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What is Manic Depression?

Sun What is Manic Depression

What Is Manic Depression?

If you’re one of the 2.8% of Americans living with bipolar disorder or manic depression, everyday life can be a difficult task. Bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic depressive disorder, is characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels that can severely affect a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Because everybody’s individual brain chemistry is different, bipolar disorder can manifest itself in a number of different ways. Some people experience more of the depressive symptoms of the disorder while others may experience more of the manic symptoms. It is even possible for someone with bipolar disorder to experience both manic and depressive symptoms at the same time.

No matter which end of the bipolar spectrum symptoms manifest themselves, they can cause severely obtrusive issues in a person’s daily life.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is actually a set of mood disorders that share some common signs and symptoms. They are defined by periods of intense and extreme mood disturbances. These periods are more commonly referred to as bipolar “episodes.” Bipolar can affect every aspect of a person’s life include their thoughts, moods, and behaviors.

Bipolar disorder can be separated into two distinct subsets: bipolar I and bipolar II.

The main unifying factor in these two types of bipolar is that they are marked by certain cyclical disturbances in mood and behavior. In other words, there are patterns to look out for when determining whether someone may be suffering from bipolar disorder.

We’ve outlined some of the distinct characteristics of the different types of bipolar disorder below:

Bipolar I Disorder

This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by manic or mixed episodes that last at least one week. The term “mixed episode” refers to episodes in which the person experiences both manic and depressive symptoms in tandem.

The person may also experience manic episodes that are so severe that they require hospitalization.

Manic episodes are typically characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Increased energy
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of euphoria or extreme happiness
  • Risky or impulsive behavior
  • Insomnia and difficulty sleeping

The typical symptoms of a bipolar I manic episode tend to be very easy to identify because they affect every aspect of a person’s life and behaviors.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is characterized more by the depressive symptoms of bipolar rather than the manic symptoms. This subset of bipolar involves a major depressive episode that lasts at least two weeks. Along with this, the person must have exhibited at least one hypomanic episode.

“Hypomanic” episodes are characterized by many of the same symptoms as manic episodes but are not quite as severe. People who suffer from bipolar II typically don’t experience manic episodes that are intrusive enough to require hospitalization.

Often times, bipolar II is misdiagnosed as clinical depression because depressive symptoms are typically the major issue that people face at the time they are seeking medical attention.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression

We’ve outlined above that bipolar I disorder causes severe mania and may have some depressive aspects as well, while bipolar II disorder is marked by hypomania and depression. Let’s dig a little deeper into what these symptoms actually mean.


Episodes of mania are more than just feelings of elevated mood, high energy, and inability to concentrate. During one of these episodes, the symptoms of mania are so intense that they may affect the person’s abilities to carry on their day-to-day activities. It is very difficult to steer someone experiencing a manic episode toward a calmer, more reasonable state, and it often requires hospitalization.

Someone who is experiencing the manic phase of bipolar disorder may make very irrational or impulsive decisions. This can include maxing out credit cards or buying things that they can’t afford. This may also affect relationships and lead to issues such as infidelity.

An episode cannot be officially diagnosed as manic if it is induced by outside substances or influences such as alcohol, drugs, or another health condition.


As mentioned above, hypomania is an episode marked by less severe symptoms of mania than a full-blown manic episode. Although the symptoms are less severe, someone undergoing a hypomanic episode will exhibit behavior that can be wildly different from their normal behavior.

The differences may be extreme enough for the people close to you to realize that something is wrong. Much like full manic episodes, hypomania cannot be officially labeled as such if it was induced by drugs or alcohol.


The depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder can be intense and affect every aspect of a person’s life. They can be nearly identical to symptoms shown by a person who suffers from clinical depression. This can make it extremely difficult for mental health professionals to diagnose correctly.

Depressive symptoms may include extended periods of sadness and hopelessness. The person may also lose interest in things or activities that they once enjoyed.

Other symptoms of depression may include

  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Short temper
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Thoughts of suicide

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Scientists and mental health professionals have not figured out exactly what causes bipolar disorder. It is believed that physical abnormalities in the brain and the imbalance of brain chemicals are what cause the symptoms of bipolar to manifest.

As with many mental health conditions, the likelihood of developing bipolar disorder may be hereditary. If you have a parent or sibling that suffers from the disorder, the likelihood of you experiencing it at some point in your life is increased. Scientists continue to search for which genes may be responsible for the disorder.

Researchers also believe that bipolar disorder may be triggered by drug and alcohol use as well as severely traumatic experiences.

How Is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?

