Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder refers to a mental health condition wherein the patients have extreme moods swings, from emotional highs (bipolar mania/hypomania) to emotional lows (depression), with such mood swings occurring multiple times a year.
Such mood swings (which are symptoms of bipolar disorder) tend to affect the patient’s ability to think clearly, perform daily activities, and exercise good judgment. It is typically diagnosed in the teenage years or early twenties. However, these bipolar mania symptoms can continue throughout the patient’s life.
In bipolar mania, a person tends to demonstrate extreme behavior, particularly an abnormally good mood, strong bursts of energy, hyperactivity, and strongly increased creativity or aggression. The bipolar mania symptoms manifest differently in different people and can last for anywhere from days to a week. Sometimes, attacks might last as long as a few months; usually, they require hospitalization or medication to be kept in check.
Manic episodes are often interspersed with periods of depression where the person suffers from exhaustion, hopelessness, and sadness, in other words, the opposite of mania. These are also strong symptoms to watch out for. Bipolar patients may also experience hypomania, which is a milder form of mania and, generally, a more manageable symptom.
What are its causes?
While some people have a genetic predisposition to developing bipolar disorder, research shows that there is no clear-cut cause for it. Some studies indicate that abnormal thyroid functioning, imbalances in neurotransmission, disturbances in the circadian rhythm, and high levels of the cortisol hormone could be the possible causes. There are also environmental and psychological factors that could trigger episodes of bipolar mania. Some of them are as listed:
Substance abuse: While substance abuse does not actually cause bipolar disorder, drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines can trigger attacks of mania.
Medication: Several medicines, especially antidepressants, thyroid medication, appetite suppressants, and corticosteroids may trigger mania.
Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation of even a few hours could trigger attacks of mania in bipolar patients.
Co-occurring conditions: Some medical conditions, such as eating disorders, obesity, anxiety, heart disease, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), could worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder or make it harder to be treated.
Biological risk: Having a first-degree relative with bipolar disorder increases the risk of developing it.
Emotional trauma: The death of a loved one or any other similar traumatic experience could trigger episodes of bipolar disorder.
What are the main symptoms of bipolar mania?
Bipolar mania is characterized by unusually heightened feelings of energy, creativity, and buoyancy. If you are having an episode of mania, you may talk very rapidly, and you can be hyperactive without sleeping much, you may also experience feelings of grandeur, superiority, or overconfidence.
However, this feeling can soon spiral into recklessness where your tendency to make hasty decisions goes up, and this could also lead to increased aggression and irritability. Some patients even start hearing voices or seeing delusions during manic episodes.
Symptoms common to most episodes of bipolar mania include the following:
- Unusual bursts of optimism.
- Increased sense of grandeur or overconfidence about one’s abilities.
- Mind jumping from one idea to another rapidly.
- An unnatural increase of interest in goal-oriented activities.
- An unnatural increase in the focus on religion or religious activities.
- Talking very fast and, often, incoherently.
- Clang associations, a phenomenon in which the patient collates a series of words that sound similar even if they do not make sense.
- Distraction and inability to focus on one specific thing.
- Psychomotor agitation, a severe restlessness characterized by fidgeting or jittery movements (such as hand-wringing or pacing about).
- Feeling extremely energetic yet not sleeping much.
- Recklessness and clouded judgment.
- Inappropriate humor or offensive behavior that the patient does not recognize as being such.
- Taking risky chances because of feeling “lucky”.
- Indulging in risky activities like gambling, overspending, substance abuse, or hypersexual activity.
- A tendency to do things on impulse without considering the consequences.
- Experiencing delusions and hallucinations, and hearing voices.
A typical manic episode will include at least five of the above symptoms, and it will last for at least a week.
If you are experiencing hypomania, you will feel the same euphoria, energy, and increased creativity, along with bouts of irritability, heightened energy, and a decreased need for sleep. Such bursts of activity and energy must last for at least four days to qualify for being diagnosed as hypomania. However, you are much less likely to lose touch with reality when you are experiencing a manic episode.
Hypomania can also lead to recklessness and poor decisions. Moreover, hypomania can escalate into a full-fledged manic episode if not controlled; it can also be followed by a bout of severe depression.
However, it is to be noted that even if you are displaying a few of the symptoms mentioned above, it does not necessarily mean that you are having a manic episode or hypomania.
Sudden changes in mood and restlessness could also be signs of an emotional trauma, reaction to a drug, a brain injury, a panic attack, or even anxiety disorder. If you demonstrate these symptoms, it is important to visit a doctor as soon as possible to get yourself diagnosed and treated correctly.