Recent studies suggest that about one to three percent of people living in the United States struggle with bipolar disorder. While all of these people might share the same diagnosis, they might have radically different symptoms.
Some people, for example, feel depressed much of the time due to their bipolar status. Other people, however, have episodes of mania as well as episodes of depression.
Manic episodes can be remarkably frightening, and often, families are required to provide some sort of loving assistance in order to help people move through these manic days without enduring long-term harm.
Open discussions, both with the person who has the disorder and with the person’s health care team, are a key part of the help a family can provide.
But those families who hope to utilize an intervention during a manic episode, in order to prompt the person to make long-term changes that could result in better symptom control, might be wise to step back and develop a more comprehensive plan. An intervention can certainly help, but it might not be prudent to hold a talk like this during a manic episode.
A manic episode is typically associated with a feeling of happiness and power. People in the midst of an episode like this feel joyful and outgoing, willing to talk to almost anyone about anything at all. They might feel as though they should take on a new project, like opening a business or traveling around the world, and they might have an unrealistic belief that they’ll succeed in anything they put their minds to.
But people in the midst of mania also tend to be distractible, flitting from one thought to another or one project to another without seeing anything through. They’re struck by a feeling of urgency, as though they must act now before the opportunity is gone, and they might not be capable of really doing anything at all as a result.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) suggests that people in the midst of mania should be encouraged to see a doctor as soon as possible. Medication dosage adjustments might be required in order to bring the episode to an end, and therapeutic supervision might be required in order to keep someone from causing long-lasting harm while they’re overpowered with mania. However, it can be difficult to hold a conversation with someone who feels manic.
During mania, thoughts are scrambled and the needs of others fade into the background. People who feel mania are unable to focus on the thread of a conversation, and they may interrupt, argue or otherwise change the subject when a family comes close to talk.
They may need help, but they may be unable to have a long, profound discussion about the issue at hand. Their mental illness stands in the way of the type of conversation that would take place during a traditional intervention.
In addition, symptoms of mania can grow yet stronger if the person feels attacked or somehow stressed. They’re unable to think clearly, and when they feel pressure, they might grow even more agitated and upset. Putting someone like this into a high-pressure conversation could result in disaster.
One-on-one, low-pressure talks might be a better approach during a manic episode.
Family members might suggest that a trip to the doctor is in order, and they might offer to go along for the appointment. They might bring up the issue repeatedly, but in short little bursts that are heavy on acceptance and understanding and light on blame or judgment. These talks can be completed on the go, if the person has a lot of energy, or they can be held in quiet, non-stimulating rooms in a brief moment of peace.
While some people are able to see the wisdom in a call for care during a manic episode, some people are overwhelmed by feelings of power, and they simply don’t understand that they might cause harm. The mania tells them that they’re powerful and great, and that might contradict with the family’s message of concern and fear. Sometimes people in the midst of a manic episode won’t get help at all.
If these interventions don’t help and the person is likely to engage in behavior that could result in some type of long-term harm, involuntary hospitalization might be required. The DBSA suggests that this should be used as a last resort, only when the person absolutely will not get help and when harm is eminent. However, this could be a vital step families must take when their attempts at gentle persuasion and protection fall short.
While it might not be appropriate for families to hold a formal intervention during a manic episode, the days dominated by mania might provide families with the details that make a formal intervention powerful. They’ll have a list of specific behaviors they’ve seen and emotions they’ve felt when the episode has passed, and they’ll be even more motivated to ensure that the person gets care that can prevent mania in the future.
As a result, keeping notes during a manic episode is vital. Families should write down everything, with as much detail as they can, so they can access those moments when the mania has passed and it is time to hold a formal intervention.
These notes can be shared with an interventionist, and that professional might be able to mine the details and help the family to come up with a talk that will really help.
If an intervention doesn’t help, and some of them do not, it’s important for families to pay attention to their own mental health status. Being in tune with their stress and comfort can help to improve their lives, but it can also improve the life of the person with bipolar disorder. For example, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, caregivers who have poor stress control tend to care for people who struggle to follow their treatment programs, and this tends to increase the chance that serious bipolar symptoms break free.
Support groups and individual counseling can make caregiving just a little easier, and that might help to improve the health and overall well-being of the entire family unit.
It isn’t easy to know how to approach someone with bipolar disorder, and it might not be easy to know when to get the conversation started. An interventionist can help. Clinically trained interventionists might have years of experience in treating people with mental illness, and they might be quite capable of helping a family to understand just what they should say and what they should do to help the people that they love.
We are connected to a number of clinicians who also work as interventionists. Our admissions coordinators can help you to find a professional who has the clinical mental health expertise that can help your family to heal. Just let us know how we can help. Call now 877-345-3357