What Are Manic Episodes?- Symptoms, Triggers & Definition

Instructor: Andrea McKay

Andrea teaches high school AP Psychology and Online Economics and has a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

The symptoms of manic episodes are less common than the familiar symptoms of depression, though both are mood disorders. Read on to discover how manic episodes are often debilitating and dysfunctional.

What Are Manic Episodes?

It's difficult to understand manic episodes, or mania, without comparing the disorder to its cousin, depression. When manic episodes are combined with depressive episodes, an individual may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, often referred to as manic depression.

Mania, depression, and bipolar disorder are all mood disorders, or disorders that cause a disturbance in mood. Depression is one of the most commonly experienced categories of mental illness. Many people have experienced mild forms of depression, the kind that goes away without intervention. Symptoms are typically considered abnormal when they impair your ability to get through a normal day in your life. For an individual battling major depression, they may feel an overwhelming lack of energy, they may have disturbances in sleep and appetite, and they may lose interest in activities or people they normally enjoy.

Symptoms of Mania

Mania is on the opposite end of the spectrum of mood disorders. Someone experiencing a manic episode will feel energized, excited, and ready to tackle anything that comes their way. Those symptoms may not seem harmful, but remember that any symptoms become abnormal when they prevent one from living a normal life. Symptoms of mania can be extreme and may include:

  • A reduced need for sleep, sometimes not sleeping for days
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Inability to be still or relax
  • Feeling invincible
  • Flight of ideas, where thoughts race and jump from topic to topic at random

Someone experiencing a manic episode may overindulge in pleasurable or risky activities, spending more than they can afford on a shopping spree, making rash business or investment decisions, or engaging in unsafe sexual behaviors. They may feel hyper-creative and become over-productive at work. Or they may be so unfocused that they cannot complete any tasks at all. Ideas may flow rapidly for someone experiencing a manic episode. Famous musicians, artists, and actors living with bipolar disorder have created beautiful works during their manic phases.

Mania vs. Hypomania

Manic episodes are sometimes labeled hypomanic. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania with symptoms that are similar to the manic phase but less extreme. People in a hypomanic episode may still exhibit destructive behaviors. Both manic and hypomanic episodes can become exhaustive. After a time, the energetic behavior becomes too much to sustain, and the person may lapse into a deep depression, starting the bipolar cycle again.

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