Mental Illness

Your Adult Child was Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

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Two sides to an adult child with bipolar

What Now?

When you discover your adult child is bipolar, you may be reeling at an unexpected diagnosis or you may even be feeling relief that there is finally an explanation for your child’s erratic behavior. Either way, here you are.

A bit about bipolar

There are many mental health disorders are found in people across the world and one of the more common ones is bipolar disorder; previously known as manic depression. The main sign one often encounters in bipolar is extreme mood swings. Either the patient gets depressed and sad and then swings to a euphoric, energetic state. These states can easily affect the sleep pattern and general behavior of the person.

There are two main types of bipolar that are mainly defined by the severity of the episodes.

  • Bipolar I disorder: This type of bipolar disorder has highs that are very high and lows that are very low.
  • Bipolar II disorder: In contrast to Type 1, the highs are not quite as high and the lows or depressive times, are not quite as low.

Understanding mania and hypomania

The symptoms of both these conditions are the same, yet these two are distinct types of episodes. Hypomania is less severe than mania. In hypomania you may see more changes in one’s behavior at work, school but they are able to function within their world. Mania on the other hand, brings with it noticeable changes and difficulties in handling relationships.

In it’s worst state, mania may bring on a state of psychosis where hospitalization may be required. Being the parent of an adult child with Bipolar who is manic can be scary and overwhelming. Both mania and hypomania have at least three or four of these symptoms:

  • Unusual talkativeness
  • State of euphoria
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor decision making
  • Easily distracted
  • Increased energy

Parenting your bipolar adult child

Why is dealing with an adult child who has been diagnosed with bipolar so difficult? First of all, they have the usual resistance to help that an adult may feel towards their parents helping them. They may not want help or might deny the presence of any problem that is going on around them. Because they are adults, you don’t have the legal right to insist they regularly see their doctor or even take their medication.


If your adult child who has bipolar is in a situation where you feel they may be harming themselves, such as not taking their medication and as a result participating in dangerous activities, it is important that you consult with a lawyer or a society who can provide you advice as to what you can legally do to help your child. Laws and options are different around the world so it is important you talk to someone familiar with your options in whatever state/province/country you live.

Assuming your child is taking their medication and is not actively resisting you, here are a few tips to help you show support.

  • Communication: this is the key to solving most problems. Lack of communication increases the parent child gap and may close down the relationship. When the child gets the feeling of not being heard or understood, he/she becomes more aggressive and prone to mood changes, aggravating the condition further.
  • Recognizing the level of severity of disorder: When the illness presents with stronger intensity and results in your child having difficulty functioning in society, it can become more difficult to handle the situation. It is important, through communication, that you are aware of and be able to recognize when things are not right. Changes in mood are normal for all people and you will drive both you and your child crazy if you attribute every change as a manic or depressive symptom.
  • Patience: It is quite normal for humans to get exhausted and frustrated when dealing with an illness you can’t really see. Make sure you take the time to take care of yourself. Take breaks from it if you have to; you aren’t being selfish, you are maintaining your own well-being so you can support your child.

Bipolar disorder is a very common mental disorder. Hopefully, once you are aware and well educated about what happens in this disorder, it becomes easier for you to handle the situation. Offering your adult child who has bipolar support may include encouraging them to participate in counselling or therapy. Keep the lines of communication open and be able to recognize when there is a need to consult a doctor.

Talking with your doctor about bipolar can help both of you understand the condition and figure out how to manage and thrive.

And don’t forget… they are still your child so take the time to stop, appreciate them and show them some love.

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