What a Bipolar Manic Episode Looks Like

I’m not sure when I experienced my first manic episode but after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a lot of the behaviors I exhibited in the past began making sense. Over time I became self-aware and could identify when I was having a manic episode. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). During mania, some people may lose touch with reality. Symptoms of mania include:

  • Extreme energy/euphoria
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Hypersexuality
  • Impulsiveness/risk-taking
  • Racing thoughts
  • Excessive talking
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions/hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Grandiosity or inflated sense of self
  • Creativity
  • Engaging in many activities at once

Some individuals who experience mania may have psychosis where they have hallucinations or delusions. There was a point in time where I thought being manic was fun. I had a lot of energy and felt I could do many things at once. There were times I felt like I was on top of the world and that I was superior to everyone else. This is known as grandiosity. My thoughts would whirl around quickly in my head and I’d talk excessively about things that made no sense to anyone but me. I’d become impulsive, spending money recklessly and engaging in risky sex. When I’m manic I’m usually very irritable and the smallest things agitate me. In my more extreme manic episodes, I experience psychosis. During one episode, I was at a friend’s house and I became paranoid to the point of thinking someone was being sent to kill me. I barricaded the front door by moving all the furniture in front of it. I was hearing and seeing things that weren’t there. The next day, I was convinced this friend had impregnated me so I grabbed a knife and attempted to cut the baby out of my stomach. I had completely lost touch with reality at this point and eventually, I had to be hospitalized. 

A person experiencing a manic episode should be taken seriously because they could be a danger to themselves as well as others. Mania isn’t what it appears to be. It’s not always fun or being “extremely happy”. It’s a severe part of a highly complex disorder. In many situations, a person experiencing mania will need to be hospitalized. Symptoms of mania can last for a week or longer.

I’ve been riding the bipolar roller coaster ride for years. With mania, there are times where it can feel like you’re high on life. You feel like anything is possible and like there are no rules or consequences to your actions. Eventually, you come down from your high and you’re faced with all the damage you caused during the episode. Also, there are times where immediately following a manic episode, an individual goes into a depressive episode. What goes up must come down. 

Managing a manic episode

  • Maintain a stable sleep schedule. This one is crucial for a person living with bipolar disorder. A disrupted sleep schedule feeds bipolar disorder and will likely result in an episode occurring. 
  • Take your meds every day as prescribed. If you’re taking psychiatric medication it’s important that you take it as you’re supposed to. The medication assists in managing your episodes. Sometimes during a manic episode, it can be tempting to stop taking your medicine because the symptoms feel good. If you’re concerned about the side effects of the medication you’re taking, talk to your provider about them.
  • Learn your warning signs. Learning the warning signs of an episode can help you get early treatment, preventing disruption to your life.
  • Keep track of your mood daily. Keeping track of your mood can help you determine mood swings as well as identify a pattern. Use a mood tracking app or a journal.
  • Set a daily routine and stick to it. Many people with bipolar disorder find that they thrive when sticking to a daily routine. This can be waking up at the same time every day and meditating or working out. It could be eating meals at regular times. Create a schedule and stick to it. 
  • Seek support. Whether you’re experiencing an episode or not, having the support of friends and family is important when you’re living with a mental illness. 

Bipolar episodes can be detrimental to a person’s life and they can be terrifying for both the person experiencing them and the person witnessing them. I feel like bipolar disorder robs you of so much but once you find the right treatment, your life can change for the better.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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