Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan
Psikiyatrist

Bipolar Disorder and the Patient’s Relatives

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, causes unusual and excessive changes in the mood. The ups and downs experienced by everyone are more intense in bipolar patients. The level of energy and skills may be affected by these changes. Bipolar disorder is considered to be in association with the chemical changes occurring in the brain, and it requires a long-term treatment.

Living with a person having bipolar disorder is as hard as being the one suffering from the disease. In bipolar disorder, the rate of genetic transmission is high. Therefore, it is necessary to provide information about some protective factors for the patients and their families. Some of the factors protecting the children, in particular, are as follows:

  • Adequate attention, care and nurture received by the child prior to the beginning of the disorder in the parent-children relation (the patient can either be a parent or a child)
  • Domestic bonds being firmly established prior to and during the course of the disorder
  • The presence of a caregiver for the children in the case that the parent is ill (father, grandmother, neighbor, babysitter, teacher, psychologist, etc.)
  • The disorder being brought under control through treatment
  • Long-lasting state of goodness and a decrease in the frequency of repetition thanks to treatment
  • Teaching the child how to cope with hardships; for example, learning to wait for the mother to recover.
  • The presence of strong social support networks like family members, friends, teachers, consultants.

Thanks to these protective and supportive factors, both the child and the parent can cope with the disease more easily.

For a child, it is different to have a bipolar mother and a bipolar father. Initially, the child may tend to have behaviors towards decreasing his/her similarity to the parent of his/her own gender. On the other hand, while the father being bipolar causes more financial damage to the family, the mother being bipolar may cause the child to receive inadequate care. That’s why, it is important for the parents to change roles when needed.

In the case that a family member has bipolar disorder, other adults frequently experience anger, confusion, denial, desperation and hopelessness. It is not possible to make long-term plans mainly because of the condition of the patient, which prevents the social life while causing loneliness and isolation. The patient may behave in a way that is in complete contradiction to his/her own character at unpredictable times, and the family will face challenges while coping with this situation. Some of the suggestions for the relatives of a bipolar patient to ease the tension at home:

  • The more one reads and learns about the disorder, the more predictable the episodes become
  • Having information about the drugs the patient is taking
  • Being able to talk to the patient about what’s going on and about emotions
  • Allocation of time by the patient’s relatives for their own fields of interest and hobbies
  • Looking for/providing social support through “self-help” groups by consulting with the related associations.

The collaboration among the family, the patient and the specialist would lessen the burden of all, instead of burdening the doctor with the entire responsibility while trying to cope with strong disorders like bipolar disorder.

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