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What Demi Lovato Wishes People Understood About Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder is “not just something where you’re just all over the place with your emotions,” Demi Lovato says.

Demi Lovato is a platinum-selling recording artist, songwriter, actress, and former Disney star. She’s also outspoken about her diagnosis with bipolar disorder in 2011, and the fact that she lives with and manages her condition every day.

Despite what people may think about bipolar disorder, it’s “not just something where you’re just all over the place with your emotions,” Lovato tells Yahoo Health. “It’s actually a chemical imbalance in your brain and it’s an illness.”

People often toss around the term flippantly, saying things like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so bipolar, I can’t decide what to eat tonight,” she says. But in reality, when Lovato was experiencing the extreme symptoms of her condition, she “went through weeks at a time of being severely depressed and weeks at a time of being super on top of the world, living in mania.”

Now that she’s receiving treatment and support for her condition, she’s in a much better place — though it does take intentionality in living a healthy lifestyle.

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Abiding by a healthy meal plan is key, for instance. “I have somebody who cooks my meals for me, I eat them on a schedule,” she says. It’s all “food that I would want to put in my body to make sure that I feel better mentally and physically.” She also makes sure to maintain a regular exercise routine that keeps her not only physically strong, but also emotionally strong.

Her busy schedule does present a struggle sometimes, though. “I go to support groups for addiction, and being able to maintain those support groups and the regularity with those is very difficult when you’re traveling so much,” she says. “But I just make sure I reach out to people.”

That right there — the reaching out — is what Lovato wants other people experiencing mental illness to remember, and is the message behind the new Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health campaign, which Lovato is part of. The campaign is a partnership between five mental health advocacy organizations (including the Jed Foundation and the National Alliance on Mental Illness) and the pharmaceutical company Sunovion.

“It’s important that we’re able to talk about” mental health, she says. “The more we’re able to talk about it, the more understanding we are, and [the more] compassionate [we can be] about what we’re going through.”

“Hopefully, our generation will be able to change the way that [people] think about mental illness at an early age,” she says.

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