Manic depression symptoms can sometimes be difficult to identify at first since the onset of the disorder can often begin with a depressive episode and signs of mania may not appear until much later. Also, in the beginning, manic behavior can be “mild” so you may not even be aware that you are experiencing the disorder until the symptoms worsen or you plunge into a state of depression.
However, if you recognize the warning signs early and seek treatment as soon as possible, you will be able to receive the tools necessary to manage the condition and lead a happy, fulfilled life.
What is Manic Depression?
Manic depression is also called Manic-Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, or more recently, Bipolar Affective Disorder.
“Bipolar” means having two (bi) poles, one high and one low, while “affective” is a word that doctors use when talking about a person’s mood. So, manic depression – or bipolar disorder – is a condition where a person experiences extreme shifts between periods of “high” moods (mania) and periods of “low” moods (depression). These mood swings can be very severe or intense and will effect a person’s overall thinking and behavior, sometimes to the point where they seem like a completely different person while in a manic episode than when in a depressive period. They may make different choices in important situations, hold different moral or social values, change their views on health and fitness, or have very different interests.
Manic and depressive episodes can last for several weeks or even months, and some people may also experience intervals of “normal” mood. In some cases, these “normal mood” periods can be very brief, while in others they may last for as long as two years, making this another reason why bipolar disorder can be so difficult to diagnose.
Unlike other types of depression (major depression, postpartum depression, teenage depression, etc.), bipolar disorder is found equally among men and women. Although it can emerge at any time, it usually begins between the ages of 15-35. Doctors aren’t really sure of the cause, but recent studies have shown that certain biological and physiological factors may play a role.
Since the cause and symptoms of manic depression can vary from person to person, it is recommended that you visit your doctor as soon as possible to address any concerns that you may have.
Manic Episode Symptoms:
Often, bipolar disorder begins with a manic episode. Most experts consider a person to be experiencing a manic episode when they have an abnormally elevated or irritable mood accompanied by at least three additional mania symptoms. As previously mentioned, the initial onset of bipolar disorder can be quite mild. A person may feel euphoric and appear to be more sociable, self-confident, or even more creative than usual. At first, there may be no real cause for concern since these things seem like positive changes. However, as the manic episode progresses, more of the following warning signs may emerge.
• Increased energy. A person may engage in more goal-directed activity and take on major projects such as home renovations, educational pursuits, or new areas of interest. Taking on extra responsibilities and being almost “over committed” is also common,as people in a manic period feel the need to be continually busy.
• Decreased sleep. A person will feel like they don’t need sleep, being able to function on only a few hours rest a night and sometimes going for two or three days without sleeping.
• Racing thoughts and speech. Those in a manic state will describe their thoughts as disjointed and cluttered. Ideas seem to race through their mind, which also affects speech, making it rapid, excessive, and sometimes incoherent. A person may repeatedly jump from one topic to another unrelated topic. and may find it difficult to complete an entire conversation.
• Increased interest in activities. Adopting new interests or increasing involvement in current ones is a typical symptom of mania. This, together with an abundance of energy and racing thoughts or speech can make the person seem frenzied or agitated.
• Increased or uninhibited sex drive.
• Poor or impaired judgement. Impulsive activities, overspending, risky behavior, or making irresponsible and immature choices are all warning signs of mania, especially if this is highly abnormal or very opposite a person’s typical behavior.
• Substance abuse.
• Low attention span, difficulty focusing, easily distracted.
• Grandiose feelings. During a manic episode, many people will feel indestructible or “super human”. They may have inflated self-esteem or self-confidence and may also feel as if they are on a mission to change the world.
• Extreme irritability. While some people will be very euphoric, others may experience severe anxiety and become unusually irritable, even to the point of extreme anger or rage.
• Psychotic symptoms. Although it is uncommon, severe manic episodes may cause a person to break from reality and experience delusions or hallucinations.
Depressive Episode Symptoms:
It is possible to have only manic episodes, although in the majority of cases, a person will eventually fall into depression. As mentioned, bipolar disorder more often begins with a manic episode, but sometimes a depressive episode can come first, particularly in women or those with an earlier onset. For this reason, a diagnosis of major depression is often made, and the true condition is not discovered until a manic episode eventually emerges. Although the depression period of bipolar disorder involves much of the same symptoms as major depression, treatment is often different because those with other forms of depression do not experience the same extreme shifts in mood.
The most common symptom of a depressive episode is a prevailing feeling of sadness or despair, and may be accompanied by one or more of the following:
• Lack of energy or motivation.
• Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
• Change in eating and sleeping patterns.
• Decreased sex drive.
• Anger or irritability.
• Feeling of restlessness.
• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
• Physical complaints or chronic pain without a medical cause.
