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12 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Bipolar Disorder

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12 Things Not to Say to Someone With Bipolar Disorder pololia/Fotolia

Bipolar disorder is a genetic medical condition. People with it experience cycles ranging from being depressed with low energy to hyperactive or manic. According to TheMighty.com, “about 5.7 million adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder, but the illness is often misunderstood.”

Here are 12 things you should never say to someone with bipolar disorder:

1) Are you bipolar?

People are not bipolar disorder. They have bipolar disorder.

2) You’re crazy.

First of all, it’s rude. Second of all, it's not true. Don’t say anything similar to this to someone who has bipolar disorder.

3) I have mood swings too.

At times, everyone can experience a mood swing wrote Bipolar.About.com, but “only people with bipolar disorder, have repeated and severe mood swings between mania or hypomania and depression.”

4) Do you think I might have it?

There is no diagnostic test for bipolar disorder stated The Guardian.com. A diagnosis often depends on observation. If you are concerned that you may have bipolar disorder, see your doctor. Don't burden your friend with a question they can't answer, and that is all about you and not showing consideration for them.

5) I wish I was manic so I could be more productive.

Mania is so much more than getting things done. People who have bipolar disorder suffer highs and lows to the extreme.

“I wish more people understood the physical toll managing this disease takes. It’s not just side effects from medications — it’s also the sheer exhaustion from adrenaline rushes, fatigue from depression, etc.” Toni Jacobs Burke told the International Bipolar Foundation, as reported by TheMighty.com.

6) You're just overreacting.

Overreacting is a symptom of bipolar disorder, explained Bipolar.About.com. But when someone with bipolar disorder is overreacting, they can’t simply take a deep breath and stop.

7) Did you ever try to kill yourself?

This is just plain cruel. This is a very personal and sensitive subject. Don’t ask someone this.

8) What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

Even when well-meant, this can sound like a dismissive platitude. It can be true that difficult situations make some people thrive in the aftermath. However it’s not something you want to say to “someone with an illness where 20 percent of patients attempt suicide,” said Bipolar.About.com.

9) I feel bad for you.

People with bipolar disorder may feel bad for themselves too.

“When I’m manic, I can be extremely paranoid, hard to understand and anxious. I take risks I shouldn’t take. I have no sense of empathy for those around me.” Emmaleah Brooklynn Alkire told the International Bipolar Foundation, as reported by TheMighty.com.

10) Are you cured?

There is no cure. Unfortunately bipolar disorder lasts a lifetime. Typically people who have it are able to maintain stability through healthy living and medication.

11) But you seem so normal.

This is hurtful in so many ways. Imagine saying that to someone with cancer or diabetes.

12) Have you taken your medication?

Don't reduce a human being to a science equation. “Just because I’m having a bad day doesn’t mean I didn’t take my medicine.” Sarah Howerton Kakkuri told the International Bipolar Foundation as reported by TheMighty.com.

Remember these 12 things the next time you’re talking to someone with bipolar disorder.


"45 Truths People With Bipolar Disorder Wish Others Understood." The Mighty. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Bledsoe, PhD, Andrea. "Bipolar Disorder - What to Say, What Not to Say." EverydayHealth.com. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Parkinson, Hannah Jane. "10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Bipolar Disorder." TheGuardan.com. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Purse, Marcia. "10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Bipolar Disorder." About.com Health. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Reviewed November 20, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment8 Comments

"But you seems so normal."- I actually got this one while I was in-patient from a fellow patient. I was still diagnosed MDD [now correctly diagnosed BPII]. This is one of the most infuriating things. People see me when I'm "normal" because I front it. I try to hide my mood cycles. They see the baseline and the hypomania [only because not shutting up and being extremely sociable when I frequently state that I strongly dislike 90% of the human population is difficult] because with the depressive, I cloister myself in my apartment. I miss class. I don't socialize. Just because they've seen me when I'm "normal" doesn't mean they've seen all of me.

And "Have you taken your medication?". Good lord. I'm just going to back away from that one. My own mother, having been infuriated by having that said to her thousands of times, has said that to me more than once. I could write an entire article on that phrase alone.

