Mania is the hallmark symptom of bipolar disorder. It can lead to dangerous behavior, but treatment is available to manage these episodes.
What Is Mania?
Mania is a psychological condition that causes a person to experience unreasonable euphoria, very intense moods, hyperactivity, and delusions. Mania (or manic episodes) is a common symptom of bipolar disorder.
Mania can be a dangerous condition for several reasons. People may not sleep or eat while in a manic episode. They may engage in risky behaviors and harm themselves. People with mania have a greater risk of experiencing hallucinations and other perceptual disturbances.
Family history may play a factor in mania. People whose parents or siblings have the condition are more likely to experience a manic episode (National Alliance on Mental Illness). However, having a family member with manic episodes does not mean a person will definitely experience them.
Some people are prone to mania or manic episodes because of an underlying medical condition or psychiatric illness, such as bipolar disorder. A trigger or a combination of triggers can cause mania in these people.
Brain scans to show that some patients with mania have slightly different brain structures or activity. Physicians do not use brain scans to diagnose mania or bipolar disorder.
Environmental changes can trigger mania. Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one, can contribute to mania. Financial stress, relationships, and illness can also cause manic episodes. Conditions like hypothyroidism can also contribute to manic episodes.
Patients with mania exhibit extreme excitement and euphoria, as well as other intense moods. They are hyperactive and may experience hallucinations or delusions. Some patients feel jumpy and extremely anxious. A manic person’s mood can quickly change from manic to depressive, with extremely low energy levels (Mayo Clinic, 2012).
Manic episodes make a person feel as if he or she has a tremendous amount of energy. They can cause body systems to speed up, as if everything in the world is moving faster.
People with mania may have racing thoughts and rapid speech. Mania can prevent sleep or cause poor work performance. People with mania may become delusional. They may be easily irritated or distracted, exhibit risky behavior, and go on spending sprees.
People with mania can have aggressive behavior. Drug or alcohol abuse is another symptom of mania.
A milder form of mania is called hypomania. Hypomania is associated with the preceding symptoms, but to a lesser degree. Episodes of hypomania also last a shorter amount of time than manic episodes.
A physician or psychiatrist can evaluate a patient for mania by asking questions and discussing symptoms. Direct observations can indicate that a patient is having a manic episode.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), from the American Psychiatric Association, outlines criteria for a manic episode. The episode must occur for a week, or less than a week if the patient is hospitalized. In addition to a disturbed mood, patients must experience at least three of the following symptoms:
- He or she is easily distracted.
- He or she engages in risky or impulsive behavior. This includes spending sprees, business investments, or risky sexual practices.
- He or she has racing thoughts.
- He or she has a reduced need for sleep.
- He or she has obsessive thoughts.
A manic episode disrupts a person’s life and negatively affects relationships, as well as work or school. Many manic episodes require hospitalization to stabilize the patient’s mood and prevent self-harm.
In some instances, hallucinations or delusions are part of manic episodes. For example, a person may believe that he or she is famous or has superpowers.
For the person’s state to be considered a manic episode, symptoms must not be the result of outside influences, such as abuse of drugs or alcohol.
Hospitalization can be necessary if a patient’s mania is severe or is accompanied by psychosis. Hospitalization can help a patient from injuring himself or herself.
Medications are typically the first line of mania treatment. These medications are prescribed to balance a patient’s mood and reduce the risk of self-injury.
- Lithium (Cibalith-S, Eskalith, Lithane)
- Antipsychotics such as aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), and risperidine (Risperdal).
- Anticonvulsants such as valproic acid (Depakene, Stavzor), divalproex (Depakote), or lamotrigine (Lamictal).
- Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Niravam, Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), or lorazepam (Ativan).
Medications should be used only as prescribed by a medical professional.
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An estimated 90 percent of patients who experience one manic episode will experience another (Kaplan, et al., 2008). If mania is the result of bipolar disorder or other psychological conditions, patients must practice lifelong management to prevent mania episodes.
Prescription medications can help prevent manic episodes. Patients may also benefit from psychotherapy or group therapy. Therapy can help patients recognize the onset of a manic episode so they can seek help.