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Bipolar Disorder: Helping Someone During a Manic Episode

Topic Overview

You may feel frustrated around a person with bipolar disorder who is having a manic episode. The high energy level can be tiring or even frightening. The person may also actually enjoy the mania and may not take medicines, which can prolong the episode. Also, the person may say and do unusual or hurtful things. You can help during a manic episode by doing the following:

  • Spend time with the person, depending on his or her level of energy and how well you can keep up. People who are manic often feel isolated from other people. Spending even short periods of time with them helps them feel less isolated. If the person has a lot of energy, walk together, which allows the person to keep on the move but share your company.
  • Answer questions honestly. But do not argue or debate with a person during a manic episode. Avoid intense conversation.
  • Don't take any comments personally. During periods of high energy, a person often says and does things that he or she would not usually say or do, including focusing on negative aspects of others. If needed, stay away from the person and avoid arguments.
  • Prepare easy-to-eat foods and drinks (such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, cheese and crackers, and juices), because it is difficult for the person to sit down to a meal during periods of high energy.
  • Avoid subjecting the person to a lot of activity and stimulation. It is best to keep surroundings as quiet as possible.
  • Allow the person to sleep whenever possible. During periods of high energy, sleeping is difficult and short naps may be taken throughout the day. Sometimes the person feels rested after only 2 to 3 hours of sleep.

Call a health professional if you have questions or concerns about the person's behavior. Always call a health professional (or 911 or other emergency services) if you think the person with bipolar disorder is in danger of causing any harm to himself or herself or others.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised March 1, 2012

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