REMINDER – I am not a mental health professional! My posts on this subject are based on my own experiences and information gained from years of therapy and personal research.
The general description of bipolar disorder is that it is a mental health condition that causes extreme episodic mood swings that include emotional lows (depression) and highs (mania or hypomania).
But the truth is, so-called “mood swings” are not limited just to bipolar disorder. They happen across many different mental health conditions. It is part of what I’ve seen and heard that makes diagnosing mental health disorders, and bipolar specifically, so difficult.
What *is* a defining characteristic of bipolar disorder is having manic or hypomanic episodes.
Mania (and hypomania), as I understand it and have experienced it, is defined by a series of symptomatic behaviors extending over a prolonged period – sometimes weeks or even months. It is not something that just comes and goes like you’re on a roller coaster of emotions.
For me, being in a manic episode is worse than the most depressive episode I could find myself in. When I’m in an uncontrolled manic episode I feel like I am no longer in control of my own thoughts and behaviors, until I finally lose myself completely.
And when the episode ends? The overwhelming shame, guilt, fear, and drop from the high all hit. I will discuss more later the results of these post-manic emotions.
The symptoms of mania are identifiable as being a serious change from the way a person normally thinks and acts. And to be classified as a manic episode, at least three or four of these symptoms must be consistently present during the episode.
- feeling overly upbeat, jumpy, or wired.
- having a decreased need for sleep
- talking very fast, often with racing thoughts
- feeling extremely restless or impulsive
- becoming easily distracted
- exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
- engaging in risky behavior, such as having impulsive sex, making life-altering decisions, or going on big spending sprees
In a hypomanic episode, although the intensity of moods is heightened, the hypomanic person’s connection with the external world, and its standards of interaction, remain intact.
In a full-blown manic episode, the manic person will often feel as though their goal(s) are of paramount importance, that there are no consequences, or that negative consequences would be minimal.
But while hypomania is considered a milder form of mania, the behaviors induced by a hypomanic episode are still serious. Without treatment, those who suffer from prolonged unresolved hypomania run the risk of developing full mania and may cross that “line” without even realizing they have done so.
The line that separates hypomanic and full manic episodes being when mania takes things to an even higher level, leading to far more noticeable problems and impairment in function stemming from the behaviors.
Most of the time, hypomania and mania are treatable through therapy, medication, and/or determined focus and self-awareness. But sometimes the intensity of these behaviors, as well as the potential breaks from reality stemming from the most severe symptoms of mania, may necessitate hospitalization.
It took me a long time to learn this. But it’s important. No matter the level of each episode, having a manic episode does not make me crazy. Whether it is hypomania or full-on mania, going through a manic episode of any degree does not mean there’s something wrong with me or that I am something to be feared.
Mania is not me. Mania is merely a series of symptomatic behaviors caused by a disease. Symptomatic behaviors can be treated.
And treatment, in any form, is nothing to be ashamed of.
However – despite treatment being available, treating bipolar disorder is not an easy task. Despite that though, with understanding, care, and hard work, it is a disease that CAN be managed and lived with.
- Learn to identify the symptoms.
- Gather a support network.
- Talk to a therapist.
- Discuss and consider the option of medication.
Because Mania (and ways to treat it) is such a complex subject, I decided to split the topic up into individual posts that will allow me to go into more depth for each aspect I want to discuss. The first went up a few weeks ago.
- Not all therapists are the same. Some experiences are better than others, but a bad experience can turn someone off therapy forever. Keep working at it.
July 2: Therapy is Hard
- Even knowing what mania is, where is the line that determines, “is this manic behavior?”
July 23: My difficulties in recognizing hypomanic red flags
- Trust in your support network. They can help you, even when you don’t know how to help yourself.
July 30: Keys to a strong support network
- Not all medications work the same for everyone.
August 6: “What meds are you on?”
And as always:
Please reach out to a mental health professional if you find yourself struggling with your mental health.
National Institute of Mental Health has excellent resources and information.
Crisis Text Line is a fantastic resource if you do find yourself in immediate need of support.
Text “HELLO” to 741741
And most important – and this has saved me so many times in the past – call for help if you find yourself in danger of reaching the end of your rope:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
One thought on “What is Mania?”