Am I Manic? Meaning, Signs, And Next Steps
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
Bipolar Disorder, once called “manic depression,” is often characterized as a disorder of extremes: individuals prone to mood swings, thought changes or irritability are often described as having Bipolar tendencies. Despite the frequency and ease with which the term is used to describe symptoms, Bipolar Disorder is actually a legitimate mental health disorder—one that requires a comprehensive therapy team to treat. One of the most common symptoms of Bipolar Disorder is the presence of mania. Although this is a common symptom, the exact nature of mania is often misunderstood—or incorrectly applied. So, what exactly is mania?
Mania: A Definition
Mania, when applied to Bipolar Disorder, is a state characterized by feelings of extreme highs. In some cases, these highs might not feel that much different from a previous sense of normal; if cases of mania follow periods of depression, mania might not feel dramatic or intense but might feel more like a return to a “normal” level of functioning. What differentiates “normal” energy and manic energy, though, is the degree to which the change in your mental state affects you and your ability to carry out daily life. Mania is not merely a temporary high of productivity but is often accompanied by sleeplessness, exaggerated or aggressive speech patterns, and an inability to “turn off,” so to speak.
Mania derived from Bipolar Disorder is defined as a period of time in which mental activity is at a peak—whether that peak involves hyperactivity or an actual upswing in delusions or hallucinations. Both can be indications of the presence of Bipolar Disorder-induced mania. Although the term “manic” suggests off-the-wall or over-the-top behavior, not all of Bipolar Disorder induced manic episodes involve enormous outward expressions of distress; instead, many people who are experiencing manic episodes merely feel excited, happy, or mildly euphoric, resulting in increased productivity, excitement, and a seemingly positive outlook on life—all things that might initially seem to run counter to a depressive disorder such as Bipolar Disorder. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, an individual who loves someone one minute and hates them the next is not exhibiting symptoms of Bipolar Disorder; this disorder is defined by periods of overall activity and mental experience, rather than a single avenue of expression.
Signs of Mania
People with Bipolar Disorder might not immediately recognize the symptoms and might either think they are just unusually prone to mood swings or might believe their experiences are wholly symptomatic of depression, rather than a depressive disorder such as Bipolar Disorder. A discussion of the signs and symptoms of mania will warrant a discussion of the different types of mania within Bipolar Disorder: hypomania and mania. As each of these names suggests, they are varying degrees of the same basic set of symptoms. These basic symptoms include:
- Grandiose feelings. Grandiose feelings are any feelings that involve an inflated sense of self or skill. In hypomania associated with Bipolar Disorder, grandiose feelings might be slight, such as feeling that you can take on more than you are realistically able.
- Decreased sleep requirement. All types of Bipolar Disorder mania demonstrate some amount of a decline in sleep requirements. In light episodes, individuals experiencing a manic episode might simply feel as though they are impervious to the need for 8 hours of sleep and sleep only 2 or 3 hours for a few days at a time. In more intense manic episodes, individuals might actually require hospitalization for exhaustion, because sleep is no longer being engaged at all.
- Racing thoughts. In hypomanic episodes, thoughts might feel as though they are moving quickly, and focus can be significantly impaired. Inmania, thoughts might be racing so quickly as to completely impair rational thought and even conversation.
- Rapid or disjointed speech. As a consequence of rapid thoughts, rapid speech may develop. Initially, rapid speech might manifest as speaking more quickly than is typical for you, but in manic episodes, the speech might come so quickly that thoughts and ideas are disjointed and entirely indiscernible.
- Periods of Bipolar Disorder-induced mania are characterized by recklessness to some degree. People with Bipolar Disorder might find themselves making unwise or dangerous financial, romantic, physical, and medical decisions. Mania encourages individuals to shed their (often healthy) inhibitions.
Am I Manic?
If you are experiencing any of the above signs and symptoms, it is possible you are experiencing a period of mania. That alone, however, is not the same as a Bipolar Disorder; Bipolar Disorder is characterized not only by mania but by depression as well. Mania alone might indicate the presence of other mental health concerns but is not a solid indication of Bipolar Disorder, because mania on its own is not affiliated with Bipolar Disorder. That being said, mania in conjunction with depressive episodes does warrant an investigation into the possibility of Bipolar Disorder. Consequently, a small discussion on depressive symptoms is necessary.
