Forums Home

Carers Forum

Acceptance, connection, support. Share the journey.

Safe, anonymous discussion for people living with mental illness, moderated 24/7 by mental health professionals.

Read the community guidelines
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Our stories

New Contributor

I have a suspicion my friend is ill with Bipolar II


I have a growing suspicion my good friend is ill with bipolar II disorder. The reason why I think this is stems from when I described her mood swings to another person who has some experience with mental illness, they suggested it could be bipolar. I went online and looked up the symptoms and they matched.

My question is "how do I approach this with her?" She is either withholding this knowledge from me (which makes me feel angry and hurt) or from herself (which makes me afraid for her if I say something and worried I might be wrong). 

Her moodswings are affecting our friendship and up till know I put it down to 'my reactions to her are wrong', as in I felt I was not being a good friend and responding to the crises or withdrawals in a good way, that I was being 'a fairweather friend'. I felt like I was unable to keep up with her life so I said so to her and that it must be because I'm 44 and she is 34 that I have worked through some of the issues that she finds turbulent. I had post-natal depression around her age so I am somewhat sympathetic to depression and I can recognise the symptoms, but what I am not so experienced with is the MANIA.

She can make her life seem incredibly functional and successful on one hand (I'm talking high academic achievments), but then makes full-on uni/family/money/love decisions that don't always seem viable, and then she can withdraw into herself with low self-esteem and hide in her flat. All this happens on a regular basis in a fairly regular cycle. At first I thought it was just normal ups and downs of life, but I'm seeing a pattern that was turned into something more sinister when I read about bipolar disorder. It all made sense. 

Now I'm about to see her soon, and I feel so unsure about how to proceed. I wonder if anyone else can give me some tips on asking her about her cycles, if I should just keep quiet, I mean - how do you go about this as a friend??? I'm terrified I'll upset her or set her off. Equally, I'm terrified if I don't say something our relationship will wither and die anyway. If anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd be grateful. 


Re: I have a suspicion my friend is ill with Bipolar II

I think it is impressive that you care about your friend enough to enquire on a forum like this .. so I wouldnt call you a fairweather friend.

I think it is fair to say you dont feel qualified to give her the support she seems to need ... and ask her if she has thought of seeing a counsellor. I would keep it general as an opening.

A lot of doctors are concerned about the tendency of the general public to diagnose on the basis of the internet.  It is probably better she learns about that from a doctor if it is relevant and if she goes down that path. 

I think it is fair to talk about cycles of behaviour that you have experienced but not push a medical diagnoses.

Academia and life outside the ivory towers are quite different kettles of fish, so once can succeed in one and not the other. 

Hope that is useful.


Re: I have a suspicion my friend is ill with Bipolar II

Hi @TP71

It's challenging knowing how to have a conversation about someone's mental health.

To add to @Appleblossom points, it mght discuss the particular behaviours that concern you, and the impact that it is having on you. Using 'I' statements rather 'you' statements can be helpful. For instance, 'I worry about some of the decsions you make, and I'm concerned about you when you withdraw and isolate yourself,' and 'I scared this will impact on our relationship.' Rather than, 'You might have bipolar' and 'You are ruining our relationship'. 

Sometimes starting the conversation with, 'This isn't easy for me to bring up...' can help to create less defensiveness. 

You might also want to suggest talking to someone, and remember that it can be empowering for people to tell their story too. You can encourage this by asking your friend what her thoughts are, or how she would like to approach this, and then suggest speaking to someone. For instance, 'would you consider speaking to someone?' rather than, 'You need help.'

@TP71 do you know if your friend has ever received any type of support for mental health concerns in the past?




Re: I have a suspicion my friend is ill with Bipolar II

I'm really grateful for those suggestions so far, I've made a list to refer to - some of which I have already done. I was bought up to use 'I'  statements so I will remember to keep using those.

I did tentatively bring up the subject last time I saw her, before I thought about this in a mental health way. I spoke about "how I needed equanimity in my life (post-depression) and that some of her behaviours/decisions were beyond the 'safe' range for me to remain healthy and I felt stressed by some of the happenings in her life."

I think I will have to reframe in a way that is still an 'I' statement - that her behaviours are having more of an impact on me than she realises - as they happen.

- she is seeing a counsellor already, but now I'm thinking it may be more serious than she insinuated

I am seeing from my post/responses that I am protecting my mental health first and foremost, and will try to include her in the process in an open way, without projecting my fears about her health. I will try to maintain the 'I' in order to own this process and not put it onto her, regardless of her situation (unwell or just handling life in a way different / not compatible with my own).


Re: I have a suspicion my friend is ill with Bipolar II

It is important to be protective of your own mental health. You owe it to yourself and child.  Adult friends are important but further down the list.  Some are childish and need to be top dog a lot.


Good Luck

For urgent assistance, call: