Support after a bipolar episode

What people need after a bipolar episode can vary from person to person. The person may need time to get better and get over the impact the episode had on their lives.

If the person was manic, they may feel embarrassed and try to distance themselves from those who know what happened when they were manic. Mild symptoms of bipolar depression sometimes linger after a depressive episode. The person might not be able to immediately resume their usual activities. You may need to adjust your expectations of the person.

Ways to support the person after an episode

  • Some of the things the person might need when trying to get well are rest, routine, something to do, something to look forward to and love and friendship.
  • If the person has ongoing symptoms or is finding it hard to cope, ask them how you can help (see working together to deal with the illness).
  • Do things with the person rather than for them, as this can help to rebuild their confidence.
  • Try to be available to support the person (within personal limits that are realistic for you), without being domineering or overindulgent.
  • Encourage the person not to try to get everything done at once. Initially it might be easier for them to prioritize essential tasks and do less stressful activities.
  • Let the person recover at their own pace, but actively encourage or invite them to do things if they find it difficult to become involved in life again.
  • If the person finds it hard to make a start on things, encourage them to set a small manageable goal.
  • The period after a bipolar episode (especially a bipolar depressive episode) can be a high-risk time for suicide. There is a list of warning signs of suicide attempts to look out for in the section on helping to prevent suicide.
  • When possible focus on wellness and positive behavior, rather than illness and problem behavior (e.g. talk about the positive things the person is currently doing rather than just things that happened when they were ill).
  • Offer assistance if the person has difficulties with remembering things or concentrating (e.g. assist the person to remember appointments by writing them down).
  • Some people feel very disappointed if they relapsed after trying hard to manage their illness (see supporting the person who is disappointed about relapsing).
  • Discuss ways to prevent future relapse once the person is well.