Manic Episode

What is Manic Episode?

Manic episodes are not an individual illness, but part of bipolar disorder. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), bipolar disorder is the 6th leading disability on the planet.

Millions of people suffer from bipolar disorder, and millions more are predicted to experience manic episodes at least once in their lifetime. They can be scary for the individual, and for the people closest to them. What’s most important is recognizing the triggers that bring on the mania, treating the underlying illness, and doing everything in your power to prevent future episodes.

Bipolar disorder and depression can make you sad, irritable, and even suicidal. There are physical symptoms causing nausea, insomnia, weight gain, weight loss, hair loss, and more. Those mental breakdowns are confusing when you don’t have a full understanding of the disease. Becoming familiar with everything there is to know about bipolar disorder empowers the patient and arms them with a defence against manic episodes.

Symptoms Manic Episode

At first glance, the symptoms of manic episodes may appear as if the person is actually feeling good. They’re happy, feeling good about themselves, busy, talkative, and working towards goals. It’s when all those actions go to the extreme level that you have to be worried.

Talkative

That same talkative person will become loud, obnoxious, and combative. Everything about them will be louder. The clothes they wear may get brighter, wilder, and the conversations will get longer. As a matter of fact, somebody having a manic episode will talk so much it may go on for hours and they really won’t want to hear anything you have to say.

Besides an excessive amount of loud talking, the person will also talk so fast to the point it’s incoherent. Hands will be moving around, sweat may start pouring down, and they may jump from subject to subject. In addition, keep an eye out for the conversation to get overly emotional or heated.

Busy bee behaviour

Being busy sounds like a good thing because a person suffering from bipolar disorder doesn’t want to sit around and just sulk. But when they become so busy that they don’t sleep, they may be in the midst of a manic episode. Setting unrealistic goals, working toward multiple goals, being unrealistically focused, and attempting to do too much is a symptom often overlooked.

An unhealthy focus on achieving those goals is a recipe for disaster in the event that the person doesn’t meet them. The busy bee behavior may come with an unrealistic sense of self-importance – feeling like they will suffer if they don’t complete their tasks, causing them to go into a frantic frenzy.

Sleep deprivation

While trying to achieve those unrealistic and multiple goals, people will work all hours. The person will seem as if they are doing just fine without sleeping. In reality, the lack of sleep is a trigger for the mania. The sense of euphoria they experience when the episode begins tricks the body into believing sleep is not necessary. Without proper sleep patterns, you can’t truly think clearly or function at 100%.

Feeling good

In the beginning there’s euphoria, and the individual will appear as if they feel really good and overly happy. But as the episode takes a hold of the patient, that happiness will turn to irritability and possibly anger. This will be accompanied by a short attention span and racy thoughts.

Extreme cases

In extreme cases, the symptoms may lead to full blown psychosis. At that point you can no longer tell reality from fantasy. This is when you lose yourself in your alternate reality and begin to live in the fantasy. You believe you’re famous, or a deity, or that you’re royalty waiting to inherit a kingdom. The person may end up with grandiose visions, or other forms of psychosis and require further treatment once this form of the disorder takes over their daily life.

Once all of the symptoms have been in motion for one full week, it’s an official manic episode. This is the time you possibly need to call a doctor.

Causes of Manic Episode

No doctor can pinpoint the exact cause of manic episodes. Because they are a part of bipolar disorder, the same triggers that cause bipolar symptoms to manifest can trigger the mania. What the medical community knows for sure is that those that suffer from these episodes show physical changes in the brain. The patient is literally wired differently to someone that does not suffer from bipolar disorder. The biological differences are what cause the depression, mood swings and in some cases, psychosis. In other patients, it’s passed on genetically. It runs in families from sibling to sibling or parent to offspring. Check your family medical history and use that information to prevent an episode.

Mania is not contagious, it’s not something you can catch from contact. It won’t rub off on you just because you’re around a person experiencing an episode. Friends and family don’t have to shy away from those in the midst of it, they can reach out and offer support while their loved one comes down.

Treatments for Manic Episode

To treat manic episodes there are a few mandatory steps you have to take.

