Bipolar depression can engulf the person you know in a dark cloud so they are hardly recognizable. It can be severe or mild and last for a considerable time. The person may:

• Find nothing interesting or enjoyable
• Be emotionally flat, empty, sad or tearful
• Feel worthless, excessively guilty or anxious
• Have no energy or motivation
• Be slowed down or agitated and unable to sit still
• Have difficulty concentrating or remembering
• Be constantly tired and have aches and pains
• Have noticeable changes in their sleep patterns, appetite or libido
• Not care about things that usually matter
• Be uncommunicative, irritable or take everything personally. Some people develop psychotic symptoms such as delusions that someone is against them or that they are guilty of something terrible
• Be pessimistic or hopeless and think very negatively
• Be suicidal or focused on death and dying

If the person you care for does not get things done, cancels arrangements, avoids social activities and most importantly can’t communicate or withdraws from you, you may think they are being lazy, self absorbed, irresponsible or rejecting. However, if they currently have bipolar depression, this behavior may be part of their illness. Depression, like other illnesses affects a person’s ability to perform their usual tasks. It can also affect the way they relate to loved ones.

Bipolar depression needs medical treatment and can take time to pass. So what can you do to help and to weather this dark cloud of depression? Situations differ, what comforts one person with bipolar depression may not comfort another.

Tips include:
1. Get urgent help if the person is suicidal.
2. Encourage the person to see a clinician.
3. Let the person know you care, but not to the extent that it makes them feel overwhelmed and helpless.
4. Avoid telling the person to “pull themselves together” or “snap out of it”.
5. Don’t try to get the person to do something they find very stressful. Consider encouraging them to do something more manageable.
6. Adjust your current expectations of the person, but don’t stop believing in their abilities and strengths.
7. Sometimes, just “being there” without telling them what to do is supportive.
8. Offer the person kindness, patience and attention even if this is not reciprocated.
9. Don’t expect yourself to lift their bipolar symptoms.
10. Don’t give up hope. Take care of yourself, arrange pleasurable time out and social contact to maintain your perspective.

For more about how to deal with a person’s bipolar depression, suicide risk and other bipolar symptoms see:

Author's Bio: 

Lesley Berk is a psychologist with many years of clinical experience and is currently doing a PhD, working on a project to develop a freely accessible information website for close family and friends of people with bipolar disorder,