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Friends and Family

Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder, cyclothymia, ...), and concurrent illness as the anxiety disorders (phobias, fears, panic attacks, ...), the obsessive-compulsive behaviours are also very difficult for the family and others close to the patient.

When the diagnosis is made, certain steps are necessary to accept the illness and treatment :

Denial > despair > anger > negotiation > acceptance

Once accepted, the illness should not be ignored : "getting information" and "trying to talk about it" are two keys to breaking isolation and supporting the patient.

You can choose to talk to individuals who are close to you, but your entourage is not always prepared or able to help you, at least not without being informed themselves.

If you have doubts about the ability of those close to you to understand or accept your disorder or illness, start by discussing this with your physician, who will know how to listen and understand what these disorders imply as far as turning your life and those around you upside down.

In the opposite situation, if anyone in your entourage has a bipolar disorder, depression, cyclothymia, here are some recommendations gathered from specialists :

Here are some recommendations gathered from experts:

12 key points for better supporting a patient you are close to :


  1. Consider mood disorders (bipolar disorder, depression, cyclothymia) not as something shameful but as illnesses that can be treated
  2. Do not give sermons, as this leads only to isolation and the forceful agreement to promises that cannot be kept
  3. Pay attention to not present yourself as a martyr or as the « mental healthy one ». The emotional hypersensibility of the bipolar is for example a very reliable antenna, even for non-verbal cues
  4. Do not use emotional blackmail as this only reinforces a feeling of being at fault
  5. Avoid all threats except in emergencies
  6. Don’t take away toxic substances against the will of the individual. This will only lead to more despair or depression. Take the patient to see a physician
  7. Do not let the patient persuade you to share toxic substances (drugs or alcohol). In the same vein, accepting excuses for using toxic substances only postpones looking for solutions.
  8. Respect the method chosen by the individual concerned without being « jealous ». All the love of friends and family is not enough to cure
  9. Be very patient : getting better is neither immediate or complete. There can be difficult periods to get through , tensions or relapses. Convalescence takes time
  10. Try not to protect the individual from situations (notably social ones) in which the person may instead find affirmation and let him/her chose their way of expressing him/herself
  11. Let the individual do what they are capable of doing without help. You cannot feel what they feel and cannot take the medications in their place
  12. Offer all the support you can, the kind of support is secondary, but without putting your own health in danger. In certain cases, the patient can decide to live with or without medication



** Reader information : This section is mostly inspired of real-life experiences, and was written by the editorial staff of the Mood Institute, exclusively composed with patients - The members of the Medical and Scientific Committee are regularly asked to provide an advisory opinion - Last update : 03/25/2012

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