Mania is a state of elevated energy, mood, and behavior, most often seen in those with bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or who have taken certain drugs or medications. While the feelings present in mania can be positive, energetic, or even euphoric, they may also manifest more negatively—as emotions like irritation, anxiety, or grandiosity.
Mania can range from mild (known as hypomania) to severe; at its most extreme, mania can trigger delusions, violence, and an increased risk of suicide. Depending on the cause, a manic episode can last anywhere from several days to several months, and will typically increase in severity—and in the level of agitation—as it progresses. Milder mania is more likely to be associated with positive outcomes, like increased productivity or greater feelings of optimism. However, the impulsive behaviors associated with a manic state can lead to substance abuse, unnecessary risks, or poor financial decisions.
Bipolar 1 is one possible cause of mania; since cycles of depression are much more common in those with the disorder, only one manic episode is necessary to grant a diagnosis of bipolar 1. Episodes of hypomania are more commonly associated with milder bipolar 2. When mania is accompanied by delusions or other psychosis-like symptoms, schizoaffective disorder is more likely to be diagnosed.
Hypomania, literally meaning “under mania,” is a temporary state of positivity and productivity that lasts at least four days. While hypomania results in noticeable changes in a person’s behavior and energy, it doesn’t reach the same severe shifts in mood and activity that characterize a full-blown manic episode. When hypomania appears alongside depression, it may indicate the presence of a bipolar disorder (most likely bipolar II).
An individual in the throes of a manic episode may suffer from delusions or hallucinations. Some common examples include delusions of grandeur (believing that you are famous, publicly important, or chosen by God), persecutory or paranoid delusions (suspecting that you are being spied on or followed), jealous delusions (being convinced that your partner is cheating on you), and delusions of reference (thinking that random events hold a special significance for you alone).
During a manic episode, someone may experience delusions of grandeur, an inflated sense of their own self-importance, or the mistaken belief that they are invulnerable or superior to others. The rush of creativity and confidence they feel can be quite heady, making them less likely to voluntarily seek out treatment for mania/hypomania. One crucial takeaway for those with mania is that your mania is not your creativity—it doesn’t define you or make you more worthy of respect or love.
While there is no cure for mania, steps can be taken to reduce symptoms—and possibly avoid triggering an episode in the first place. The treatment for mania typically involves a mood stabilizer, like lithium, or an atypical antipsychotic, such as risperidone. Psychotherapy is also recommended to help patients learn coping skills. Adopting healthy lifestyle strategies, such as sleeping well, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy diet, may help lower the risk of future manic episodes.
Because they can be marked by bursts of energy, higher self-esteem, and productivity, episodes of mania are thought to be sources of heightened creativity. Indeed, some artists credit “manic” episodes for their best work, and some evidence suggests that bipolar disorder is more prevalent among the creative professions. But though mania can have positive outcomes—including an increase in goal-directed activity—the syndrome can also be dangerous, particularly as the severity increases.
Some who view mania as the source of their creativity hesitate to seek treatment out of fear that it will dampen their artistic spirit. But appropriate treatment—usually combining medication with psychotherapy—can help curb more dangerous symptoms, while, ideally, continuing to promote creative expression.
It’s not uncommon for manic episodes to spur creativity—just look at van Gogh, Sir Isaac Newton, Mozart, and Edgar Allen Poe, who are all believed to have been bipolar. The tremendous energy and grandiose sense of productivity that people experience during manic episodes can be beneficial for creativity. However, people often mistake the way they feel with the mania for a sudden surge of creative skill, when, in fact, their creativity never left them. With practice, a person can learn to be creative without manic episodes that risk their health and emotional well-being.
Creative people who have manic episodes are far more likely than the average person is to experience mood swings and depression. Their depressive symptoms can range from mild to severe and may last for months out of the year. Unlike when they are simply not manic, being depressed tends to dampen an individual’s creativity. What makes someone great creatively may lead to suicidal thoughts and impulses.
Some people fear that by treating their mania, they will lose their ability to be creative. However, someone in the throes of a manic episode is likely to have difficulty focusing; their thinking also may become more rapid and chaotic, making it hard to work creatively. Research shows that people with bipolar disorder are more creative when their symptoms are mild or absent rather than during a manic episode.
During a manic episode, a person may become irritable and more prone to disagreement. This can create tension in relationships. Alternatively, they may exhibit hypersexuality, pursuing opportunities for sexual intimacy either inside or outside of the relationship. Their reckless behavior (e.g., promiscuity, gambling, excessive drug use, overspending, etc.) can damage their relationships with their romantic partner, family, friends, and others.
Manic episodes typically involve elevated energy, accelerated thought processes, and an inability to sleep. The sense of euphoria, increased sociability, and impaired judgment can lead someone in a manic state to make poor decisions. People with manic partners find themselves doubting the feelings their partner expresses during a manic episode. Mania can also manifest as increased irritability that results in an individual being on-edge and treating others harshly. The elevated libido that frequently accompanies manic episodes can lead to risky sexual behavior with consequences that crop up later.
Since relationships with mania are at a higher risk for separation or divorce, couples best cope with bipolar disorder and manic episodes with the help of professional support that can intervene during more symptomatic periods. Partners often find comfort in confiding in parents who can encourage optimism during difficult times and offer practical assistance. Friends and children can also be sources of motivation and emotional resilience. Successful partners use healthy coping strategies, such as avoiding strong emotional reactions, practicing acceptance, and focusing on the positive. Maintaining routines and taking care of oneself is essential.
It can be hard to know what to do when a loved one shows signs of mania (or hypomania). Having a practical understanding of the challenges involved can help you and your loved one set realistic expectations for their behavior. When a loved one becomes manic, don’t take it personally. Try to avoid using patronizing or combative language. Just spend time with them and be as supportive as you can; if possible, encourage them to get some sleep. Share your concerns with your loved one, and encourage them to follow through reach out to a professional for help.