Family and Friends
Next, try to reduce the following
in the relationship:
Be mindful of your expectations and don’t hold too tight to them. Avoid expressions
which find fault, pass judgment or point out problems. Watch for the word
“should” in your mind and in your words.
Try not to communicate that things “should” be different: they aren’t.
While it is important to monitor mood, too much focus on this may
come across as a critical attitude.
After your relative has recovered from an episode, respond to their emotions
like you would to a person without a mood disorder. Don’t be too quick to evaluate whether each
emotion represents an episode or a medication reaction.
Relatives are often the first to pick up on the early signs of an
episode. However, it is impossible for
anyone to determine if a few hours of emotional change represent a mood
disorder or not. Keep in mind that
“mood” refers to changes over days or weeks, while “emotion” refers to
changes over minutes or hours.
Remember that emotions, in themselves, are not disorders. Since we live life day-by-day, or
hour-by-hour, it’s important to step back and focus on the big picture when
evaluating mood. As you develop this
perspective, establish a way of communicating with your relative or their
doctor that doesn’t lead them to feel overly scrutinized.
to win or resolve arguments:
Too much talk stresses the mind, particularly if it’s already worn down by a
mood episode. Remember that irrational
arguments are normal during mood swings, and try to let go of the wish to
resolve fights verbally. It is much
better to preserve sleep and rest than to try to come to a resolution about a
fight. Time often heals conflict
better than words. Often the best move
is to physically separate when a fight gets too intense.
This happens when you blame yourself for their illness or their
behavior. While this is a natural and
caring reaction, particularly if your child has a mood disorder, it can be an
added stress on your relative. Mood
disorders can cause people to feel guilty, controlled or like they’ve lost
their self. Overinvolvement
from relatives tends to intensify these emotions.
A face can convey anger, hostility
and criticism, as seen below:
Hostility is an attitude of contempt for the person with a mood disorder. It
causes relatives to blame the ill relative for all the problems the illness
brings. Certain beliefs can cause
hostility to build up over time. These
beliefs begin as thoughts that are totally normal to have. The important thing is to watch these
thoughts and not take them too seriously; don’t let them get ingrained. Some examples of these thoughts are:
“They wouldn’t be like this if they tried harder”
“They don’t want to get better”
“They just want an excuse for their behavior”
“They may have a disorder, but they can control their behavior… I saw them
control it with friends last night!”
It is tempting to believe that your relative has self-control because there
will be brief times of normal mood even during an episode. Also, it is common for the worst moods to
come out only around family. In
public, the depressed person may perk up and the manic person may stop
fighting. These changes are not
necessarily in the patient’s control and still reflect biological changes in
the brain. Different neurotransmitters
will circulate in the brain depending on who they are around. Context is very important to mood. As an analogy, consider Parkinson’s
Disease, which causes people to be unable to move. Patients with Parkinson’s can suddenly rise
and walk when a new image is presented to them, such as a row of red squares
on the floor. This, however, is not a
reliable cure for what remains a serious disorder of muscle control.
The message in all this is not that you should accept
everything your relative does during a mood episode. Actually, it is crucial
to know your limits and have a plan of action if a situation becomes
dangerous or destructive. That involves action, not words.
The message in here is about words and non-verbal
behavior, and the importance of avoiding daily expressions of criticism,
argument and hostility. This advice is not easy to follow, so go easy on
yourself if you fall behind. Practice helps. Meeting regularly with a
counselor can also keep you on track as you build the skills to help a loved one
with a mood disorder. It is not easy.
—Updated 4/5/14 by Chris Aiken, MD
input on your relative’s progress & symptoms
help in a crisis
When family members refuse treatment
When a loved one has bipolar disorder (PDF document)
Care Givers.org a site for family
Guide to talking with a loved one about
Disorders (Mood Treatment Center site)
The expression below communicates
optimism, a key ingredient to recovery from any illness:
The part of our brain which reads other people’s faces is also the part that
gets disrupted by mood disorders. This is why I have emphasized faces and
non-verbal behavior. Emotional faces
have a physical affect on the brain: they can be healing or harmful.
For the curious, the part of the
brain which does this is the amygdala-cingulate
network, pictured here: