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Help with Symptoms and Treament

How can I help someone who has symptoms of depression?

Depression may cause someone to have feelings of unbearable sadness, guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness. The person does not want to feel this way, but can’t control it. Make sure the person’s doctor knows what is happening, and ask if you can help with everyday tasks such as housekeeping, running errands, or watching children. Help your loved one try to stick to some sort of daily routine, even if he or she would rather stay in bed. Spend quiet time together at home if he or she does not feel like talking or going out. Keep reminding your loved one that you are there to offer support. 

How can I help someone during a manic episode?

Remember that mania may cause a person to believe things that aren’t true, make big plans or life changes, spend money to excess, or do other things that may be dangerous. Sometimes a person might be more outgoing or enthusiastic during early stages of mania. Do your best to keep your loved one from doing things that might be harmful. Urge him or her to put off any plans to start a big project, spend a lot of money, drive a long distance, or anything that sounds dangerous to you. Keep in mind that he or she may insist that everything is under control. You may need to ask other friends, family members, or mental health professionals to intervene and help keep your loved one safe.

Encourage your loved one to see a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t make demands, threats, or ultimatums unless you are fully prepared to follow through with them. Keep yourself safe. If your loved one becomes abusive, call a friend, a family member, a mental health professional, or 911 for help.

What can I do to make sure my loved one gets good treatment?

  • Encourage your loved one to seek treatment. Explain that treatment is not personality-altering and can greatly help to relieve symptoms.
  • Help him or her prepare for health care provider appointments by putting together a list of questions. Offer to go along to health care appointments.
  • With permission, talk to your loved one’s health care provider(s) about what you can do to help.
  • Encourage or help your loved one to get a second opinion from another health care provider if needed.
  • Help him or her keep records of symptoms, treatment, progress, and setbacks—in a journal, in a printed DBSA Personal Calendar, or in the DBSA Wellness Tracker online or phone app.
  • Help him or her stick with the prescribed treatment plan. Ask if you can help by giving medication, therapy, or self-care reminders.

What if hospitalization is necessary?

Sometimes, when symptoms of depression or mania become severe, it is necessary for a person to be hospitalized. This might seem scary at first, but the safe, controlled environment of the hospital can help the person return to stability.

If you think your loved one might benefit from a hospital stay, find out all you can about local hospitals and the inpatient and outpatient services they offer. Try to do this before a crisis. Find out if his or her insurance or Medicare/Medicaid covers hospitalization, and if not, find out about community or state-run facilities.

If your loved one is open to doing so, suggest discussing the possibility of hospitalization with a doctor before the need arises, and making a list of preferred hospitals, medications, and treatment methods for use in a crisis.

While your loved one is hospitalized, be supportive by visiting frequently and bringing comforting or familiar items. Ask the staff questions; if theydon’t have the answers, find someone at the hospital who does. Don’t be afraid to be assertive about making sure your loved one receives the best treatment. Keep records of the people you talk to and when.

How can I support someone during outpatient treatment?

When your friend or family member begins seeing a doctor or therapist, show that you support the decision to seek treatment and ask how you can be most helpful. Learn about your loved one’s symptoms. Each person needs different kinds of help keeping symptoms under control. Learn about medications and what side effects to expect. Some people find it helpful to write down mania prevention and suicide prevention plans, and give copies to trusted friends and relatives. These plans should include:

  • A list of symptoms that might be signs the person is becoming manic or suicidal.
  • Things you or others can do to help when you see these symptoms.
  • A list of helpful phone numbers, including health care providers, family members, friends, and a suicide crisis line such as (800) 273-TALK.
  • A promise from your friend or family member that he or she will call you, other trusted friends or relatives, one of his or her doctors, a crisis line, or a hospital when manic or depressive symptoms become severe.
  • Encouraging words such as “My life is valuable and worthwhile, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.”
  • Reality checks such as, “I should not make major life decisions when my thoughts are racing and I’m feeling ‘on top of the world’. I need to stop and take time to discuss these things with others before I take action.

How long will it take before theperson feels better?

Some people are able to stabilize quickly after starting treatment; others take longer and need to try several treatments, medications, or medication combinations before they feel better. Talk therapy can be helpful for managing symptoms during this time. If your friend or family member is facing treatment challenges, the person needs your support and patience more than ever. Education can help you both find out all the options that are available and decide whether a second opinion is needed. Help your loved one to take medication as prescribed, and don’t assume the person is not following the treatment plan just because he or she isn’t feeling 100% better.

What can I do when my child is ill?

Patience and understanding are especially important when a child is ill. Children with bipolar disorder often have different symptoms than adults do, and are more likely to switch quickly from manic symptoms to depressive symptoms.

  • Make sure you have a doctor who understands mood disorders in children, and is able to spend time discussing your child’s treatment.
  • Communicate to your child that there is hope; that you and the doctors are working on a solution that will help him or her feel better. 
  • Explain your child’s disorder to siblings on a level they can understand. Suggest ways they can help. 
  • Seek family counseling if necessary. It is also helpful to network with other parents whose children have a mood disorder.
  • With the assistance of your child’s mental health care provider, help your child learn relaxation techniques and use them at home. 
  • Teach positive coping strategies to help him or her feel more prepared for stressful situations. 
  • Encourage your child to self-express through art, music, writing, play, or any other special gifts he or she has. 
  • Provide routine and structure in the home, and freedom within limits. 
  • Above all, remember that mood disorders are not caused by bad parenting, and do not blame yourself for your child’s illness.

Children with mood disorders do better in a low-stress, quiet home environment, and with a family communication style that is calm, low-volume, non-critical, and focused on problem-solving rather than punishment or blaming. Stress reduction at school through use of an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) is also very important. Request an evaluation from your child’s school counselor or psychologist to get the process started.

If your child with a mood disorder is an adult, it is important to treat him or her like an adult, even when he or she is not acting like one. As much as you may want to, you may not be able to force your adult child to keep doctor’s appointments or take medications. As with any other family member, keep encouraging treatment and offering your support, but establish boundaries for yourself too, such as not lending money if your adult child seems to be having manic or hypomanic symptoms.

What can I do when an older relative is ill?

Mood disorders are not a normal part of aging. You may face more challenges if an elderly relative is ill and lives far away from you or in an assisted living facility.

  • Stay informed about the treatment your loved one is receiving. 
  • Develop a relationship with his or her doctors and the staff at the facility. 
  • Your relative may need special help remembering to take medications. Make sure all of his or her doctors communicate if he or she is being treated for multiple illnesses. This is extremely important, since some medications for mood disorders can interact with medications for other illnesses and cause problems.

It may be helpful for you to spend additional time with your elderly relative, or, if that is difficult, meet with other relatives to see if you can take turns visiting or caring for your loved one.

There is hope!

As a friend or family member of someone who is coping with bipolar disorder or depression, your support is an important part of working toward wellness. Don’t give up hope. Treatment for mood disorders does work, and the majority of people with mood disorders can return to stable and productive lives. Keep working with your loved one and his or her health care providers to find treatments that work, and keep reminding your loved one that you are there for support.