Having a few mild ongoing symptoms is not the same as a full bipolar episode. However, certain mild symptoms can make it harder for the person to do things at home, work or with family and friends.
Examples of ongoing mild symptoms include being tired or slowed down, lacking energy, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, negative thinking, sleep problems, withdrawl or being over active, agitated or irritable. Even if the person has no obvious symptoms, bipolar disorder can sometimes affect their ability to do things.
How to support a person with mild ongoing bipolar symptoms or difficulty doing things:
- Ask the person if they have consulted their clinician about ways to manage these symptoms or difficulties.
- Offer the person assistance depending on their actual symptoms, and the extent of the person’s difficulty with daily tasks. However do not take over, as this may undermine their confidence and make you feel burnt out.
- Consider what has helped to deal with such symptoms or difficulties in the past.
- Encourage the person to keep to a basic routine that includes regular sleep patterns and time for relaxation.
More ways to support the person with mild ongoing symptoms of depression
- Encourage the person to set small manageable goals to do things, and divide these goals into smaller steps if they are hard to achieve.
- Acknowledge the person’s small achievements, as experiencing a sense of achievement can have a positive influence on mood.
- Recognize positive events and experiences when they occur (e.g. you can talk about an experience you both enjoyed or acknowledge good news the person has received).
- If the person is less active than usual, encourage them to do something that involves a bit more physical activity (e.g. ask the person to help take parcels in from the car).
- Invite the person to do something with you that they usually enjoy (e.g. a special outing, movie or hobby).
Adjusting to wellness:
Occasionally the person who is well may become a bit stuck in the sick role and find it hard to do things independently again. They may need some gentle encouragement to adjust to wellness. However, you may need to check to see if they are experiencing actual mild ongoing symptoms or have difficulty with particular tasks (e.g. completing a work related task as quickly as they used to) that limits what they can do.
Although caregivers are very pleased that the person is well, they can occasionally have difficulty stepping back to let the person do more for themselves.