Things You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder

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...

  • 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!
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Are you currently or often tired? As contradictory as it may sound, one of the best things you can do is exercise! It gives you more energy by improving your blood flow and increasing your oxygen throughout your body. You don't need to do much; a brisk walk is all it takes!
  • Do you know what the strongest muscle in your body is? No, it’s not your biceps or your thighs. It’s actually in your head. The masseter is a muscle in the jaw that is used when chewing. When all of the muscles of the jaw work together, they can exert a force as strong as 200 pounds on the molars. That’s some serious pressure.