Signs And Symptoms Of Manic Behavior In A Loved One

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated February 28, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Living with a loved one who experiences manic episodes can be challenging and overwhelming. However, managing the situation with care and understanding can be possible. Mania typically involves an elevated mood, rapid speech, impulsivity, poor judgment, irritability, and a decreased need for sleep. To support a loved one who is going through a manic episode, it can be helpful to assist with their daily tasks and routines, provide a safe and calming environment, manage your own well-being, and encourage professional help and treatment. One way to get professional support, both for your loved one and yourself, may be to work with a licensed therapist through an online therapy platform.

Support your loved one in a meaningful way

Understanding manic behavior

Has your loved one ever exhibited behavior related to intense happiness, impulsivity, and poor judgment that seem to come out of nowhere? If so, they may have experienced a manic episode.

The National Library of Medicine generally defines mania as a state of elevated mood and energy levels that can significantly impact daily life and relationships.

Mania can be a symptom of many different mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and major depressive disorder. It is usually characterized by an intense and persistent elevated or irritable mood, and is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as impulsivity, racing thoughts, and a decreased need for sleep. Mania typically lasts for a week or more and can become severe enough to lead to hospitalization.

Causes of manic behavior

Manic behavior can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic and environmental factors, brain chemistry and structure, and stress or life events.

Manic behavior due to bipolar disorder can be linked to genetic variations passed down through families. In addition, changes in brain chemistry and structure, such as an imbalance of serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters, may also contribute to manic episodes.

Stressful life events can also be a trigger for manic behavior. For example, the death of a loved one, job loss, divorce, or other major life changes can increase the risk of manic episodes. In addition, substance misuse and certain medications may contribute to manic behavior as well.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Signs and symptoms of mania

Not everyone may experience manic behavior in the same way. However, it can be important to know the potential signs and symptoms of mania to help you recognize when your loved one may be experiencing a manic episode.

  • Elevated mood and energy levels: During a manic episode, an individual may have an intense feeling of euphoria, elation, or grandiosity that lasts for several days or weeks. They may feel “on top of the world,” more productive, and more confident than usual.
  • Rapid speech and racing thoughts: Manic individuals often have racing thoughts, which can make it difficult to concentrate on one thing for long periods of time. They may speak quickly, jump from one idea to another, and have difficulty staying on topic.
  • Impulsivity and poor judgment: Manic individuals may engage in risky or impulsive behaviors, such as overspending, gambling, or becoming sexually promiscuous. They may also make decisions that are not in their best interests or have negative consequences.
  • Irritability and aggression: Mania can also manifest in irritability, anger, and aggression. Individuals may become agitated or easily frustrated and have a low tolerance for frustration.
  • Decreased need for sleep: During a manic episode, individuals may not feel the need for sleep and may be able to function on very little rest.

Effects of manic behavior

The impact of manic behavior on daily life can be significant. Individuals may experience difficulty maintaining relationships, work, and other activities. These behaviors can lead to financial problems, legal problems, and other negative consequences that can have long-term effects on an individual's life.

Manic behavior can also have a significant impact on family and friends. Relationships may struggle due to impulsive behavior, reckless spending, or other risky behaviors. Friends and family members may have trouble understanding why their loved one behaves in such a way and may feel frustrated or angry.

While manic behavior can be a life-changing experience, it can be important to remember that it is usually a symptom of an underlying mental health condition that can be managed. By understanding the signs and symptoms, recognizing when someone may be having a manic episode, and knowing how to respond appropriately, you can help your loved one get the support they deserve and improve their quality of life.

Supporting your loved one during manic episodes

Your support can make a big difference in helping your loved one manage manic behavior. Here are some tips for supporting someone through a manic episode:

  • Recognize early warning signs: If you know the signs and symptoms of mania, it can help you recognize when your loved one may be having an episode. Becoming familiar with their usual patterns of behavior can also alert you to potential changes in mood or behavior that require attention.
  • Help with daily tasks and routines: Assisting with regular tasks and providing structure can be helpful in managing manic behavior. Keeping a daily routine and providing a comfortable environment may also help your loved one feel more grounded, which can be calming.
  • Provide a safe and calming environment: An environment that is calm, safe, and free of distractions can help your loved one stay focused on the present moment. Watching movies or listening to music together can also be a good way to relax and reduce stress.
  • Encourage professional help and treatment: Professional treatment is often necessary in order to effectively manage a manic episode. Encouraging your loved one to seek help and providing them with resources can be the first step in helping them get the support they need.
  • Manage your own well-being: Supporting a loved one through a manic episode can be emotionally and physically draining. When you take time for yourself to recharge and practice self-care, it can help you stay balanced and better equipped to support your loved one.

During a manic episode, communication may become more challenging as individuals may have difficulty focusing or staying on topic. Try to remember to use effective communication strategies to help your loved one during a manic episode.

Active listening generally involves empathizing with the individual by understanding their feelings and experiences. Do your best to avoid confrontation, criticism, or trying to reason with them, and instead focus on listening without judgment and offering support. You can use statements like, "I understand," "That sounds difficult," or "It must be hard for you," to show your support.

Setting boundaries and expectations can also be helpful in managing manic behavior. Although we cannot control others, we can set limits to defend ourselves and our relationships. When we explain these boundaries and expectations, it can be vital to use a calm tone of voice.

An open dialogue may be encouraged to create a safe space for individuals to talk about their feelings and experiences. You can foster this dialogue by asking questions like, "How are you feeling?", "What can I do to help you?", or "What do you need right now?" When your loved one can communicate their feelings and experiences, it can help them feel listened to and understood. It can also give you a better understanding of their condition, which can lead to more effective management and support.

Benefits of online therapy

Online therapy can be a great resource for individuals living with a variety of mental health conditions, including those that can lead to manic behavior. With the help of a licensed mental health professional, individuals can work through their symptoms and develop effective coping strategies from the convenience of their homes. This type of professional support can also be helpful to those who care for individuals exhibiting manic behavior. 

Effectiveness of online therapy

Recent research indicates that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be an effective form of treatment for people experiencing manic behavior due to bipolar disorder. 

A growing number of studies suggest that online cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective in treating a range of mental health disorders, frequently offering both short-term and long-term results.

Support your loved one in a meaningful way

Takeaway

Your unconditional support and understanding can make a world of difference in helping your loved one manage manic episodes. With the right approach and resources, individuals can learn to manage the challenges that come with manic behavior. As you encourage your loved one to seek help and provide them with resources, you may also wish to focus on using effective communication strategies and setting healthy boundaries. Additionally, online therapy can be an invaluable resource for individuals who need additional support managing their condition, as well as for those who care for loved ones who experience manic episodes.
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