Caring for Someone with a Mood Disorder: How NOT to Go Crazy

photo: Holly Lay, Creative Commons

photo: Holly Lay, Creative Commons

Whether you have just found out or have known for several years, living with and loving someone who has mood disorder is difficult even in the best situation. In the course of any given day, you can feel hopeless, helpless, overwhelmed, confused, hurt, angry, frustrated, and/or resentful. If not dealt with, these feelings can lead to guilt, shame, sadness, exhaustion, fear, and isolation. Know that there isn’t a right or wrong way to feel. Learning how to handle negative emotions is what is most important.

First, recognize that you did not cause the disorder.

Mood disorders are a diagnosed medical condition. It is helpful to learn as much as you can about your loved one’s diagnosis both from professional resources as well as from the person him/herself. Each person experiences the symptoms differently and will have individual strengths in coping.

Ask your loved one direct questions about what he/she needs from you. You are in a special position to notice symptoms and track moods that will be very beneficial to your loved one. Neither you nor your loved one can make him/herself well just by wishing it to be, but you can offer support, understanding, and encouragement.

This is what creates hope in both of you.

Next, acknowledge that sorrow about your loved one’s diagnosis is normal.

Giving yourself space and permission to grieve is helpful as you face the real challenge a diagnosed mental illness presents. Forgive yourself if you made harmful or judgmental comments in the past due to lack of understanding about the disorder. Know that with proper treatment and individual management, many with similar diagnoses live productive, fulfilling, and happy lives.

Finally, be aware that you will probably experience distress and disruptions in life, and it stinks!

These disruptions may include dealing with:

  • the interruption of regular routines
  • bizarre or reckless behavior
  • financial stress
  • changes in family roles
  • strains in marriage and family relationships
  • difficulty in maintaining relationships outside the family

Some have found it helpful to develop a plan for dealing with both minor and major crises. Speak with your loved one’s health care provider and be informed about resources in your area. Be honest with yourself if you feel you are doing too much caretaking, and make time to take care of your own needs. Attempt to reestablish routines as soon as possible to increase wellness for your loved one and reduce stress for everyone.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 9.5% of Americans have some form of mood disorder.

You are not alone in this struggle.

Resist the temptation to isolate. Instead seek your own support from trusted friends, medical professionals, support groups, your place of worship, or a counselor.


Ann Sheerin MA

Asheerin @