psychosis/delusional states - then a hard confrontation like this would be absolutely the wrong approach as you would simply be reinforcing the delusion that "everyone is plotting against me."

The most coercive measures should be reserved for a person that is truly, imminently in danger of hurting themselves or someone else - whether by suicide, homicide or oblivious recklessness - like driving dangerously, or severe substance abuse.
In some of those cases, carefully planned intervention by the police (if that's possible) may be the only way to go.

But if symptoms are troublesome but not that severe, there may be little you can do right now. You can't force a person into treatment unless they meet those strict criteria (which differ from state to state in the US), for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. Danger to self, danger to others, or unable to provide for basic survival needs (are the criteria in California).

It's not a crime to be manic, delusional, psychotic, impulsive, grandiose, raging, or unbearably obnoxious.... you get the idea.

Sometimes the best you can do is to be as loving yet firm as possible -- set clear consistent boundaries, and take the best possible care of yourself. Don't go down with a sinking ship. If you start to lose it, you're not helping anyone. Look for a Bipolar Family Support group in your area. Look for Bipolar or Mental Illness advocacy groups. Read books. (Maybe leave a good Bipolar book lying around the house). Take fish oil and vitamin B-12 daily, and leave that lying around too.

Any other suggestions from my readers with personal experience in this would be most welcome here!

Best wishes, and take care,

Ben

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Jan 21, 2012
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Runs A Business Wrecks Her Relationships
by: Paul Campbell. UK

Hi everyone reading this,

I am 59 and will be 'collecting my bus pass' on the 17th February this year. I have been in three, difficult, long-term relationships since 1973.

The first one, (still working on a friendly basis, at arm�s length), with a psychosomatic hypochondriac, was a lover for a couple of years but then, being a generation older, became like an aunt. The second, in 1984, (a misguided effort to flee the �lodger-nest� of 'auntie'), was with a 6 years younger woman, who was a violent bipolar, with severe social phobia and agoraphobia. We married at Gretna Green, Scotland, in 1987, and later had two children towards the end of the troubled marriage. We had a daughter in 1990 and a son in 1992. We broke up in early 1993. I slept on the settee the last two years because I was barred from the bedroom of our small flat. When the children arrived, due to anxiety over the constant emotional turmoil, I started to suffer regular panic attacks.

I then spent the next 18 years struggling to maintain contact with my children, against a siege wall of cynical opposition, and Parental Alienation Syndrome, which persists to this day. I still suffer from chronic depression, but thankfully, I no longer have recurring panic attacks after every contact, now that my children have grown up and can partially think for themselves, outside of their mother�s brainwashing. Naturally, both children have been emotionally damaged by the pointless power-struggle and strife caused by their mother�s paranoia.

In the last 7 years I have been involved with an exciting and stimulating - but exceptionally volatile and emotionally violent woman - whom I believe is an undiagnosed Reactive Bipolar. She has had two, extremely violent, marriages, with two 6� 3�, 240 lb men, who, of course, fought back (fatal mistake � played into her hands).

Despite being mostly very passive, she has even attacked me on a number of occasions, usually while kicking me out of her home.

Three years ago, I was attacked while driving back from Soho, the day after an exclusive, luxury antique hotel suite, birthday present from me, including two bottles of vintage champagne. She was afraid we were going to be late for a relative�s wedding and I after an hour of screaming at me while she was driving, I got punched in the face, and kicked out of the car while she tried to drag me down the road, as I was getting out. The next year she taunted me with texts, while lying in a four poster bed and downing a bottle of Krug from, �my antique hotel birthday suite�, in a Sussex castle she had booked, after dumping me the evening before on trumped up charges.

After 5 years, I managed to contact her second ex-husband, while separated by one of her usual, �final bust-up�, �51st birthday celebration�, with her. Beware of champagne!

What am I dealing with?

Jan 06, 2010
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Bipolar Denial
by: Family Member of Bipolar Denial

Thank you for your comments Bill and you are right in suggesting the family has to accept that this disorder can certainly be found throughout the family tree line. I like your reference to "riding the bicycle" but my situation is at the point where we have to get our loved one to accept the idea of even getting on the "bicycle" and we are all prepared to help balance the bike from all sides! Where we are at is trying to find the best approach to enable our family member to accept that there is a disorder causing unbalance in their life and with help it can be addressed. We feel like are hands are tied...

Jan 06, 2010
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Family Denial can be added cruelty
by: Bill

As a bipolar person, denial is a huge issue, and it helps tremendously in coping with the disease to acknowledge one has it to learn as much about it as possible. As horrid as the disease seems it can have a rhythm between the two wheels of mania (or hypomania) and depression (or severe depression), and once one learns to somewhat ride this bicycle it is not all that bad.

Denial is that fear of even getting on the bicycle of bipolar, for the approach of some less compassionate physicians or families is a presentation that it is solely a matter of an "outer control". Along with intervention there has to be presentation that within the disease, especially these days, there is a possibility of managing it from the end of the one suffering.

Also at a certain juncture in education of the bipolar overcoming denial, they will discover that some family members, a grandparent, a sister, a brother, or a parent, also has either bipolar lite, or full on bipolar, and the FAMILY has to be equally OPEN and not in DENIAL that BIPOLAR RUNS IN FAMILIES (or at least variations on a theme).

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