Bipolar disorder should only be diagnosed by a mental health professional. The diagnosis process typically involves a review of both your medical history and any symptoms that you’re experiencing that may be related to mania and depression. Mental health professionals are trained in the right questions to ask.

It can be extremely helpful during the diagnostic process to have a partner or family member with you during the visit with the doctor. They may be able to help provide insight into behaviors that only an outsider may be able to identify.

By reading this article, you’re already educating yourself on symptoms to look for. If you feel as though you may be experiencing symptoms of bipolar I or bipolar II, you can always start by consulting your general practitioner. They can typically point you in the right direction of a trusted mental health professional.

Your doctor may also have blood work done as part of the diagnostic process. While there are no chemical markers in the blood to identify bipolar disorder, it can help you rule out possible other causes of similar symptoms.

Treating Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression

As with many mental disorders, bipolar disorder is treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

Mood stabilizers are often the first medication that is prescribed in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Lithium has been the leading mood stabilizer for many years, and while it has shown to be effective it may have several potential side effects. These side effects include low thyroid function, joint pain and stiffness, and problems with digestion. Frequent blood tests are also required for patients that are prescribed lithium in order to monitor therapeutic levels of the drug and ensure healthy kidney function.

Patients are typically prescribed a low dose of whatever medication is deemed appropriate in order to see how your body and symptoms respond. You may end up needing to take a stronger dose than what is initially prescribed. It’s also common to need a combination of different medications in order to control your symptoms.

All medications can have potential side effects and dangerous interactions with other drugs. If you’re pregnant or are prescribed other medications, be sure to disclose this with your doctor.

Many mental healthcare professionals also advocate keeping a diary during the treatment process. Keeping track of your moods, sleeping and eating patterns, and significant life events can help you and your doctor figure out what treatments are most effective.

If your symptoms don’t change—or even get worse—your doctor may suggest a change in medication or approach to therapy. Everyone is different and it’s all about figuring out what approach will work for you.

If you’re feeling like you could benefit from talking with a mental health professional, SUN Behavioral is here to provide some of the most quality mental health services in Delaware.

Health and Outlook After Treatment

Bipolar disorder and manic depression aren’t curable, but with proper support and treatment, the symptoms can certainly be managed. The goal is to deny bipolar disorder from determining the course of your life.

It’s important that you follow the plan that you develop with your doctor. It is also important to make positive lifestyle choices regarding your

  • Alcohol/drug use
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Sleep
  • Stress reduction techniques

It is also extremely helpful to include your friends and family in your treatment. The better they understand your condition, the easier it is for them to help you manage it.

Education is also key. Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. The more knowledge you have about the condition, the more in control you may feel during your life after diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder and manic depression are complex conditions that may raise many questions. Because of this, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions:

  • What are the symptoms of a manic depressive personality?

Someone who suffers from manic episodes may exhibit the following symptoms: increased energy, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, feelings of extreme happiness, risky or impulsive behavior, and changes in sleep patterns. Depressive symptoms may include: fatigue or tiredness, irritability or short temper, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, changes in eating habits, and thoughts of suicide.

  • Are manic depressive and bipolar the same thing?

Bipolar disorder was formerly known as “manic depressive.” The term “bipolar” was first introduced in 1980 in an effort to include symptoms such as hypomania and exclude some others while attempting to destroy the stigma around the disorder.

  • What does it mean to be manic depressive?

Bipolar disorder is a serious brain disorder in which a person experiences extreme variances in thinking, mood, and behavior. Bipolar disorder is also sometimes called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. People who have bipolar disorder commonly go through periods of depression or mania. They may also experience frequent shifts in mood.

  • What is manic behavior?

Manic behavior is more than just feelings of elevated mood, high energy, and inability to concentrate. During one of these episodes, the symptoms of mania are so intense that they may affect the person’s abilities to carry on their day-to-day activities. These symptoms may include unusual talkativeness, being abnormally upbeat or wired, increased energy, an exaggerated sense of confidence, and a decreased need for sleep.

SUN Behavioral Delaware Is Here To Help

As one of the country’s most comprehensive behavioral health organizations, SUN works to make life better and create positive outcomes for anyone dealing with mental health issues. Our psychiatrists and Master’s-level therapists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There is no single cure for the complex emotional issues at the heart of mental health disorders, but we’ll help uncover and resolve the often longstanding psychological issues that can affect mood, attitudes, and behaviors.

SUN combines an experienced and knowledgeable staff with industry-leading best practices giving every patient a path to recovery and wellness. Call us today at 302-604-5600 to speak with one of our compassionate mental health professionals.

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