When Your Help is Refused

Often when you try to help someone who has a mood disorder, your help is declined or nothing you do seems to help. You end up feeling rejected and discouraged that there is nothing more you can do.

Depressed people may reject your help because they feel they should be able to help themselves, and feel worthless when they can’t. Instead, they may withdraw or start an argument in an effort to resolve their difficulties. In addition, people with depression have negative thoughts and feel so hopeless that they do not see recovery as a reality.

Fifty percent of people with bipolar disorder have a lack of insight, so they do not realize they are ill. For example, people with bipolar disorder may believe they are just a “high-energy person.” This makes family involvement in seeking and managing treatment even more critical.

With these difficulties in mind, here are some things you can do.

  • Provide consistent support. Over time, if you consistently show support, the person will see that you are resolute and may accept your help. Continue trying some of the tips discussed in this section.
  • Discuss your feelings. When your help is refused, restate how much you care for the person. Let the person know how you feel, gently, by stating an example of the support you have offered and how it makes you feel when it is rejected.
  • Focus on behaviors. If the person is reluctant to seek help, then don’t try to convince the person that a mood disorder is causing the problems. Instead, talk about their behaviors and the ways in which treatment can help. For example, after you have listened and sympathized with the person’s feelings, try to agree on wellness goals (e.g., consistent sleep and feeling less irritable). Then, try to assign some action steps that you can agree on to reach these goals (e.g., after two weeks, if the person does not improve, you will set up a medical evaluation).
  • Agree on professional help. It is important to make sure your loved one gets the professional help he or she needs. Sometimes a primary care physician can seem less threatening, or a psychotherapist, or a couple’s therapist.

Helping someone who is reluctant to seek treatment can be very trying and frustrating. As much as possible, try to enlist the aid of family members, friends, and medical professionals in this process.