• Apathy or indifference.
• Isolation or withdrawal from family and friends.
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
• Crying easily.
• Suicidal thoughts, words, or actions. According to statistics, suicide rates are up to 60 times higher among those with bipolar disorder than in the general population, so no warning signs should be ignored.
• Delusions. In severe cases, psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations may occur.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Much of the time, bipolar disorder begins with a manic episode, but sometimes a depressive episode comes first. The severity and number of symptoms can vary from person to person, and the frequency and length of episodes can also be different depending on the individual. Furthermore, in some cases, the swing between “poles” isn’t as obvious or the symptoms aren’t as severe, causing many people to delay seeking help until the condition has progressed. All these factors can make an accurate diagnosis very difficult, but adding to the confusion is the fact that several different types of bipolar depression have been identified.
When most people think of bipolar disorder, the “classic” symptoms come to mind – extreme shifts between highs and lows that cause an individual to move from frenzied or hyperactive behavior to abnormal sadness and hopelessness. But, manic depression isn’t always this obvious, especially in the beginning.
Recently, celebrities battling bipolar disorder have come forward to discuss their struggles and increase awareness. The added media attention has helped educate people about the variations of this disorder so they can seek help for themselves, or their family members and friends, much earlier.
Bipolar I: This is the type of manic depression that people most often associate with the disorder. To receive a bipolar I diagnosis, an individual must have at least one manic episode. Although a depressive episode is not required for a diagnosis, the majority of individuals will experience alternating periods of mania and major depression, sometimes with intervening periods of normal mood.
Bipolar II: In this case, the depressive episodes are exactly the same as bipolar I (which are the same as major depression), but instead of a full manic episode, the individual will experience what is known as hypomania. Hypomania is a milder form of mania that is not as extreme but still results in observable behavior changes. For example, a normally relaxed or “easy going” person may become extremely energetic and obsessed with getting everything done quickly and perfectly. Or, a typically quiet individual may become very talkative and outgoing in social situations. Although the behavior is not life-threatening, it is a shocking or abnormal change and should be addressed, especially if periods of depression have also occurred.
Cyclothymia: This is a milder form of bipolar disorder. “High” and “low” mood swings still occur,but the symptoms are less severe and don’t usually last as long. Most often, the individual will experience shifts between mild depression and hypomania, with extended periods of normal mood between episodes. In some cases, cyclothymia can become a full bipolar disorder, particularly if left untreated.
Mixed Manic Depression: People with mixed bipolar symptoms are usually included in the bipolar I category, so Mixed Manic Depression is not considered a separate type. However, since symptoms of mania and depression occur at the same time, it is possible to not immediately realize the presence of a bipolar disorder. In typical cases, a person will have depressive symptoms during a depressive episode and mania symptoms during a manic episode, and this obvious shifting is often what leads to a diagnosis. But, for those who have mixed episodes, the crossing over of symptoms can make the disorder more difficult to identify.
A person with mixed manic depression may have high energy or agitation (mania symptoms), yet at the same time, also express suicidal thoughts or loss of appetite (depression symptoms).
For this reason, any unusual changes in behavior should be investigated as soon as possible, especially if you suspect that depression or bipolar disorder may be present.
Symptoms in Men, Women, and Teens:
Not only is it important to know the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, but it is also helpful to understand how the condition can be different for men and women. If you are looking for a severe manic episode as your first indicator, then you may miss the earliest signs that most often appear in both women and teens.
While bipolar disorder almost always begins with a manic episode in men, teens and women quite often experience a depressive episode first. Adolescents and women are also more likely to have a rapid cycling pattern (several episodes a year), whereas men tend to have longer lasting episodes and move from one “pole” to the other at a much slower rate. Men are also less likely than women to have mixed or hypomania episodes and are usually diagnosed with bipolar I disorder. Men also express more anger and violence during a manic episode than women and are more likely to become involved in substance abuse.
So, if you are looking for the “classic” symptoms, men are much easier to diagnose, but women and young adults may require a little more observation since the signs may not be as obvious – at least not at first.
Bipolar disorder is a serious condition that affects about 1% of the population and is the fifth leading cause of disability in the world. Even in its mildest form, it can effect functioning in every area of life including school, work, social situations, and family interactions. Bipolar disorder also increases a person’s risk of developing other mood or social disorders such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), or phobias. Not only is it very frustrating for the individual, but it can also put a great deal of stress on the key people in their lives such as spouses, parents, or friends.
However, increased understanding of manic depression symptoms and new breakthroughs in treatments have offered a lot of hope for individuals suffering from bipolar disorder. With proper management and therapies, it is possible to reduce the severity of episodes – or eliminate them altogether – so that the individual can live a normal, happy, balanced life.
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