Manic episodes in bipolar disorder can seem overwhelming, but therapy, medications, and a healthy support system can help you cope.
Mania is a psychological condition characterized by an elevated mood state. Mania makes people feel extremely energetic, alert, and driven. Their senses may be heightened, too. Everything may seem more vivid and pleasant.
While these attributes might seem positive, they can turn problematic. For many people, mania can become unreasonable and intense.
Mania is often a symptom of bipolar disorder. This mental health condition is characterized by extreme shifts in mood, from mania to depression. Bipolar disorder was once known as “manic depression.”
Mania can be recognized, especially in people with diagnosed bipolar disorder. Healthcare professionals may even be able to help you learn the triggers that set off manic periods so that you can avoid them.
Ahead, we’ll discuss more about what mania in bipolar is like and what can be done to decrease the risk and severity of manic episodes.
Each person’s experience with mania is different. Each cycle of manic behavior can also differ.
During a period of mania, you may experience:
- increased energy or hyperactivity
- decreased inhibition, impaired judgment, or impulsivity
- increase irritability or sensitivity
- anger or aggressiveness
- decreased need for sleep
- significant mood changes
- flighty thoughts or ideas
- rapid speech and extreme talkativeness that can be difficult to interrupt
- reckless or excessive behaviors (such as unprotected sexual encounters or extreme spending)
In more severe manic episodes, some people experience hallucinations and delusions.
In bipolar 1 disorder
In people with bipolar 1 disorder, manic episodes last at least 7 days. The manic behaviors, thoughts, or moods occur most of the day or nearly every day in that period. Symptoms may be so severe that hospital care is required.
In bipolar 2 disorder
People with bipolar 2 disorder experience hypomania. This is a type of mania that’s less intense. It may not be as easily recognized, as its symptoms are often milder than mania. Hypomania lasts 4 days or more.
How do you tell if you’re in a manic state?
- You may feel tremendous amounts of energy that help you focus on tasks or goals.
- Or, you may be so consumed by ideas that you can’t focus at all.
- You may also feel less sleepy or sleep for very few hours but wake up refreshed and fully energized.
It’s not always possible for people to recognize their own manic symptoms and states, though. Friends or family may first notice the swing in behavior and activity levels.
Talking with your loved ones about your triggers and coping mechanisms can be an important part of managing your symptoms.
It’s unclear exactly what triggers a manic episode. For some people, a trigger may be recognized once an episode has ended. This can make it easier for them to avoid that particular trigger in the future. For others, triggers can change or be less obvious. Or they may be things that can’t be avoided at all.
Some examples of triggers
The initial focus of mania recovery is making sure you’re sticking to the treatment plan your doctors advise. This includes taking medications. Prescription medications can help balance your mood and reduce the risk of more severe issues, such as hallucinations or the risk of self-injury.
It’s not always possible to recognize your own manic behaviors. If you do, there are things you or your loved ones can do to help you manage the period more effectively. These include:
- Try to identify what could’ve triggered the manic episode, and if possible, stop engaging with it.
- Set reminders on your phone for important times like taking medication, eating, sleeping, outings with friends or family, or work deadlines.
- Reach out to your support network and let them know what you’re experiencing and if there’s anything you want them to do to help you maintain balance.
- Use easy-to-prepare meals to ensure you’re eating healthy when your focus is elsewhere.
- Try a water bottle with the time of day marked, to help remind you to hydrate regularly.
- Take breaks for exercise and getting fresh air.
- Consciously choose a positive coping mechanism or creative activity to pour your excess energy into.
Work with your therapist to find other ways of enjoying these tides of motivation.
If you regularly see a psychotherapist or any healthcare professional, check in with them outside of a manic episode to help you create your personal symptoms list and the best reaction plan to put in place.
Friends and family may recognize symptoms of mania while the person experiencing them doesn’t. While you can’t handle their symptoms for them, you can be a valuable part of their support system.
If you’re close to someone with bipolar disorder and they’re comfortable talking with you about their manic symptoms, you might let them know that you want to help. Together, the two of you can work to develop ways for you to assist in their coping strategy:
- The most important point is to not be judgmental of their experience. Be supportive but not critical.
- If they’re open to it, let them know what you’re observing and ask them to explain what they’re experiencing. This can help the two of you align, and you may be able to help more productively.
- You may be able to attend a session of their therapeutic treatment with them. That way, their therapist can help both of you create a plan that aligns with their treatment.
- During manic episodes, you can help reinforce treatment plans and encourage self-care.
- You can offer medication reminders or encourage them to participate in structured activities or therapy.
- You can suggest positive activities to do together and distract from destructive ones.
- Remind them they’re loved and valued, regardless of their mental state.
Just remember: Sometimes, attempts to help people during a manic episode will be rebuffed, and they may not be in a place to hear you. Remember that you can only help someone who wants to be helped. Your friend or loved one may also try to pull you into rash and ill-advised behaviors. Set boundaries where you need to in order to protect them and yourself.
You can’t control their behavior (and shouldn’t try to), but you can remain a consistently supportive and loving presence in their lives.
How to help someone in a manic episode over text
Texting and messaging can be powerful tools for reaching people during periods of mania — especially for loved ones living far apart. You can use it to:
- Check in and ask how they’re feeling.
- Remind them to take medications.
- Ask if they’re getting enough sleep.
- Ask if they’ve been drinking water and possibly offer to order them a healthy meal to be delivered if they need it.
- Offer to help with any parts of their self-management plan that seem difficult, such as getting exercise or avoiding specific stressors.
- Offer words of support and encouragement, such as “I know I can’t fully understand what you’re experiencing, but I support you and care about you.”
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong disorder, and it requires long-term management. Learning to recognize the symptoms of your manic episodes (before and during) is a key part of managing your bipolar symptoms.
Healthy coping strategies and treatment can help you experience fewer symptoms, including mania. Ultimately, this can enable you to live a full, engaging life.