Psychologist Questions Bipolar Disorder

My brother's illness bothers me a lot. I am sleep deprived and I need some help.

My brother is unwell and dealing with bipolar disorder. Due to his health issue I am losing my sleep and I am extremely troubled. Please advise on how I can deal with this condition better.

7 Answers

A good start in learning to cope is to find out as much as possible about mental illness, both by reading and talking with other families. NAMI has books, pamphlets, fact sheets, and tapes available about different illnesses, treatments, and issues you may have to deal with, and you can join one of the 1,200 NAMI affiliate groups throughout the nation. (For other resources and contact information about your state and local NAMI affiliates, call the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800/950-6264.)

The following are some things to remember that should help you as you learn to live with mental illness in your family:

You cannot cure a mental disorder for a parent or sibling.
No one is to blame for the illness.
Mental disorders affect more than the person who is ill.
Despite your best efforts, your loved one's symptoms may get worse, or they may improve.
If you feel extreme resentment, you are giving too much.
It is as hard for the parent or sibling to accept the disorder as it is for other family members.
Acceptance of the disorder by all concerned may be helpful, but it is not necessary.
A delusion has little or nothing to do with reality, so it needs no discussion.
Separate the person from the disorder.
It is not OK for you to be neglected. You have emotional needs and wants, too.
The illness of a family member is nothing to be ashamed of. The reality is that you will likely encounter stigma from an apprehensive public.
You may have to revise your expectations of the ill person.
You may have to renegotiate your emotional relationship with the ill person.
Acknowledge the remarkable courage your sibling or parents may show when dealing with a mental disorder.
Generally, those closest in sibling order and gender become emotionally enmeshed while those further out become estranged.
Grief issues for siblings are about what you had and lost. For adult children, they are about what you never had.
After denial, sadness, and anger comes acceptance. The addition of understanding yields compassion.
It is absurd to believe you may correct a biological illness such as diabetes, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder with talk, although addressing social complications may be helpful.
Symptoms may change over time while the underlying disorder remains.
You should request the diagnosis and its explanation from professionals.
Mental health professionals have varied degrees of competence.
You have a right to ensure your personal safety.
Strange behavior is a symptom of the disorder. Don't take it personally.
Don't be afraid to ask your sibling or parent if he or she is thinking about hurting him- or herself. Suicide is real.
Don't shoulder the whole responsibility for your mentally disordered relative yourself.
You are not a paid professional caseworker. Your role is to be a sibling or child, not a parent or caseworker.
The needs of the ill person do not necessarily always come first.
If you can't care for yourself, you can't care for another.
It is important to have boundaries and to set clear limits.
Just because a person has limited capabilities doesn't mean that you expect nothing of him or her.
It is natural to experience many and confusing emotions such as grief, guilt, fear, anger, sadness, hurt, confusion, and more. You, not the ill person, are responsible for your own feelings.
Inability to talk about your feelings may leave you stuck or "frozen."
You are not alone. Sharing your thoughts and feelings in a support group has been helpful and enlightening for many.
Eventually, you may see the silver lining in the storm clouds: your own increased awareness, sensitivity, receptivity, compassion, and maturity. You may become less judgmental and self-centered, a better person.

Source: NAMI - National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
Colonial Place Three, 2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22201-3042
703-524-7600 / NAMI HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI /
Most MH issues are system issues - you are being impacted, so see the therapist treating your brother to get you help as well.
Having a family member diagnosed with mental illness can be challenging. There are several ways you can cope including taking care of yourself, asking your brother if/how he wants you involved in his mental health care, and learning all you can about the disorder.
Dear Sir/Madam:
I am sorry to hear that your brother is suffering from Bi-polar disorder. Is he currently undergoing treatment for this diagnosis? Have you gone with him to see his therapist and/or psychiatrist? What is their advice? What is their prognosis? Are you seeing a therapist? Does this run in your family? Have you seen your primary care physician and discussed the issue with them?
There are so many factors involved. So, it is difficult for me to give advice without knowing more details of the situation. Exercise and relaxation including mindful meditation are healthy ways to release tension and improve sleep. Seeing a therapist to help you cope with your brother's illness is a good idea.
Not knowing your brother's age, I would suggest reading "The Bipolar Child" by Demitri Papolos and Janice Papolos. In this book, there is a chapter on the "Impact on the Family." "Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder" by Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston is another resource. For yourself, "Feeling Good" by Dr. David Burns may also be of help.
Take care,
Dr. Sonpal 
Hello – sleep is an absolute necessity for health, which you need to maintain. Many people use medication (over the counter or prescription) temporarily; I greatly prefer using hypnosis. I would recommend you find a qualified hypnotherapist, which can be located on the website of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. You can search by geographical convenience. Almost any trained hypnotherapist (psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist, counselor) can teach you a simple method to use, putting it on a recording on your phone, if you like. No side effects except feeling rested!
Good luck!

Marian Kaplun Shapiro
It Is not surprising that you are troubled by your brother's illness. I am assuming that your brother is under psychiatric and psychological care -- if he is not, he should be, There is help available for his disorder. I would recommend two things for you-- the first is that you seek counseling for yourself, and the second is that you contact the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) and attend one of their meetings. It is an excellent organization and extremely helpful to families of mentally ill patients. You can find their number online.
You should talk to his doctor about that and if he doesn’t have one he really needs one. In the meantime you have to set rules and timelines. He will listen and try to understand.