How Can Family Therapy Help Family Members Understand Their Loved One’s Bipolar Disorder?

People with bipolar disorder tend to suppress their emotions out of fear that their families will judge them. This lack of communication, however, leaves family members feeling increasingly frustrated. Family members may also struggle to understand the reason behind their loved one’s impulsive behavior. Fortunately, family therapy with 12 South Recovery can help family members understand their loved one’s highs, lows, and severe distractibility. When families choose to move forward with family therapy, this can improve the family’s relationships and overall quality of life.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

As stated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can be defined by having an extreme shift in an individual’s energy levels, ability to concentrate, and level of functioning. Sudden shifts can make it challenging for an individual to meet priorities. These shifts also often result in relationship problems with loved ones, employment issues, and difficulty meeting academic goals. 

Bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment. An individual may experience manic or depressive episodes. Symptoms may include:

  • Intense euphoria
  • Rapid speech
  • Being easily irritated
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Feeling slowed down or restless
  • Insomnia
  • Controlling behaviors
  • Racing thoughts
  • Feeling talented, important, or powerful
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Cognitive dysfunction

Examples of impulsivity in an individual with bipolar disorder include:

  • Excessive substance abuse such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or misusing drugs
  • Engaging in risky sexual behavior
  • Weight gain from binge eating
  • Spending sprees and racking up severe debt
  • Gambling 
  • Destruction of property
  • Needing immediate gratification
  • Escalating problems

What Impact Does Bipolar Disorder Have On Family Members?

Living with a loved one who has a bipolar disorder diagnosis can sometimes be challenging. This can be especially so if their condition is left untreated or they are having difficulty responding to mental health treatment. It can be common for some family members to experience severe emotional distress and grief.

If family members lack an understanding of their loved one’s condition, they may blame themselves or be blamed for their loved one’s negative behavior. When an individual presents mental instability this can cause family members to feel very worried, leading to a lack of self-care. Bipolar disorder can disrupt the family environment in several different ways. For example, family members may experience:

  • Exposure to unusual or dangerous behavior
  • Disruption in their typical daily schedule
  • Financial stressors due to sudden reduced income from their loved one’s excessive spending
  • Severe tension in the home
  • Excessive health care costs
  • Strained marriage or family relationships
  • Mental and physical strain or burnout from caregiving
  • Health problems due to constant stress
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships outside of the family

Why Is Family Support Important?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in the simplest terms, an individual with bipolar disorder may experience frequent moments of debilitating depression or periods of heightened energy. Family support is imperative for helping an individual maintain mental stability over time.

Support from family and close friends can help a loved one. One way to provide this support is by developing a softer response to bipolar episodes. Special skills and useful strategies are taught in family therapy to help individuals better manage these situations in a way that preserves self-esteem and reserves judgment. What’s more, family therapy helps families know how to provide support during treatment and proactively develop a plan for a better future together. 

Separate from family therapy, it can be beneficial for family members to:

  • Learn more about their loved one’s condition from reliable sources
  • Support their loved one’s decision to pursue treatment
  • Stay patient during their loved one’s behavior changes
  • Develop a suicide safety plan or a psychiatric advance directive for prevention
  • Listen without judgment
  • Seek family therapy, guided interventions, or other programs

Choosing Family Therapy With 12 South Recovery to Help Family Members Understand Bipolar Disorder

The individual diagnosed with bipolar disorder is not the only one affected by the condition. Family members can be negatively impacted as well. Therefore, family support is crucial in creating a healthy environment for everyone. 

Family Therapy with 12 South Recovery can help family members better understand their loved one’s condition. Our program focuses on the entire family system. Participating in family therapy with our specialists can significantly improve the communication between family members in the home. We can help family members understand the condition from all perspectives, resulting in resolved family conflict.

Individuals with bipolar disorder commonly self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. We understand that relationships with loved ones can be severely impacted by substance abuse. Unfortunately, there is a strong link between impulsive bipolar behavior and substance misuse. Choosing to move forward with family therapy can also address substance abuse problems associated with an individual’s co-occurring mental health condition.

Beneficial Therapies to Help Family Members Understand Their Loved One’s Bipolar Disorder

Our center provides a few different types of family therapy. Each approach uses unique techniques that can address specific problems in the home. Therapy can provide ongoing support for those who need it most. Different therapeutic methods include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral family therapy
  • Solution-focused brief therapy
  • Structural family therapy

At 12 South Recovery, family therapy is an important part of our mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. Family therapy can help individuals take things less personally, communicate with more compassion, and create proactive plans for healing. We understand the profound impact bipolar disorder can have when it coexists with drug or alcohol addiction. Tensions can run high, and family members need an emotional outlet. Our goal with family therapy is to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and create a healthy and supportive environment for everyone involved. If you or a loved one are in need of professional support, call 12 South Recovery at (888) 830-8374 to learn more about how we can tailor our services to your family’s needs.

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