Key Words Can Help Your Loved One With Bipolar


Hope you’re having a good day.

I have a whole bunch of things to do today so I have to get going.

So let’s jump into today’s topic.

I have a woman who works for me, and she was telling me that when her children were little, she used to use a “warning system” for disciplining them.

If they were doing something bad, they would get three chances to change their behavior before they would get disciplined.

Her system was to say, “That’s one…”

And if they still didn’t stop, she’d say, “That’s two…”

Then if they still didn’t stop, she’d say, “That’s three!”

And the punishment would begin!

This way she would never have to discipline her children in anger, she says, because she would always give
them three chances first.

In fact, the way she puts it is, “I never punished my children. They punished themselves!”

I look at is that her use of the “one, two, three” system as using KEY WORDS.

In other words, she was using these words to try to get her children to change their behavior based on these certain words.

I talk about how important communication between you and your loved one is in my courses/systems below:




In the same way this woman used key words to
discipline her children, you can use key words
with your loved one.

Oh, not to discipline them, of course, but to communicate with them.

You can sit down with your loved one and develop these key words together.

Here can be a sample conversation:

YOU: I’ve noticed you’ve been acting sort of keyed-up lately.

THEM: Yeah, I have been kind of nervous.

YOU: I’m not always sure what to do when you feel like that, or even if you want my help.

THEM: I don’t know how to tell you that I need your help.

YOU: What if we come up with a key word that you can use that tells me that you need my help?

Then the two of you can come up with a key word together that only the two of you use in that situation.

Here’s another example:

YOU: I want to talk to you sometimes, but I don’t know how to approach you when you seem distant.

THEM: You just need to tell me.

YOU: I try to tell you, but sometimes I just don’t know how to get your attention, or to tell you how important it is.

THEM: How about if it’s something simple, you just say, “If you’ve got a minute…” but if it’s something important, you say, “Can we sit down?.” That way I’ll know the difference.

Do you see the use of key words in the second example? (“got a minute” and “sit down”)

Other examples of key words you can use with your loved one could be:

· If you notice they seem depressed, use the keyword “down”

· If you notice they seem manicky, use the keywords “excited” or “nervous”

· If your loved one is acting distant, use the keywords “share” (as in, “Is there something you want to share?”) or “listen” (as in, “If you want to talk, I can listen.”)

· If your loved one doesn’t seem like themselves lately, use the keyword “off” (“You seem a little “off” lately)

· “Brainstorm” is a good general keyword to use when you’re loved one seems troubled, as in, “You look like
you’re trying to figure something out. Maybe we can brainstorm some ideas together?”

These are some examples of general keywords, but it’s better if the two of you come up with keywords together.

You can even sit down with your loved one with this list and use some of these and see if they work for you.

Key words are especially useful in social settings – family gatherings, etc.

For example, if “nervous” is one of your keywords to signify between your loved one and you that your loved one is feeling anxiety around others, then when they say that keyword to you, you have agreed ahead of time that the two of you will leave. This will save embarrassment in those situations.

The most important thing is that you keep the lines of communication open between you.

Using key words is one of the ways to do that.

What do you think?


David Oliver is the author of the shocking guide “Bipolar Disorder—The REAL Silent Killer.” Click Here to get FREE Information sent via email on how and why bipolar disorder kills.

  1. Dave:
    I think you’re “key word” idea is great? But if someone is in a full-blown episode (manic) they’re not likely to listen even for a key word. But I love the idea.

  2. Know that in the past that I have not been too complimentary on how I have reacted to some of your posts.I suppose part of it has been because I am one who has had their life turned upside down over and over again because of the bipolar designation.My bipolarII experiences has destroyed my relationships with many people.Yes, I suppose not all people have it this bad,and from reading your other posts, you may think that I wallow in it. I would strongly disagree.I do all that I am suggested even to the point that I received ECT (electro-convulsive therapy,bluntly shock therapy)so obviously I didn’t get off easy in the biploar aflication department. I know that I cope with stuff that not a lot of people would be capable of. Unfortuately I still can’t shake it and don’t think that doesn’t scare the c**p out of me.
    So yes if I figure people, don’t get it, it does cause an adverse reaction.Too often. even those of us with a serious diagnosis are told to take our meds, patted on the head and then sent back into society.I will never be able to work again in my life because the government has designated me as being permanently disabled, not easy to get,or when you get if you really want and this in spite of the fact I am very young. Keep in mind that in most new social situations the first thing that you are asked is “where do you work”.

    I’ll come to the point of this “missive”. I do agree totally with what you wrote this morning on communication. The problem with anyone who “has it so bad” that there aren’t usually a lot of people that stick by you.The people who have stuck by me over the past couple of years have been truly saviors in my life.
    One does have in the back of their mind the problem of maybe going to the well too often.

    Even if you have had people in your life that have stuck by you through the worst of the worst sometimes the feeling comes that is it just better to keep a lot to yourself in case “this time will be the time that they walk away” and it might just be better to make the attempt to go it alone.

