There's no denying the exhilaration that mania brings. For many with bipolar
disorder, there's a period of denial -- a disbelief that the wonderful surge of
energy and euphoria marks a disease that truly needs treatment.
"Mania is a fascinating thing ... it's the brain creating its own
hormonal high," says Carrie Bearden, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist and
assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA. "Most people first become manic
in their early 20s, at a time in life when they're not thinking about death,
when they feel immortal."
The bipolar spectrum is a term used to refer to conditions of many people with depression, substance abuse, and a wide range of other psychiatric conditions who also have some symptoms of bipolar disorder. Although they have these similar symptoms, they are not diagnosed with bipolar disorder as it is commonly defined. Some psychiatrists find the concept useful. But since it has not been rigorously studied it hasn't been widely adopted.
Indeed, some degree of risky business is the hallmark of mania. Erratic
driving and out-of-control spending sprees are common. It's a time when flashy
business ideas are borne, torrents of phone calls made.
And yet, that's not true for everyone. There are several types of bipolar
disorder, and all involve episodes of mania and depression -- but to varying
With bipolar I, there are severe mood swings.
With bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder, there are milder versions of the
Mixed bipolar is both mania and depression at the same time -- a dangerous
mix of grandiosity, racing thoughts, yet irritable, moody, angry.
People often believe that mania feeds their creativity. The incidence of
bipolar disorder is high among poets and writers, Bearden tells WebMD. "A
lot of people feel they are most productive during this time. You're up,
feeling good, energetic. A lot of patients I've seen, even if they are not in a
creative field, pursue some sort of creative endeavor -- writing songs, playing
music, writing screenplays."
However, "that simple euphoria doesn't really last," she explains.
"It's not like you can hover there. And that's the hardest thing for people
to deal with. Frequently it takes people a while to realize that they need to
be on medication. It's a trade-off of losing some euphoria to become more
When Bipolar Mania Gets Out of Control
A lot of bad decision-making can happen during the manic phase, Bearden
tells WebMD. "It can ruin lives and relationships. There can be extreme
irritability. You start yelling at strangers on the street. That's often why
they're brought in by police, if they're causing a big disturbance, if they get
into a fight in a bar or something like that."