How to Cope with someone having Bipolar Disorder Saying Hurtful Things?


When someone we care about has bipolar disorder, their mood swings can sometimes lead to them saying things that are really hurtful. It’s tough to deal with, especially when the words come from someone important to us. This article aims to help you understand why this happens and offer practical ways to handle these situations. We’ll look into how to protect your feelings, support your loved one, and keep your relationship strong, even when things get tough. It’s all about learning, understanding, and finding the best way to move forward together.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Woman with bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings. These include emotional highs, known as mania or hypomania, and lows, known as depression. When someone is in a manic phase, they might feel overly happy, energetic, or irritable. During a depressive episode, they might feel sad, hopeless, or lose interest in most day-to-day activities. It’s important to remember that these mood swings are part of their condition and not a reflection of their feelings towards you.

Understanding the nature of bipolar disorder can help you see the hurtful things said not as personal attacks but as symptoms of their illness. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Bipolar is unpredictable: The mood swings can come without warning, making it hard for both the person and their loved ones to anticipate or prepare for them.
  • It’s not about you: When someone with bipolar disorder says something hurtful, it’s often a result of their current mood state and not a true reflection of their feelings towards you.
  • Communication can be affected: During manic or depressive episodes, a person’s way of expressing themselves can change drastically, sometimes leading to hurtful or aggressive speech.
  • Empathy is crucial: Trying to understand what the person is going through can help you respond with compassion rather than defense.

Recognizing these aspects of bipolar disorder can guide you in responding to hurtful comments with empathy and understanding rather than taking them to heart. This knowledge also arms you with the patience needed to support your loved one through their highs and lows.

Common Challenges in Communication

Person trying to talk to her friend

Communicating with someone who has bipolar disorder presents unique challenges, especially during their extreme mood phases. Understanding these challenges can prepare you to handle difficult conversations more effectively. Here are some common communication hurdles and insights on how to navigate them:

  • Heightened Emotions: During manic or depressive episodes, emotions can run high, leading to intense or exaggerated expressions of feelings. What might normally be a minor annoyance could be expressed as profound anger or sadness.
  • Impulsivity: In a manic phase, impulsivity can lead to saying things without thinking about the consequences or the hurt they might cause. This impulsiveness can result in comments that are out of character and hurtful.
  • Misinterpretation: Mood swings can affect how your words are perceived. What you intend as supportive or neutral feedback might be interpreted as criticism or rejection.
  • Withdrawal: During depressive phases, a person might withdraw and communicate less, making it difficult to understand their needs or how they’re feeling.
  • Sensitivity to Conflict: People with bipolar disorder might be more sensitive to conflict or perceived slights, which can escalate disagreements quickly.

Strategies for Effective Communication

  • Stay Calm: Try to remain calm and composed, even when the conversation gets heated. Your steadiness can help stabilize the situation.
  • Listen Actively: Show that you are listening and trying to understand their perspective, even if you disagree. Active listening can make the person feel valued and heard.
  • Use “I” Statements: Frame your observations and feelings around your own experience, using “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory.
  • Pick Your Moments: Sometimes, it’s best to wait until the person is in a more stable mood before discussing sensitive topics.
  • Seek Clarity: If you’re unsure about what they meant by something hurtful, ask for clarification. It’s possible that their words came out differently than intended.

Understanding and adapting to these communication challenges can help mitigate misunderstandings and reduce the frequency and intensity of hurtful exchanges. It’s about building a foundation of patience, empathy, and clear communication to support each other through the ups and downs of bipolar disorder.

Strategies for Coping with Hurtful Remarks

Person experiencing stress

Dealing with hurtful remarks from a loved one with bipolar disorder requires patience, understanding, and a set of strategies to protect your emotional well-being while supporting them. Here are some approaches to consider:

  • Practice Self-Care: Prioritize your own mental and emotional health. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, and don’t hesitate to seek support for yourself, whether it’s from friends, family, or mental health professionals.
  • Set Boundaries: It’s important to set clear, healthy boundaries about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. This doesn’t mean withdrawing love or support but communicating your limits in a respectful way.
  • Respond, Don’t React: Give yourself a moment to breathe and think before responding to hurtful comments. Reacting in the heat of the moment can escalate the situation. A calm, composed response can defuse tension.
  • Seek Understanding: Remember that hurtful comments are often a symptom of the disorder, not a reflection of their true feelings. This perspective can help you respond with empathy rather than anger.
  • Communicate Openly: When both of you are calm, express how the remarks made you feel using “I” statements. This can help your loved one understand the impact of their words without feeling attacked.
  • Focus on Support: Look into support groups for families and friends of those with bipolar disorder. Sharing your experiences and learning from others can provide valuable coping strategies and emotional support.
  • Consider Therapy: Therapy, both individual and couples/family, can be an effective way to develop coping strategies, improve communication, and strengthen your relationship.

