As anyone who has ever had to care for a family member with bipolar disorder can tell you, it's not easy. And constantly dealing with that person can take its toll on you emotionally and physically.

Here are several tips on how to care for a loved one with bipolar disorder and still keep your wits about you. We're not promising you that your experience with bipolar disorder will be easy if you follow these suggestions, but it will help to ease the stress that naturally surrounds this experience.

First there are two guiding principles to remember when you're caring for someone with bipolar disorder.

1. The individual is not in control - the bipolar disorder is controlling the individual.

A person afflicted with bipolar disorder does not have control of his moods during an acute episode. For people with bipolar disorder having control is simply an impossibility.

2. The individual very often does not even realize he has bipolar disorder.

This is especially true when the person is experiencing the manic episode of bipolar disorder. While medication helps to improve awareness to a certain extent, do not be surprised if he denies that he is suffering with bipolar disorder.

It helps in providing support for your friend or family member if you have some idea of what is happening during an acute episode of mania. There are three classic symptoms associated with this extreme pendulum swing of bipolar disorder. Keep in mind that the individual will be impulsive when he's in a manic episode. Moreover, he'll believe that he is invincible and that leads to his willingness to perform risky - even reckless - actions.

Other symptoms of the manic episode of bipolar disorder include an increase in physical energy as well as mental activity, grandiose thoughts - the idea that he could do absolutely anything and not fail, and a related inflated sense of his self-importance.

Those bipolar disorder patients going through this increase euphoric high may also display uncharacteristic aggressive behavior. They may be able to live on less sleep and not feel tired. As an outward marker of their increased energy, their speech will be much faster, and so will their thoughts.

The first step in helping your family member who is suffering from bipolar disorder is recognizing when the episodes are kicking in. That gives you a better idea of how to deal with this disease.