How To Help A Family Member Experiencing Bipolar Psychosis

Updated June 05, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Tanya Harell

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If you have a family member that is experiencing bipolar psychosis the experience can feel just as terrifying for you as it is for them. You may feel out of control and very confused as to what they are describing. It is hard to understand what they are going through when they don't completely understand it themselves. It's important that you familiarize yourself with bipolar psychosis and how you can be of help to your family member during this time.

What Is Bipolar Psychosis?

Healthline defines psychosis as, "The inability to recognize what is real in the world around you… People who are experiencing psychosis often have hallucinations or delusions." Psychosis is commonly associated with schizophrenia. However, it can also be a symptom experience with other mental health conditions, like Bipolar Disorder.

Symptoms Of Bipolar Psychosis

Psychosis is a symptom that typically develops slowly over time. While many people believe it is something that happens quickly, it is just happening under the surface. Bipolar psychosis typically happens during a manic episode, but it's also possible during depressive phases.

In the early stages of bipolar psychosis, the symptoms include things like anxiety, reduced social contact, difficulty concentrating, unwarranted suspicion of others, not paying attention to personal hygiene, and a drop-in performance at work or school.

As the symptoms of psychosis continue to develop over time, they can turn into things like delusions, hallucinations, lack of awareness, incoherent speech, and irrational thoughts.

What Are Hallucinations?

Many people think of hallucinations as things that a person believes they are seeing. While this is true, people can also hallucinate things that they hear. They may believe that they're hearing a voice or seeing something that is not happening. Hallucinations can affect all five senses.


What Are Delusions?

When someone is delusional, they believe something is happening that is not real. It could be something big like believing that they are invincible or something smaller like becoming overly paranoid. Some people experiencing bipolar psychosis believe that there are people out to get them, that they have no one that cares about them or any other number of situations. No matter how ridiculous you think, the belief is the person truly believes that it is true, and you aren't able to convince them otherwise.

Lack Of Awareness, Irrational Thought, And Incoherent Speech

When people are experiencing episodes of bipolar psychosis, they may have incoherent speech and irrational thoughts. It may be hard to follow what they are saying, and they may lose track of what they're trying to communicate in the middle of a conversation. They might jump from one subject to the next quickly and seem like they are unsure of what they are talking about.

When people are experiencing bipolar psychosis, they are usually unaware that their speech or behavior is out of the ordinary. This can cause them to be confrontational if you try to question them on their behavior or what they are saying.

What's The Outlook On Bipolar Psychosis?

The good news is there's a chance that bipolar psychosis is a limited occurrence. It's common for people only to have one episode and fully recover. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, is not curable. However, it is very treatable and for the majority of people can learn to control it so they can live a normal daily life successfully. It's important that those experiencing bipolar psychosis receive early diagnosis and treatment. This is key for being able to control the condition and regain the quality of life that they once had.

What Are The Treatment Options?

If you have a family member that is suffering from bipolar psychosis, it is important that you help them receive the treatment that they need. There are both traditional and holistic treatment options available. Many people can take control a bipolar psychosis through only holistic measures. These include things like making lifestyle changes, practicing self-care, and maintaining healthy personal relationships.

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The traditional forms of treatment for bipolar psychosis include medication, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). The medications that may be prescribed include things like antidepressants, mood stabilizer, and antipsychotic medications. There are many different forms of therapy options available as well. This includes things like one-on-one counseling, group therapy, peer support, and family therapy.

If your family member does not see improvement through the use of medication and psychotherapy, they may be offered electroconvulsive therapy as a form of treatment. ECT as a form of electric therapy where an electric current is used on the brain that causes a temporary seizure. The belief is that this helps to reset the brain. This treatment has been effective for many people allowing them to see rapid Improvement.

How You Can Help Your Family Member

The main ways that you can help your family member is by helping them get the help that they need. You aren't going to be able to improve their situation for them on your own. But, here are a few ideas on how you can help.

  1. Help Keep track Of Their Experiences And Symptoms

Keep a journal of the experiences that your family member is having. It can help you to look for patterns in when the psychosis manifest itself. This could be important information to have when your loved one sees a doctor or therapist.

  1. Schedule An Appointment With A Doctor

Bipolar psychosis is not something that you want to treat at home without the help of a medical professional. It is recommended that you see both a physician and a therapist to get the best care possible. If your family member is resistant to having to go to a therapist office, BetterHelp has online therapists available to help them get the help and treatment that they need from the comfort of their home.

  1. Help Them Keep On Track With Their Medication

There are many different forms of medication to help people with bipolar psychosis, but the medication can only help if they're taking it. Help your loved one keep track of how much and what time they should be taking their medication and then remind them to do so.

  1. Help Them Get The Rest That They Need

Sleep deprivation is a common trigger for bipolar psychosis. It's important that you help your family member get the rest and the sleep that they need on a regular basis. If they have difficulty sleeping talk to a physician about what options are available.

  1. Create Routines

Creating daily routines can help to reduce or eliminate psychosis episodes. It may be something that your family member is resistant to because it can feel very restricting, but in the long run, it's beneficial to them. Try to set a schedule of routines that they can follow for things like eating, sleeping, and being social. Even watching a familiar TV show can help them keep their focus away from things that are troubling them.


  1. Keep It Simple

When you are talking with someone that has bipolar psychosis, you want to keep it simple. They may have a difficult time understanding things like analogies, sarcasm, and exaggerations. Match the eye level that they are at and never talk about them like they are not there.

  1. Remain Positive

The situation can seem overwhelming, negative, and stressful for every person involved. The unknown can be very scary. It's important that in front of your family member you remain positive and encouraging. Comfort them when they will allow you and look for ways to encourage and motivate them.

  1. Ask Questions And Don't Make Assumptions

Don't assume that you know what they want. Ask them how they would like to be helped. There may be times when they are unable to answer you or provide any helpful information, but they may be able to.

  1. Don't Make Threats Of Consequences Make Threats Of Consequences

If you are the parent of a child that is experiencing episodes of bipolar psychosis, it can be difficult to understand what they are going through. But, it's important that you acknowledge that they are not faking their behavior or choosing to act in that way. Threatening consequences if they don't change their behavior is not going to help them and will only further frustrate the situation.

  1. Don't Make It All About The Diagnosis

Don't forget that your family member is a person, no matter how difficult the situation becomes. It can be easy to shift to thinking more about the diagnosis of bipolar disorder or psychosis and less about the individual. When this happens, the conversation shifts to be all about diagnosis, medication, and treatment.

For your loved one, the things they are experiencing are very real even if they aren't truly happening. When they are in a psychotic state, they aren't going to want to hear about the diagnosis or treatment options. This will only frustrate them further. You want your loved one to know that you love and care about them regardless of what they are going through. Make sure you do your best to communicate that you are there for them and will support them through this time.

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