Social support is a large area of research that looks at the person with bipolar disorder and their relationship with their caregivers and support system, the person with bipolar disorder and their caregivers and their relationship with professionals, and the support of caregivers themselves. Information from professional research literature, from caregivers and from the people with bipolar disorder themselves reiterate the importance of having strong social supports in order to deal with bipolar disorder and its associated ups and downs. Caregivers may become burned out themselves so they also need to be focused on.
Research has shown that social support is associated with quality of life. Quality of life for people with bipolar disorder is often lower than the general population or even than people with other mental illnesses. Most research in this area has been done by professionals in research settings so we must be careful to also look at quality of life from an individual’s perspective. Quality of life is directly tied to social support – those people with strong social supports feel that their quality of life to be higher than those who do not have adequate social support.
One of the issues in the area of social support is that it is a known fact that strong social supports are important but how does one go about finding support if it is not readily available? Support groups will be discussed and various online links provided. One final point to stress regarding supports is the importance of finding laughter and joy in one’s relationships. In the book, "Loving someone with bipolar disorder: Understanding & helping your partner" by Julie Fast and John Preston, the importance of adding laughter and fun to your life is discussed as an important part of relationship-building. This book is a great read for people who are caring for loved ones with bipolar disorder.
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