Mania and Bipolar I

Mania and Bipolar I

Full blown mania is a symptom of Bipolar 1 Disorder. It is usually described as an “elevated mood state”. The reality is that mania is much more complicated than that.

I tend to compare my current self with the best I have been, which is when I have been mildly manic. When I am my present “normal” self, I am far removed from when I have been my liveliest, most productive, most intense, most outgoing, and effervescent. I am a hard act to follow.

Kay Redfield Jamison – An Unquiet Mind

Manic episodes are always a medical ermergency and therefore it’s important to recognise the early warning signs.

Mania can look like:

  • The inability to stop talking/rapid speech.
  • Paranoia – feeling that everyone is out to get you.
  • Spending sprees.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Physical symptoms – nausea, shaking, lightheadedness, blurry vision.
  • Loss of appetite or overeating.
  • Bursts of creativity.
  • Ability to think of new ideas, or thinking “outside the box”.
  • Urges to drink heavily or abuse drugs.
  • Psychosis – having a different perception to that of reality/not knowing what is real.
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations (even when you know they’re not real).
  • Delusions – having fixed, false beliefs.
  • Feeling like you are going crazy or that you’re going to die.
  • Blackouts or memory loss.
  • Being overly social (making conversation with anyone and everyone).
  • Nervous tics (biting nails, picking skin, biting lip).
  • Raging.
  • Waking up earlier than usual, with a lot of energy despite not sleeping much.
  • Not being able to sleep.
  • Feeling like you’re being driven by a motor or alternate source.
  • Motivation to start new projects.
  • Inability to prioritise activities (being “productive” but ignoring real obligations).
  • Hypersexuality.

Triggers can look like:

  • Social rhythmn disruption.
  • Routine disruption.
  • Too many goal-oriented stimuli (exams, work projects, etc.).
  • Life stressors (death, interpersonal issues, etc.).
  • Changes to sleep pattern and quality.
  • Drugs or alcohol.
  • Major life changes (moving, starting a new job, etc.).
  • Age (most have their first episode in their early 20’s).

What to do if you think you’re having a manic episode:

  • Call your doctor as quickly as possible because mania progresses quickly.
  • If you feel you may be a danger to yourself or others, go to your nearest hospital immediately.
  • Don’t try to hide or mask your symptoms.
  • Riding the manic “high” by prolonging it with alcohol or drugs is not worth it – the crash will only be harder.

After a manic episode:

  • Consult a psychiatrist. Ensure you discuss and obtain adequate medication to manage the disorder.
  • Research your medications, how to use them and their side effects.
  • Mania can cause people to do things that they’d never to in their rational mind. Forgive yourself and make amends to those your behaviour may have affected.
  • Educate yourself and those around you to help recognise the signs that future episodes are imminent.
  • Take the disorder seriously. Mania can cause severe damage to the brain. The more you can do to prevent future episodes, the better off you will be.
  • Bipolar disorder is a biological illness with psychological symptoms. It also happens to be impossible to treat bipolar disorder on your own. No amount of “toughing it out” or “muscling through it” is going to make it better. Accept the help you are offered and provided.

You may feel nervous to express your full range of feelings and emotions after an episode for fear of being labled as “crazy”. Just remember that mania isn’t:

  • Feeling happy about something good that has happened to you.
  • Extroversion.
  • Healthy self-confidence.
  • Creativity.

Bipolar illness may be incurable. But recovery from mania is possible. For me, recovery means a period of stability that’s achieved with learned coping mechanisms and medication. It’s like being back on even ground after a rough ride.

With an illness as unpredictable as bipolar disorder, there will unfortunately always be knock backs. They key is to learn from each episode and be armed for when it happens again. In time, you will be able to act faster on your early warning signs, and have put steps in place to ease the severity of each episode.

Surround yourself with good psychiatrists, doctors, support workers and family. Most of all, be patient with yourself. Recovery takes time. Bipolar illness does not define who you are. Keep hope alive.

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