Depressive symptoms are those that are often associated with major and minor Depressive Disorders. The most common symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness. These feelings are the symptoms most commonly associated with depressive disorders, and with good reason: both major and minor depressive disorders (including Bipolar Disorder) are at least partially known for their predisposition toward sadness, and even despair.
- Hopeless feelings. While sadness is difficult enough to experience on an ongoing basis, hopelessness is an intense and powerful indicator of depressive disorders. Feeling hopeless can make seeking treatment difficult, as it might feel as though improvement can never actually be achieved. This is the case with Bipolar Disorder, but hopeless feelings may be occasionally punctuated by the highs of manic episodes.
- Irritability and anger. Although lesser known than sadness, irritability and anger can be strong symptoms of depression or Bipolar Disorder. Anger might not be chronic but may flare up suddenly and unexpectedly—particularly in situations that might not warrant such a strong reaction.
- Apathy is a hallmark feeling in depression and Bipolar Disorder. This, too, makes seeking help difficult for some individuals, as apathy renders the desire to seek help and change almost nonexistent.
- Depression often brings feelings of chronic fatigue and overwhelm. People with depression (and Bipolar Disorder) might find themselves struggling to make it through the day without taking a nap and may collapse into sleep at the end of each day.
- Feelings of guilt. Guilt is a common theme in Bipolar Disorder. Guilt might be derived from feeling as though your mental health is a burden, but it also might not have any identifiable root at all.
- Decreased self-esteem. Depression/Bipolar Disorder can both wreak havoc on an individual’s self-esteem. A sudden and unprovoked drop in self-esteem could indicate Bipolar Disorder or another depressive disorder is at play.
- Thoughts of self-harm. Depression can trigger or increase thoughts about and considerations of self-harm. This is a serious concern and should be discussed with a mental health provider as soon as possible.
- Weight/Appetite changes. Changes in weight and appetite are also common symptoms of depression. Individuals struggling with Bipolar Disorder and other depressive disorders might find themselves unexpectedly losing or gaining weight and may find themselves under or overeating.
Although not each and every one of these symptoms must be present for a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis, these are some of the more common symptoms of a depressive disorder. If both mania and depression feel familiar to you, it is certainly possible that you are experiencing manic episodes as a result of Bipolar Disorder.
The Vital Nature of a Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
While it may be tempting to view Bipolar Disorder symptoms on a site and diagnose yourself in order to begin treatment, Bipolar Disorder is a serious condition, and requires a legitimate diagnosis from a mental health professional to begin treatment. Plenty of online advice will suggest at-home remedies for Bipolar Disorder: diet changes, lifestyle alterations, and alternative therapies. While none of these things are bad in and of themselves—and many of them can be used as concurrent treatments—these are not treatments in and of themselves. It is vital, then, to speak to a mental health professional if you are experiencing symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.
People with Bipolar Disorder may feel as though they are flawed or in some way defective if they cannot, on their own, get their condition “under control,” but this is one of the greatest misconceptions currently surrounding mental health: it is not a simple matter of improving an individual’s attitude or changing an outlook. Instead, Bipolar Disorder requires legitimate medicine, whether that takes on the form of pharmaceutical intervention, psychotherapy, or a combination of these two and additional interventions. No mental disorder or mental illness, Bipolar Disorder included, is an indication of weakness or personal fault but is instead an indicator of ill health. Consequently, a diagnosis is vital to move toward therapy, which is essential to begin managing and healing Bipolar Disorder.
Discovering that you are showing symptoms of Bipolar Disorder can be frightening; if you are not familiar with Bipolar Disorder, its symptoms, and related conditions, people with Bipolar Disorder may initially feel overwhelming to find that you are exhibiting symptoms. Fortunately, while Bipolar Disorder can feel insurmountable, it is a highly treatable condition, and individuals with the disorder can go on to lead stable, productive, and peaceful lives. The key to this is proper treatment. Therapists, such as those available from BetterHelp, are equipped to not only assess, diagnose, and treat Bipolar Disorder—they are also trained to help manage any co-morbid conditions such as anxiety, and may have additional insight into complementary treatment options, such as those in the naturopathic or holistic field. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, reach out for help today, and learn how to manage, live with, and improve your symptoms.
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