September 19, 2016 - 4:08pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Elendarin)

Im just getting close to my 17 year old niece..its nice to know what really can be a trigger for her in a question...so i watch her response to my questions trying to learn how she is not how the books or therapists say she will be...i ask her how do you feel about talking abiut...XYZ..etc...mostly she has a comment...then i try to tell her something that happened to me so i may or may not understand how shes feeling it is complicated but it opens her up...i try to just listen and not judge...shes opening up more and more...sad part is her father had no clue and sent her to treatment for a year....

September 3, 2017 - 11:18pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have lived with bipolar disorder my whole life. As they don't like to diagnose it till you are 18+, as I was. I am now 44 and final found a combination of meds that work for me about 5 years ago. Daily life is still a constant struggle. I tend to be more on the depressed side and it is so debilitating. I don't function well in the world and tend to stay at home unless I really need something. I hate what this disease has done to me, but unfortunately have only found temporary relief. I still have to change meds around constantly to keep them working as the body becomes "used" to them and they no longer work effectively. I can not work and no longer can enjoy the things I like to do. I struggle everyday just to do the things that need done around the house. My family has suffered right along with me, often not knowing how to deal with my mood swings or my lack of self-control. I don't wish this disease on anyone. It is so disruptive and destructive to all concerned.

May 30, 2016 - 3:24am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi everyone. I was searching info online about Bipolar Disorders and how you can deal with people who suffers from them and I found you. thank you a lot for this information as my girlfriend is suffering from bipolar disorder and i did not know it until not so long ago. when i discovered that she is suffering from bipolar disorder i have also found out she is on
Olanzapine but it does not seem that it helps her too much as I have noticed that there's something wrong with her behavior a long time ago. I would want to ask you what other things are there for her to help her with the Bipolar and I also wanted to make sure that you get my BIG thank you for this article as a lot of things I didn't knew.

February 29, 2016 - 2:46pm
EmpowHER Guest

I grew up with a sister who suffers bi-polar.
Catch 22 is, unless she admits to her G.P she is sick, she wont get the proper help she needs.
I have spoken to the doctor and I'm treated as though I'm over reacting.
Even though I have told her what it's like, having grown up with a sibling with Bi-polar, still,no help.
She has lived with my parents for 15 years, now in her fifties, Dad passed away, now she is a constant stress for my elderly Mum.
Its hard for families too...no one listens...bi polar sufferers can be incredibly charismatic to the public eye,but so voilotile and angry at home.Its like living with a volcano that your not sure when it will explode.
Horrible for them, but, let's be real, bloody awful for family too.

December 17, 2015 - 11:14pm
EmpowHER Guest

This article is most troublesome for me. As Dan Booth Cohen, a psychologist who practices off-the-grid, says that there is much grief and frustration with the entire mental health care system. In his experience as a clinician, including my own clinician, many emotional and behavioral difficulties have their roots in generational trauma and I tend to agree with this - we know that we can override genes with all the research on neuroception; and as he says the fundamental false premise in psychology and psychiatry is that our brains produce all of our conscious content. It is ground on which psychiatric medication and most validated therapies stand. And...it is a false belief which is refuted by hundreds of research studies. we are encouraged to think of ourselves as 'sick' is so the doctors can claim jurisdiction. I think that social formations that organize us to live separate from one another, even me from myself - and language are important and how we speak of 'mental distress and suffering' instead of 'mental illness'
Big pharma and media and social institutions stand to make great profits and we are encouraged to think of ourselves as "sick" in order for doctors to claim jurisdiction. I think that we need to be present to one another in an authentic manner at every turn in our lives and build relationships that are nourishing and provide validation of who each one of us is - a sacred being with unique gifts to bestow upon one another with loving compassion.

December 17, 2015 - 6:14pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

I agree with much of what your say here. We medicalize different ways of relating to the world  and then prescribe medications for people who relate differently.

September 19, 2016 - 6:00pm
EmpowHER Guest

The article states that 20% of bipolar sufferers attempt suicide which is incorrect.

The actual percentage is 50%. Of those who attempt it, ultimately 20% actually succeed.

The only higher suicide rate in the vast array of mental disorders is found in the eating disorders.

So the next time you want to tell a bipolar sufferer to "take their meds" or state something like "you're crazy" and other such non-productive statements, you may be the final straw that breaks that camel's back, and they will instead finally kill themselves...

Think about it...

November 24, 2015 - 5:12pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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