How can I help a loved one who is living with anxiety, depression or bipolarity?

Without the right tools, living with anxiety, depression or bipolarity can be very painful. And it can likewise be painful for you, as a loved one, to see someone you care about suffer.

Whether you’re a family member, spouse, friend or co-worker, you are an important source of support.

Your support can take many forms. For example, you can provide financial or other concrete assistance (instrumental support), share advice or information (informational support), or offer care, an attentive ear or comfort (emotional support).

But you can’t be everywhere at once. This is why it can be useful for someone living with anxiety, depression or bipolarity to identify who their loved ones are and how each can help them, while minding their respective situations and limits.

You are entitled to your limits. In fact, it’s important to not only know and recognize your limits, but communicate and uphold them in order to avoid compromising your mental health when you help someone close to you.

This is one of the seven strategies that you can adopt to help you help a loved one living with anxiety, depression or bipolarity. 

7 strategies to help a loved one without causing (yourself) harm

1. Be familiar with the anxiety, depression or bipolarity your loved one is living with

  • Learn about the symptoms and signs of a relapse
  • Know about your loved one’s medications, the side effects and what could happen if they suddenly stop taking them
  • Try to separate their symptoms from their personality
2. Know yourself

  • Know your limits
  • Regularly assess your own stress and anxiety levels
3. Work on feeling less guilty

  • Be less critical of yourself and avoid blaming yourself unnecessarily
  • Break the silence: surround yourself with people you can talk to
4. Improve your communication skills

  • Express your positive and negative emotions clearly and effectively
  • Strive to be authentic, real and honest; make your limitations known; let your loved one know before taking action with regard to their health or recovery
5. Set realistic expectations

  • Respect your loved one’s pace
  • Pay attention to the positive aspects of the situation, as trivial as they may seem
  • Be patient and accepting
6. Establish the same rules for everyone in the house

  • Don’t over-protect your loved one and cast them as “sick”
  • Keep the household running as usual to promote quality of life
  • Avoid overextending yourself and sacrificing your own quality of life
7. Join support groups for family members or seek therapy to find:

  • Support to develop assertiveness
  • A listening ear, and guidance in defusing feelings of aggression and guilt
  • Means of improving your communication
  • A better understanding of the various manifestations of the disorder in question
  • Help with focusing your efforts and energy to achieve well-being
  • Support from people who are experiencing things similar to you

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