1. See a doctor

This is not something you can self-diagnose. A diagnosis from a doctor is mandatory so the proper medication and steps for prevention and management can be administered to the patient. Physiological and psychological testing can only be given by a professional. It has to be determined if the disorder can be self-maintained or if psychotherapy with a psychiatrist is needed. In cases where the episodes are so severe the patient may turn violent, they definitely need to see a doctor regularly. Research doctors in your area and try to find one that specializes in your symptoms and specific type of bipolar disorder or mania. They will know the best course of action for treatment so you can get back to feeling like yourself again.

2. Medications

Manic episodes cause drastic changes in a person’s mood. The key to gaining control and balancing bipolar disorder is to learn to control your mood. Controlling the environment is a great place to start, but most cases require medication to keep the mood swings to a minimum. Mood stabilizers are used to do exactly what they say, stabilize the user’s mood. These medications include valproic acid (Depakene), lithium (Lithobid), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro, others), divalproex sodium (Depakote) and lamotrigine (Lamictal). However, you have to stay on a strict schedule and take the meds every day to receive the full effect. These are not recreational drugs and can’t be taken for fun, or just to get high – they are strong narcotics.

3. Sleep

Maintaining a healthy and consistent sleep pattern will help keep manic episodes to a minimum. Disturbing normal patterns throws the cognitive part of the brain off and can slowly start a chain reaction leading to a relapse. Lack of sleep will also enhance the irritability and anger in anybody, whether they suffer from bipolar disorder or not. If you suffer from manic episodes, sleepless nights have to be kept to a minimum to refrain from a serious backslide. One or two nights out of a week without proper sleep is too much.

4. Journalism

Every person is different and experiences their episodes as an individual. Keep a daily journal, at the same time of day, to keep track of triggers, types of episodes, and patterns of recurrences. Identification of personal symptoms and warning signs will help the patient catch the episode early on.

5. Little to no alcohol

Some people use drugs and alcohol to deal with their feelings of depression. You can’t smoke, snort or drink your problems away. In fact, this makes them worse. Alcohol enhances mania and elements of bipolar disorder. It also cannot and should not be mixed with meds. Coming down off the alcohol is when the euphoric state can turn into a dangerous one. Taking medication, and drinking or taking illegal drugs can lead to worse health issues or even death.

Prevention of Manic Episode

The key to prevention is maintenance. Maintaining a steady lifestyle and schedule will contribute to a person not having a manic episode or triggering their bipolar disorder. Staying on a consistent schedule is as important as the meds. Write out a schedule and keep it in a journal, put it on the refrigerator door, or on the calendar in your phone. Schedule reminders, use post it notes or do whatever you have to do so that you stay on point and on task until it becomes second nature. Your life and peace of mind depend on it.

As mentioned above, journaling is a big part of the early identification of symptoms and warning signs. If caught early on, a person may be able to catch the manic episode before it gets too bad and treat it based on their previous history. Record moods, diet, symptoms, activities, interactions with people and how they made you feel, what you watched on tv, how that made you feel, and how many hours you slept. Use the journal to make sure you’re staying the course.

Eat a healthy diet, exercise, meditate, try yoga, do art therapy, take a dance class, avoid sweets or caffeine at night, and no alcohol or drugs at all. Take the medication prescribed, as prescribed. Don’t take more than prescribed and get enough sleep.

Stress can trigger all types of health problems. But it can push a person that experiences manic episodes over the edge. Limit stress in all parts of your life that you can. Cut stressful relationships, limit stress at work, and don’t stress about things you cannot control. When the mind is stressed out it will just keep turning and going, trying to figure out things and solve puzzles. This contributes to the lack of sleep that’s so important and wears on the body. So, de-stress as much as possible.

Mental health is just as important as physical health. The number of people that suffer from bipolar disorder and manic episodes increases every year worldwide. Every person has to know what it is that sends them into a spiral where they lose their grip. A break from reality may sound like something that you want, but it takes a toll on day to day life. Many function at work and with their families without them ever knowing they have a problem.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help when things seem to be too much. Whether it’s an appointment with a psychiatrist, or an intervention from people you love, it’s important to get ahead of the behavior before you hurt yourself, or others.

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Last Reviewed:
September 18, 2017
Last Updated:
September 18, 2017