Family and Bipolar – Nancy

Family members can be your best support, and they can also be a drag on your recovery.  How to help them understand your needs better so that they can make positive impacts and let you get what you need?

Having a family member diagnosed with an illness like Bipolar can be a significant shock.  If it’s a child, parents may wonder what they could or should have done differently.  Siblings may struggle with resentment if the sibling with an illness seems to get and need more attention.  Children may feel an obscure sense of guilt if a parent is diagnosed with an illness during their childhood.  Spouses and partners may wonder if they can handle dealing with the demands of illness adding to normal stresses of   a relationship.

Sharing with a close family member about a diagnosis of this nature can be scary, and it can be fraught with complications.  Most people find it helpful to plan, or even role play through a conversation before having it.  Consider that your family member may not have much information about bipolar and will need to be on a similar learning curve to your own.  You will need patience to allow them to take the time they need to process what you are telling them and to assimilate the information you give them.

Next, consider what kind of specific help you will be asking for.  “I need your understanding” may promote a better emotional connection, but it doesn’t tell them what, exactly you will need them to do.  Some families find that seeking family therapy can be helpful at this stage, a therapist will teach skills for coping with illness, and also will help you all unpack family dynamics that may be helping or hindering your path towards wellness.

Maybe you’d like to encourage your family to learn and practice some healthy communication and problem-solving skills.  If these are new to you, a therapist can help you all practice and understand the impact of improved skills on the overall growth and health of your family.

For additional support for family members, check out these Moodsurfing posts:

Bipolar Marriage

Communication, disclosure and getting support

Friends and family don’t get it


And: check out our new “Bipolar Disorder Workbook” now available on Amazon.