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Debunking 6 Lies That Bipolar Tells Us

Both depression and mania can be master manipulators—playing tricks on our mind, convincing us to believe things that just aren’t true. Whether it’s challenging the negative thought loops or recognizing the patterns of fabrications in how we perceive the world around us, simply being aware of the fact that we can’t always believe everything we think can help keep us on track. Lie #1: “I’m not deserving of love” When we are in an unstable period and grappling with extreme mood shifts, our thoughts have a habit of turning on us. The nature of bipolar can contribute to bouts of unworthiness and low self-esteem, with a constant refrain of thinking we aren’t deserving of love. When we accept the diagnosis and make caring for ourselves a priority, we can learn to love ourselves and not buy into this common misbelief. Lie #2: “I’ll never have a healthy, fulfilling relationship” Some of us...
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Everything You Wanted to Know about the Bipolar-Anxiety Connection

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent coexisting condition with bipolar. In fact, recent studies indicate that more than half of those with bipolar also have a diagnosis of anxiety. The overlap is so striking, medical researchers are questioning whether or not it could be a precursor to bipolar. Either way, chronic worry, stress, and tension play such an influential role in how we respond to treatment that assessing for these symptoms is a crucial first step. Understanding how both health conditions intersect is key to effective care. Anxiety Two Ways It’s important to determine how these puzzle pieces fit together; anxiety can be either a symptom of bipolar or a separate comorbid condition. Making a distinction requires monitoring both mood and anxiety, noting the duration of disturbances in each. If your anxiety alleviates when you achieve mood stability, then it is likely a symptom of bipolar. However, if your mood is stable but...
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Physical Fitness, Bipolar, and Learning Life Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Research shows that physical exercise can benefit one’s mental health. But there are other advantages to challenging oneself in this manner. You’re probably thinking, “Oh, here we go again. Another post that is going to tell me to exercise.” Well, you’re right, a bit. You see, research has proven that exercise improves one’s mental health and is a good adjunct to traditional therapies. I don’t think that there is much disagreement with this. But what I’m talking about is actual physical fitness. To further explain, I want to make the connection between physical activity and bipolar disorder in a more metaphorical sense. For the last roughly 20 years I’ve engaged in endurance sports like long-distance running and cycling. I’ve successfully completed two full marathons, three half-marathons, and countless shorter-distance races like 5Ks and 10Ks. In the last few years, I had to drop the running due to lower back issues; however, I’ve replaced it with...
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The Mental Fallout Of Depression (And How to Overcome It)

Even though I am stable, I feel that bipolar depression has permanently changed all aspects of my brain: my memory, ability to focus, and self-confidence. Having lived with Bipolar I for over a decade, I have been through my share of depressions. However, there was one from the winter of 2011 until the fall of 2012 that I wasn’t sure I would make it out of. This was my Great Depression. A depression so severe I could not get out of bed. When I did I collapsed on the couch. At first, I felt so much pain I couldn’t stop crying. Then the pain became so deep I grew numb. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t experience any emotions except despair. The time I spent awake I was either crippled with anxiety or desperately planning to take my own life.  Eventually, I was put on antidepressants. At that point, I had...
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Ask the Doctor: Eat Better, Feel Better!

The sheer convenience of eating processed foods makes them highly attractive, especially when you’re depressed. But what’s the effect inside your body? “We are what we eat” may be a cliché, but it’s true! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 68 percent of all Americans are considered overweight or obese. People with bipolar disorder are not alone in their tendency to reach for fast foods, simple “carbs,” and caffeinated energy drinks. Eating better could help you feel better! How does eating processed foods affect my body? Several large studies have shown that dietary patterns high in processed foods and simple sugars are associated with increased incidence of depression, whereas diets high in whole foods like vegetables, whole grains, and fatty fish are associated with reduced incidence. Research indicates that the unfavorable nutrient ratio in processed foods contributes to the body perceiving that it is in a chronic...
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6 Simple Strategies to Break the Cycle of Negative Thinking

Managing our negative thoughts is absolutely essential. Here’s how to stop them before they spiral into full-blown depression. #1 Distinguish between what you feel and what is real Our moods can easily blur our vision. Feeling depressed often means feeling life is hopeless, but it’s important to realize these views are symptoms of bipolar and do not reflect reality. “In other words, it’s the depression talking, not an objective picture of your situation,” psychologist Elizabeth Saenger, PhD, explains. She suggests we think back to a time when we were optimistic about the future, and tell ourselves that what we thought then about our life was more accurate. #2 Shift your focus When we disregard the positive and instead concentrate on the unfortunate aspects of a situation—dwelling on soccer games lost, and forgetting our victories—we do ourselves a tremendous disservice, asserts Saenger. Instead of focusing on our limitations, we can think about what a friend...
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Alleviating My Seasonal Depression through Coziness & Connection

Best advice my therapist gave me was to practice self-soothing. So I use “Hygge”—the Norwegian term for a mood of coziness—to care for my mind, body, and soul. Every winter, like clockwork, I struggle with depression. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten from a therapist is to practice “self-soothing,” which can do wonders when combined with medication and therapy. Whether I meditate or listen to calming music, self-soothing helps me take care of myself in a gentle, compassionate way, much like I’d heal a wounded animal. I recently discovered the concept of Hygge (pronounced “hyoo-guh”). It’s the Norwegian term for a mood of coziness and feelings of wellness and contentment. Hygge came from one of the coldest regions of the planet, where the sun disappears for months in winter. And yet the Scandinavian countries are some of the happiest in the world. You don’t have to visit Norway to...
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Context or Chemistry? Separating Emotions from Mood Swings

Bipolar disorder adds an extra layer of complexity to whatever emotions we experience. It can be hard to tell the difference between a fleeting feeling and an impending episode. Sometimes, I am sad. And when I am sad, I start to think, “Am I too sad, or is this normal?” Other questions follow: “Will I be able to stop feeling sad? If not, what then? What if this is the beginning of that long, slow slide into the darkness?” Because I have bipolar disorder, there is always this extra layer of something entangled with whatever emotions I am experiencing. I have struggled with mood swings, manias, and unforgiving depressions my entire adult life. In my experience, feelings can’t always be trusted. Getting through the days too often reminds me of an old-time fun house. Without warning, what I thought was a solid foothold swings into motion. What I thought was forward is now slipping backward. Stairs...
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