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What Not to Say to Someone With Bipolar Disorder

What Not to Say to Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that produces severe mood swings (highs and lows) and changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behavior.

People who have bipolar disorder may experience manic episodes, in which they may feel happy and energized one moment and sad and hopeless the next. As a Boca rehab, we know that bipolar disorder, like many other mental illnesses, is exhausting and can take a severe toll on a person’s quality of life. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of how distressful bipolar disorder can be. In our ignorance, we often say hurtful things without realizing it. If you have a loved one with this condition, Banyan Boca shares examples of what not to say to someone with bipolar disorder.


6 Things Not to Say to Someone Who’s Bipolar

You may consider dealing with bipolar people to be extremely difficult. Maybe you don’t understand their behavior or why they say or do certain things, but that’s why communication is so important. Although mental illness can affect everyone in the individual’s life, it’s important always to be considerate of the person’s struggles. If you’re struggling to communicate with your loved one about their condition without hurting their feelings, below is a list that you should keep in mind of what not to say to someone with bipolar disorder.


“You’re Overreacting”

Overreacting and bipolar disorder go hand in hand. Most people with this condition tend to overreact over things we wouldn’t think twice about, but they don’t do this on purpose. Not only can hearing harsh words or receiving harsh treatment hurt someone, but a person with bipolar disorder is likely to react more strongly due to their condition. Even a sad movie can make a person with this condition overreact simply because it’s in their nature to do so. Keep in mind that this isn’t their fault, and they aren’t doing this on purpose. Instead of telling them they’re overreacting, gently point out that they’re becoming distressed and that they should stop and take deep breaths.


“You’re Just Having Mood Swings”

Many people experience mood swings from time to time, but only people with mental disorders like bipolar disorder, cyclothymia, and schizoaffective disorders experience severe and repeated mood swings between mania or hypomania and depression. In moments when they’re struggling or experiencing symptoms, frustration builds up, and harsh things are said. Just imagine how exhausting that is. You’re happy one second and completely depressed the next. But unless you have this condition or one with similar symptoms, it’s impossible to truly understand what the person is going through.

When you say things like, “you’re just being emotional,” “you’re acting dramatic,” or “you’re just having mood swings,” you’re dismissing the person’s feelings, which can make them feel misunderstood and uncared for. Saying things like this can also push the person away. Instead, say something like, “I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I’m here to help however I can.”


“Everyone Is Bipolar Sometimes”

This phrase is insensitive for similar reasons. Not only are you dismissing their feelings or making it seem as if their feelings aren’t real, but you’re also downplaying the severity of their condition. These kinds of phrases feed into the many stereotypes and stigmas that are out there about mental illness. They often come from a place of misunderstanding or lack of education. If you have a loved one with bipolar disorder and you’ve witnessed their symptoms, be conscious about your language. Do not dismiss their symptoms and don’t generalize their condition. Instead, educate yourself on bipolar disorder symptoms and show your support.


“You’re Acting Crazy”

Psycho, maniac, nuts, crazy, cuckoo, deranged, bonkers, or any one of the many negative words and phrases are highly insensitive and just plain rude to people with mental disorders like bipolar disorder. You may be using these words to describe your loved one’s behavior without realizing how hurtful it can be. Even if they aren’t in the room, be mindful of the phrases you use when speaking of mental illness in any conversation. Not only can it be hurtful, but using this kind of language only perpetuates further stigma and prejudice about bipolar disorder and other illnesses.


“You Don’t Seem Like You’re Bipolar”

Whether they’re in between cycles or episodes or they’re simply good at hiding their symptoms, statements like these can be extremely hurtful. Phrases like this almost imply that their symptoms aren’t real or validated because they aren’t obvious. As with many other mental disorders, symptoms aren’t always evident. People who do not receive mental health treatment may become experts at hiding their struggles, only to struggle when they’re alone. Never assume that someone is okay simply because their symptoms aren’t obvious to you. Instead, be patient and supportive both when you see they’re struggling and also when you don’t.


“Is It Your Time of the Month?”

Unfortunately, the hormonal changes that women often experience during their menstrual cycles are the butt of many jokes. This phrase is distasteful for many reasons, one of them being that it’s highly dismissive. Again, this is a phrase that attempts to downplay the severity of bipolar disorder symptoms. It also compares PMS and bipolar disorder, two completely different conditions that are difficult to deal with in their own ways. Anyone is likely to feel offended by this statement, especially someone with bipolar disorder.

Loving someone who’s bipolar can be difficult. They may say or do certain things that can be hurtful or confusing. However, it’s important to remember that much of their behavior is a result of their condition. While dealing with someone with bipolar disorder may seem frustrating at times, you can be supportive and become more compassionate by being mindful of your words concerning their condition.

In addition to educating yourself as much as possible, some other tips on how to talk to a bipolar person that you should keep in mind include spending more time listening and inviting them to join in on fun activities. While they may have mood swings or exhibit other difficult symptoms at times, listening to them and showing your love is the best way to support them.

If you or someone you know is battling mental illness or addiction, we can help. Call Banyan Treatment Centers Boca today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our levels of care.


Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.