It’s also beneficial to educate yourself further on bipolar disorder. Understanding the condition deeply can help you empathize with what your loved one is going through, making it easier to separate their illness from their personality and intentions. Remember, coping with these challenges is a journey, not just for the person with bipolar disorder but for their loved ones as well. With the right strategies and support, it’s possible to navigate these difficulties together, fostering a healthier, more understanding relationship.

Managing Your Emotional Health

When you’re close to someone with bipolar disorder, your emotional health can often take a backseat to their needs. However, maintaining your own well-being is crucial for both you and your loved one. Here are strategies to help manage your emotional health:

  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: It’s normal to feel a range of emotions, including frustration, sadness, or even resentment. Acknowledge these feelings without guilt. Understanding that your emotions are valid is the first step towards managing them effectively.
  • Seek Support: You don’t have to cope alone. Engage with support groups, friends, or family who understand your situation. Connecting with others facing similar challenges can provide comfort and practical advice.
  • Establish Personal Boundaries: It’s important to set boundaries for your mental health. Clearly communicate your needs and limits in the relationship, ensuring you’re not overextending yourself emotionally or physically.
  • Practice Self-Care: Regularly engage in activities that promote relaxation and happiness. Whether it’s a hobby, exercise, or meditation, self-care is essential for replenishing your emotional reserves.
  • Stay Informed: Understanding bipolar disorder can help you manage your expectations and reactions. Knowledge about the condition can foster empathy and patience, both for yourself and your loved one.
  • Consider Professional Help: Therapists or counselors can offer guidance tailored to your situation, helping you develop coping mechanisms and strategies to maintain your emotional health.

Managing your emotional health is not about ignoring the needs of your loved one but ensuring you’re in a strong position to support them. By taking care of yourself, you’re better equipped to handle the challenges that come with bipolar disorder, providing support without sacrificing your well-being.

Building a Supportive Environment

Providing support to an emotional man

Creating a supportive environment for someone with bipolar disorder—and for yourself—is crucial in managing the condition effectively. This environment encompasses emotional support, open communication, and a network of resources. Here are key elements to consider:

  • Promote Open Communication: Foster an atmosphere where feelings and concerns can be openly discussed without fear of judgment. Encourage your loved one to share their experiences and needs, and express your own feelings and concerns as well.
  • Educate Family and Friends: Educate those close to you about bipolar disorder, its symptoms, and its impact on behavior. This can help reduce misunderstandings and promote a more supportive community for both you and your loved one.
  • Establish Routine: Stability can be beneficial for someone with bipolar disorder. Help establish and maintain a regular routine for daily activities and sleep, which can contribute to mood stability.
  • Encourage Professional Help: Support your loved one in seeking and continuing treatment, including medication management and therapy. Offer to accompany them to appointments if they want the support.
  • Develop a Crisis Plan: Work together to develop a plan for managing crises, including signs of a developing crisis, steps to take, and emergency contact information. This can reduce anxiety and ensure you’re both prepared.
  • Create a Low-Stress Environment: Minimize stress in the home environment as much as possible, as stress can exacerbate symptoms of bipolar disorder. This might include reducing clutter, ensuring quiet time, and avoiding high-stress situations.
  • Practice Healthy Living: Encourage activities that promote physical health, such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep. Physical health can significantly impact mental health.
  • Utilize Resources: Look into local and online resources, such as support groups, counseling services, and educational materials. These can provide additional support and information for both you and your loved one.


Coping with hurtful remarks from a loved one with bipolar disorder is challenging, but with understanding, patience, and the right strategies, you can navigate these difficulties together. Remember to prioritize your emotional health, communicate openly, and build a supportive environment for both of you. By taking these steps, you can strengthen your relationship and provide the compassionate support your loved one needs, all while ensuring you’re taking care of yourself, too. Together, you can face the challenges of bipolar disorder and foster a healthier, more understanding relationship.

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