One of the biggest mistakes that I made in the early years of dealing with my mother's bipolar disorder was arguing with her when she was in an episode. She was manic and saying all kinds of things like 'You are just trying to control me,' 'You are the one who is bipolar,' 'I hate you,' or 'You stole my car' (when it was in the drive way),

She accused my dad of trying to poison her. She said so many things that it was truly incredible. I tried to defend and argue against each point she said. It almost drove me into the grave. I did this for almost four months before it dawned on me that it was worthless.

There is a basic reason that arguing with a person who is suffering from a manic episode doesn't respond to your reasoning - that person is in a state of anxiety and emotional turmoil where reasoning is impossible. They don't respond to reasonable arguments because they can't reason themselves and they are incapable of following a logical argument at that moment.

Today when I ask my mom about all the things she said (for research purposes), she can't remember 95% of it. I've found that this is true for most bipolar sufferers. They will deny having ever said most of the things they shouted at you, and they will be telling the truth - they really don't remember most of it! And they won't remember most of your logical arguments either, so you will have wasted your breath trying to reason with them during an episode.

Instead, try to defuse the situation and save the reasoning and arguments for another day when you can address the issues at a better time. During a manic episode, when a bipolar sufferer attacks you verbally, try these steps instead of arguing with them:

  • Right down some of their accusations so that you can show them later when they are stable, and discuss them at that time. It will back up what you tell them you recall about the night's events and reinforce your recall.
  • Don't try arguing or reasoning with a manic person - they are incapable of slowing down their thought processes enough to reason through things properly at this point, and this will only agitate them further.
  • If they get angrier and angrier, walk away politely and try to find a quiet room to decompress in. Sometimes relieving the tension and giving everyone some breathing room is all it takes.
  • If they accuse you of trying to hurt them, ask why they believe that. This may get them thinking, and you may be able to point out calmly that there is no evidence.
  • Simple reassurance is often the best way to go. Tell them that you are sorry they are so upset, but that you want to wait and talk about it later, when everyone is calmer. Then remind them that you love them and care about them.