Many people have asked me, "Are people with bipolar disorder dangerous?" It seems to be a common misconception among those who are supporters or society in general. I'd like to address that concept in this article.
First of all, very few people with bipolar disorder are dangerous. Only half the people with mania have psychotic symptoms at some point in their lifetime.1 A bipolar manic episode with psychotic features can include paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. Instead of being "over-ecstatic" as is commonly concluded about a person in a manic episode; the person may, instead, be agitated, irritable, and short-tempered. Usually, these manic symptoms are not dangerous or scary (except to the person experiencing them).
Without treatment, manic episodes are very brief and usually only last a few weeks to a few months. With medication, however, a manic episode might only last a few weeks.If a person with bipolar disorder is dangerous, it means that they are out of control for some reason – usually because they stopped taking their medication, or the medication isn't working. If this is the case, the supporter needs to get their loved one into treatment as soon as possible. This may be difficult for some supporters, because it may mean calling the police or trying to get guardianship for involuntary hospitalization.
It is very hard, if not impossible, to convince someone that they are in danger (or are a danger to others) while they are in an episode, as the very point of the episode is that they are no longer in their right mind. In fact, they may tell you that they "feel fine."
The problem is that sometimes it is difficult to keep a balance between being a loving, kind, and understanding supporter, and having to be the person who makes the decision whether to hospitalize your loved one (being the "bad guy").
On the other hand, if you believe that your loved one is a danger to him/herself or others, you need to get them treatment as soon as possible to minimize the damage.
David Oliver is the nation's leading experts on helping and supporting a loved one with bipolar disorder. You can get learn about many of David's little known, yet effective strategies to cope and deal with your loved one's bipolar by clicking here right now. View all articles by David Oliver