Dealing with Bipolar Meds Refusal & Noncompliance


If someone you care about has bipolar disorder, you’ve probably noticed how their moods can swing up and down, like a roller coaster. It can be quite a ride! Here are some ways to support your bipolar loved one when they’re not following their treatment plan, like not taking their meds or being non-compliant.

What happens when a bipolar person goes off their meds?

Bipolar disorder brings extreme mood swings, and medication is crucial for managing it. Since it’s a lifelong condition rooted in biology, skipping medication can lead to serious consequences like risky behaviors or even suicide. Non-compliance can stem from various reasons, including holiday stress or feeling overly happy. A strong support system is vital. If your loved one stops taking their meds, stay calm and follow these tips to handle the situation effectively.

Provide support

Listening to your loved one is really important and can help them a lot. Research shows that having support from friends and family can make a big difference in their recovery. By listening and being understanding, you can figure out why they might be having trouble sticking to their treatment plan. They might be struggling with medication side effects, feel like their medication isn’t working, forget to take it, or not realize they’re sick.

If a loved one is bipolar, it’s not an option to not take medication, even with the adverse effects. These can often be addressed by adjusting doses or trying different medications. If cost is a concern, there are platforms available to find affordable medications, and organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer resources for financial assistance.

Educate yourself

Learning everything you can about the condition can make you more aware of warning signs, symptoms, and possible medication side effects. Families shouldn’t wait for a crisis to step in, such as waiting for their loved one with bipolar disorder to stop taking medication; it’s better to catch issues early on. Rather than symptoms swinging wildly like a switch, it’s better to observe the person closely, so problems are more like a dimmer switch that you can adjust before they get really bad.

Use mobile apps for medication management

If your loved one struggles to remember their meds or has a tendency to go off their bipolar meds due to forgetfulness, consider using a helpful app like Medisafe. It sends reminders to take meds, provides information on side effects, and even lets caregivers get notifications too. It’s a great tool, especially for someone who’s not very organized, making it easy for them to plan and keep track of their meds.

Don’t stop communicating

Good communication is really important, especially when someone isn’t following their treatment plan. As a trusted friend or family member, you have influence, and they’re more likely to listen to you. Talk to them about the consequences of not taking their medication and how it can affect their daily lives. Remind them of their past experiences with bipolar disorder and any negative outcomes of not following treatment. Highlight the benefits of medication, reassuring them that it won’t change who they are but will help stabilize their moods.

Urge them to seek treatment

It’s important for them to see a mental health professional. Encourage them to attend appointments, and you can go with them for support. Family-focused therapy can speed up recovery and make symptoms less severe. Mental health professionals are crucial for successful treatment and medication adherence.

These professionals can identify triggers and offer support. Your loved one might find it easier to discuss sensitive issues with their doctor. Regular check-ins are essential. If it’s a child with bipolar disorder, the school nurse can provide medication support if needed.

Consider a reward system

For kids with bipolar, parents can reward them for taking their meds, like giving them extra screen time or letting them choose a family meal, teaching them responsibility. Adults can’t be rewarded the same way, but you can remind them of the benefits of stability—less chaos, better relationships, and improved daily life. Sometimes, you might need to give ultimatums, like saying they need treatment, or you’ll have to consider more serious options, like hospitalization.

Supportive environment

Connecting with others who understand what your loved one is going through can make managing their condition easier. Groups like the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) offer support for both people with bipolar disorder and their caregivers.

They provide education, tools, peer support, and stories to empower your loved one. Talking to others who are going through similar experiences can help them feel less alone, whether it’s dealing with medication, relationships, or understanding their illness.

Accessible treatment

Some patients might struggle with managing medications and attending mental health appointments, which can also affect their daily lives. Illness can make decision-making difficult, so having a supportive team can assist with tasks like getting to appointments and setting medication reminders. It’s crucial to be there to listen when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Have a concrete plan

Be ready with therapy, treatment, or in-patient care options if needed. Noncompliance can be unsafe, so it’s crucial for loved ones to take action. Keep the mental health professional’s number handy, or know where the nearest emergency room is. Sometimes, patients need to hit a low point before realizing they need help.

Be There for a Loved One Who’s Not Taking Meds to Avoid Noncompliance

If someone you care about has bipolar disorder, remember that you’re not alone in supporting them. Learn about the condition, communicate openly, and encourage them to seek treatment. Be prepared with resources and a plan of action. Together, we can make a difference in their journey towards stability and well-being.


Scroll to Top