What Does It Mean To Be Manic? Bipolar Phases And What To Do About Them

Reviewed by Lauren Guilbeault

Published 12/27/2020

You may hear people throw around the word manic from time to time. People often use it to mean highly energetic or chaotic. That may be part of the story, but what does it really mean to be manic? To understand its true definition, you need to know a bit about bipolar disorder and its three phases.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that also comes with other mood-related symptoms. You may have heard this disorder called manic depression. The truth is that there’s no difference between manic-depressive vs. bipolar disorder. Bipolar is just the newer, currently preferred name for the same mental illness. If you’re wondering whether you have bipolar disorder, there’s a quick way to get an initial assessment. All you have to do is answer a few short questions on an online bipolar disorder test.

Phases of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder has three distinct phases, each with its own mood and related symptoms. If you have this mental illness, your mood may cycle from manic to depressed to hypomanic in any order. Sometimes, people with bipolar disorder have more depressive episodes, while others tend to have more manic episodes. However, if you have bipolar, you’ve had at least one manic or hypomanic episode and one depressive episode.

What Is a Manic Episode?

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A manic bipolar disorder phase is marked by high energy that lasts at least a week. The mood may be euphoric or irritable. Your self-esteem skyrockets when you’re in the manic phase, sometimes to the point that you become grandiose.  You need little sleep. With racing thoughts and rapidly changing ideas, you’re easily distracted. Rapid pressured talking is common in the manic phase.

During the manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may start doing many different activities at once or putting too many events on your schedule. You may get involved in risky behaviors like gambling or reckless driving. You might become quite impulsive. For example, you might buy anything that catches your eye or have casual sex immediately after a brief introduction.

Signs of Hypomania

The hypomanic phase is similar to the manic phase of bipolar disorders, but it’s a bit milder. It also may not last more than four days. During a hypomanic phase, you still have lots of energy and feel generally positive and self-confident. This often allows people to accomplish more and make more social contacts. Most people can still function well during this phase. However, people with hypomania will also have a depressed phase and possibly a manic phase at some point. Those are the phases that cause the most problems for them.

Symptoms of a Depressive Episode

Nearly everyone knows what it’s like to have the “blues” or feel down in the dumps from time to time. But not everyone has had the depressive phase of bipolar disorder. The depressive phase of bipolar lasts at least two weeks. During this phase, you feel sad, hopeless, or worthless. You lose interest in the things you once enjoyed doing. You may be filled with feelings of guilt or shame.

The depressive phase also comes with physical changes. You might sleep too much or have insomnia. Restlessness may prompt you to pace or wring your hands. You may speak and move slower than usual. You may overeat or lose your appetite. You feel drained, exhausted, and have little energy.

Cognitive problems in bipolar depression include difficulty concentrating, trouble making choices, or memory problems. You may even begin to dwell on thoughts of death or make plans to harm yourself.

Am I Manic? Questions to Ask Yourself

So, what is the bottom line? How can you sort through the facts and symptoms to determine if you’re in a manic phase of bipolar disorder? Here is a brief list of questions that may help you discover the answer so you can take the next steps needed.

  • Have I been feeling highly energetic and euphoric or irritable for at least seven days in a row?

Having energy is a good thing… unless you have so much energy that you can’t sit still or settle down to do the things you need to do. Likewise, it feels good to be happy. Yet, when your mood is over-the-top euphoric, you may have a hard time being serious when it’s required of you. Irritability can damage your relationships or prevent you from accomplishing tasks that require patience.

  • Am I sleeping less than usual without getting tired?

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Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep to feel rested and refreshed for the day ahead. Everyone is different, but if you’re manic, you’re probably sleeping less than is usual for you. Yet, your high energy level prevents you from feeling tired and may stop you from getting to sleep the next night.

  • Have I had periods of depression or hypomania before?

You don’t necessarily have to have had depression or hypomania before to be in a manic phase now. After all, there’s always a first time. Also, it’s important to note that people with bipolar 1 don’t always have hypomanic phases. Still, if you have had these other phases before, they may be a part of bipolar disorder.

  • Is my mental condition interfering with my ability to function at work, at home, and socially?

Many people enjoy the manic phase while they’re experiencing it because of the “high” feeling and increased energy. However, mania can keep you from doing your work or completing your daily chores. With lower concentration, you may have trouble keeping your financial accounts in order or staying on task during meetings.

  • Are my friends and family complaining about my behavior?

During a manic phase, you put your most important relationships to the test. People may be irritated with your fast, loud, excessive talking. Your unusual grandiosity may make them feel like you’ve suddenly become arrogant. They may worry about you when you spend too much or put yourself in risky situations.

  • Am I able to do everything I put on my schedule?

With racing thoughts and flights of ideas, it’s common for people in a manic phase to fill their calendar with so many activities that it’s impossible to do all of them. So, look at your schedule and notice if it’s fuller than usual.

  • Am I engaged in risky behaviors that I wouldn’t ordinarily do?

The manic phase brings a kind of ultra-positivity that makes you believe you’re safe in any situation. If you’re doing dangerous, financially risky, or unhealthy things, ask yourself if this is something you usually feel comfortable doing. If not, you may be in a manic phase.

  • Can I concentrate on schoolwork or job tasks as well as usual?

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Reading, doing homework, or filling out paperwork is extremely difficult if you can’t concentrate on your work. If you’re manic, you may feel like the work you do is phenomenal but ask yourself if you’re really completing each task with the same care as usual.

  • Have I tried a screening test?

A screening test gives you a quick way to get an objective answer to whether or not you’re manic. A bipolar test will cover all phases of the disorder. Then, you can bring the results to your therapist if you decide to seek counseling.

  • Have I talked to a mental health professional?

You’ll get the most accurate answer to whether you are manic by talking to a psychiatrist or therapist. They use the DSM-5 to ensure that a diagnosis of mania makes sense in light of your symptoms.

What to Do about Symptoms of Bipolar

By the time you’ve read this far, you probably are beginning to recognize if you’re in a manic episode. So, what can you do about it? What can you do yourself, and what comes next? Here are some ways to deal with the manic phase and get your life back on track.

What You Can Do

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Taking care of yourself is essential to your mental health. Even though you may feel like eating or sleeping too much or too little, try to stay on the same routine as usual. Enlist your family’s help in noticing symptoms and triggers for mania. If a mental health professional prescribes medications for you, keep taking them as directed, even if you feel like everything is better than ever. If you want to stop the medication, talk to your doctor first, and follow their recommendations.

Exploring Treatments for Mania

If you do have symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar, the best thing to do is to seek help. There is no effective and proven natural cure for bipolar disorder and manic depression. However, a psychiatrist or a therapist can prescribe you the medications you need to level out your mood in some cases.

Through counseling, you can learn more about your mental condition and the treatments available to help you manage it. Many people with bipolar disorder have trouble focusing on therapy during the manic phase. However, it’s still a good idea to get started. Your therapist can help you stay in touch with reality and watch for warning signs of more serious mental problems.

Conclusion

Mania isn’t a casual term when it comes to your mental health. It’s a specific phase of bipolar disorder that may require immediate treatment and care. It may feel great to be manic, but mania can cause severe problems in your life. And, it can be the first step that leads to depression. So, if you think you might be manic, talk to a therapist or doctor as soon as you can.