Things You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder

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What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. It’s characterized by severe mood shifts from depression to mania, severe enough that they impair a person’s ability to function. It shows up in about 1% of the world’s population, and about 2.6% of Americans. The mood swings don’t have to do with poor emotional control, or with normal, appropriate fluctuations in mood. We used to call it “manic depression,” but that’s not really a accurate name. "Manic depression" makes it sound like it’s a type of depression, but really the whole deal with bipolar disorder is the swing between the two exaggerated emotional states.

Bipolar disorder can be frightening to deal with, and distressing to be around. The severity varies from person to person. Honestly, severity can come and go for one person. At its best, it's easily dealt with. At its worst - and left untreated - it can get pretty severe. But the good news is that there are medicines and therapies that can help, and many people with bipolar disorder lead fulfilling, successful lives.

Image: Josh Felise, via Unsplash.

Did you know...

  • Starting to feel claustrophobic? The smells of apples may help keep your claustrophobic feelings at bay according to a 1995 study by Dr. Alan Hirsch. Green apples, specifically, helped people change their perception of their space. Maybe they thought of expansive apple orchards? Cucumbers and barbecue made the feelings worse.
  • Does your job make you stressed? We all know that stress is psychologically bad for you, but it also has an effect on…your allergies? A Harvard Medical School study has shown that stress causes your allergies to become worse because your body's defense response loses efficacy when repeatedly triggered by stress. Then, when you really need to physically fight something off, you're less able to!
  • Have you ever told your husband something and he promptly forgets it? It's not his fault, actually. It really is because he's a man. The hippocampus (the part of the brain that deals with memory) begins to shrink with age faster in men than it does in women. That's why you can remember everything, and he can't!
  • A hearty laugh is good for the heart. Laughing can increase blood flow by 20%. Additionally, looking on the bright side can help you live longer. Studies have shown that a more optimistic outlook is linked to a healthier heart, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk for coronary artery disease.
  • Just saying the words "thank you" can measurably improve your mood. Researchers can actually measure happiness and changes in brain structure when people practiced regular "grateful thinking." This included things like writing thank you notes, writing gratitude journal entries, mindfully counting their blessings, and thanking friends. It may be helpful in overcoming depression!