    Very fine line between having someone help you with a bad time (and as a result in feeling like you aren’t alone) and them saying they will be there again, and deciding (when it does happen again)whether they can really take it this time,because there are no guarantees, maybe they won’t. If you can hold on just a little bit more, will it pass this time (maybe it isn’t a bad one this time), and maybe then you can at least keep it in mind that if you really,really,really, need them they will be there.

    Though I am of the strong belief that yes, we need food,water and shelter to survive but maybe the thing we need most is actually to belong.

  3. I use key words with my Daughter especially when she cannot handle being near people. (keyword change) if any one were to hear they would just think she was asking for change. Still trying to have my son use a keyword for his anger he is still exploding quickly then gets physical with siblings and other kids. Will let u know what word works best for him.

  4. Re your note of today re key words. When my children were young, I went through a period of severe stress and depression. Sometimes I would become angry at some small thing they did, but as I began to yell at them about that, it would escalate and become something else entirely. I knew I was yelling at them because I could not yell at the situation. I told my oldest (12 at the time) when I got “out of control” to stand in front of me and say “I love you Mom” and keep saying it til he got my attention. God be blessed, it worked, and beautifully. The situation passed and we all survived that year. His position and those words let me know that I needed to STOP! RIGHT NOW! At first it took a couple of times, but then it became needed only once.

  5. What is your loved one is your 28 yr. old daughter that still lives at home and has lost her job,had no luck finding a job, the credit companies are calling everyday, she has no insurance, has been off two of her meds for several weeks (still waiting for them from the mail order)and can’t get out of bed before 4:oo pm?

    What do I say when she asks ‘what am I gonna do?’? We have been going thru this for 14 years. We have gone thru our savings for her. Also on top of all of this, we have a disabled 32 year daughter with Friedreich’s Ataxia that lives with us. I work while my retired husband stays home and takes care of her.

  6. Dave,
    I love the “key words” concept, however I don’t know how to approach my husband with the idea, because he can be very pig headed about advice and suggestions…
    Because there are times when I don’t know what to say or how to express how I am feeling and it makes life tough sometimes when it frustrates your loved ones when you can’t tell them what is going on. Do you understand what I am saying?
    Anyway I am glad I read this messege today and will continue to read them as you continue to send them.

  7. Dave,keep up the good work.Your emails are very insightful thanks for sending them to me.

  8. key words work…if only they would be willing to co-operate with the idea..what if they say rudely say “no-i do not want to tell you” or worse “you are the last person i will talk to you” or “nothing is the matter”when its obvious there is. the point is not so much how to start off, but how to get them to be willing to talk conducively and open up in the first place

  9. I am in the unique position to have bi-polar myself and to have a mother living with me who has denial bi-polar (she does not want to admit she has a problem) and recently my cousin called asking for help as she has just been diagnosed (and some say its not genetic?) anyway i think i am in the position to sometimes see things from both sides. I have taken responsibility for my ilness in that i am keeping an eye on it but i admit i am struggling with the fact that my mom is not and there are times i have to admit that i hate her guts , i think to myself, “she is ruining my life, just because she does not want to take responsibility for herself, she is messing up my kids life and at one stage my marriage was in serious trouble due to her meddling.” (i have now been married for 17 yrs) anyway what i am trying to say is Key words are great when the person is taking responsibility for their ilness, in fact i am going to send the key word mail to my husband so we can start it for me.

  10. Dave — Enjoy your articles — but would like to ask a few questions. I have been in a relationship with a man for 4 months now, he told me right up front that he had a chemical inbalance. I don’t think I knew what that meant. The first 2 months were great and then things began to change. Now he shuts me out and won’t even answer his phone, only if he want. I see this as being rude, and I would never do this to him. I never know what to do and it hurts me. And if later he answers, he acts like everything is ok. I worry about him and care about him . I am not a young women anymore (in my 60’s) and don’t know what to do. I just can’t walk away, because I have good feelings about him when he is not in one of his snits. Please give me some advice.

  11. I do agree aboutthe key words being of real help. I used to use them myself. However, what do you do when your spouse is in denial about having bipolar and you can’t use the key words anymore because they don’t think they apply to them? You see my spouse was diagnosed w/ bipolar years ago. At first he embraced it and excepted that he’d be on meds for the rest of his life. That only lasted about 2 yrs. Now he says he was misdiagnosed & nothing is wrong even though he’s a text book case of bipolar. I can’t force him to take meds. We’ve been married almost 24 yrs but what does a person do in this case. We’ve lost our home & bussiness of 13 yrs. due to his behavior & he still refuses to admit his illness. When is enough…enough for a spouse?

  12. Thank you Dave for your suggestions. I seem to have had some key words that I have used sometimes although they were not agreed words. I think they were words that I found to be more sensitive and elicited a response.

    I am going to have a chat with my daughter just as soon as she is balanced again and see if we can work together on this aspect of communication.

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