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15 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Bipolar Disorder

15 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be a challenge to navigate. The disorder is fundamentally characterized by dramatic mood swings and can lead to struggles in personal relationships. The National Institute of Health estimates that nearly 2.6 million Americans are currently effected by the disorder. This means that many loved ones are faced with the challenges involved in supporting individuals with this disorder. In order to provide the best support network possible, there are several things to keep in mind when working with an individual with bipolar disorder.

1. They experience emotions on extra loud when in a state of mania

Although we usually explain mood swings in terms of highs and lows, it is not the case that bipolar individuals feel all great happy things when in a state of mania. Instead, all the emotions one normally experiences are on a more intense setting. Everything comes through louder and it can be very difficult to navigate everyday life with such an intensity.

2. They have to navigate a lot of complex medications

Currently, medications for bipolar disorder do not effect everyone equally. As a result, each individual has to work through a complicated web of proper medications in order to find the best balance. This takes time and energy from the individual and can lead to higher levels of stress.

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3. They miss perceiving the world as they did prior to the disorder

Depression and mania can cause one’s perception of the world to change dramatically. This can be both exhausting and frustrating. When the medications start to balance out and things begin to stabilize, the individual may again see things through a more normal lens. This can be a great feeling, but it can also be frightening because its unclear if this will last.

4. They enjoy parts of mania, but ultimately feel exhausted by them

There are parts of mania which are exciting and fun. Colors are more vibrant and individuals often feel incredibly empowered; however, every episode of mania comes with a deep slide into depression. The obsession and highs of mania take incredible amounts of energy and ultimately wear the individual out.

5. They sometimes consider going off their medication

This is not true for all individuals with bipolar disorder, but when the medications begin to work and stabilize the everyday experiences of the individual, it can take some time to adjust. The life of an individual with bipolar disorder is filled with extremes. When medications begin to remove some of those extremes, it may feel somewhat boring. This sensation typically passes as the individual realizes this is a healthier way of life, but before that realization can come, he or she may be tempted to return to the extremes.

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6. They often struggle to be open about their disorder

Revealing one’s struggles with bipolar disorder can lead to feeling vulnerable. It takes a lot of guts to trust another individual with this information, even though he or she may really want to help their loved ones understand the explanation behind their sometimes unusual behavior.

7. They experience more than the normal ups and downs of life

Everyone feels highs and lows, but individuals with bipolar disorder are experiencing much more. It is important to respect this difference and not put unreasonable expectations on the individual as a result.

8. They are not alone in their struggles with mental health

Millions of Americans struggle with mental health issues. Although bipolar disorder has its own unique characteristics, many people are trying to navigate the complexities of mental health. That means those trying to support such individuals are also not alone. Seek support if you need it.

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9. They don’t necessarily want your sympathy

Of course we all need a bit of sympathy here and there, but you shouldn’t assume right off the bat that sympathy is required. It is best to listen and try to understand as much as you can. Avoid saying you understand more than you do, and be weary of giving out too much advice. Just be a friend that listens and you will be great.

10. They will never “cure” their disorder, but can learn to manage it

Bipolar disorder is with the individual for a lifetime. There is no medical solution to curing the condition. Through medication and often therapy the disorder can be managed so the individual may live a healthier life, but there currently is no “cure.”

11. They may or may not be more creative than the average person

There has been some research indicating a connection between bipolar disorder and creativity; however, creative abilities are not necessarily part of the package. For some, such as Stephen Fry and Demi Lovato, their disorder does seem to contribute to their creativity.

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12. They were not diagnosed via a specific test

Bipolar disorder is complex and currently there is no single test one can take to determine if he or she has the disorder. As a result, it often takes some time and careful analysis from a professional to receive the diagnosis. As a loved one, you are probably not in the best position to diagnose someone or seriously challenge the diagnosis, so take concerns directly to the doctors if necessary.

13. They want to know you love them, no matter what their current state

Whether its a moment of mania, or a time slice in the depths of depression, stability and love are critical. The world is an extreme place for someone with this disorder, and whatever pieces of stability they can latch onto are critical to their sense of well being. You can help by being consistent and finding ways to communicate your love to the individual.

14. They might need you to wait until they are ready

Sometimes the best you can do for someone with bipolar disorder is give them the time they need. Although your friend may want to come out with you or call you on the phone, sometimes they truly need some time to process through their current experience. Sometimes the gift of time is truly the greatest a friend can give.

15. They want to be treated like everybody else

Bipolar disorder comes with a lot of unusual experiences, but deep down each person longs to live a normal life. Its important that those supporting such individuals strive to provide the space needed for this individual’s health, but whenever possible, he or she should be treated like everybody else.

Featured photo credit: RondellMelling via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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