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Understanding the Signs of Manic Depression

written by: EmilyRose • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 3/14/2011

Understanding the signs of manic depression, or bipolar disorder, is the first step towards effectively managing and treating this mental illness. The signs of manic depression are both physical and psychological. They include signs of depression, mania, hypomania and a mixed state.

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    Manic depression, now called bipolar disorder, is a serious and chronic mental illness that involves alternating periods of depression and intense highs called mania. Bipolar disorder is divided into bipolar I and bipolar II. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, to be diagnosed with bipolar I an individual must have at least one manic episode. To be diagnosed with bipolar II, an individual must have alternating periods of depression and hypomania. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania and does not necessarily impair social or occupational functioning. Individuals with manic depression may also exhibit signs of a mixed episode, in which symptoms of mania and depression exist simultaneously.

    Fortunately, manic depression can often be effectively treated through talk therapy, a healthy lifestyle, and medication in serious cases. One of the most effective ways of managing manic depression is recognizing the signs of a relapse. There are a number of signs of manic depression. Individuals may exhibit signs of mania, depression, or both. Signs may be psychological and/or physical. Some signs, like suicide ideation, are serious and require immediate medical attention. Understanding the signs of manic depression, or bipolar disorder, requires diligence and careful monitoring. Some signs may not be immediately apparent, both to the individual and the people around them. Some individuals may consciously or unconsciously hide the signs associated with the disorder, or lack awareness into their disorder.

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    Signs of Depression

    • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
    • Loss of interest in daily activities and hobbies. Apathy and indifference may occur with activities that before gave the individual pleasure.
    • Sleep may be increased or decreased. In some cases, individuals may develop insolmnia.
    • Feelings of fatigue and loss of energy. This may exist despite receiving an adequate amount of sleep.
    • Desire to withdrawal or isolate from others. This may result from feelings of inadequacy and a lack of self confidence.
    • Feeling overwhelmed by simple activities. It may be an effort to get out of bed, for example, or complete household chores.
    • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Individuals may be indecisive and unable to focus on any one thing for a length of time.
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    Signs of Mania and Hypomania

    • Inflated self-esteem and self worth.
    • Irritability and agitation.
    • Psychological impairment and disinhibition. Judgment may be significantly or noticeably impaired. Individuals may engage in impulsive or reckless behavior that is out of character, such as gambling and promiscuity.
    • Increased creativity and productivity. Individuals may overestimate their capabilities and take on too much responsibility.
    • Increased energy and decreased need for sleep.
    • Increased happiness, cheerfulness and optimism.
    • Increased extraversion.
    • Racing thoughts and increased talkativeness.
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    Signs of a Mixed Episode

    A mixed episode occurs when depression, mania or hypomanic signs exist simultaneously for a period of at least one week. It is also known as dysphoric mania or agitated depression. This state is relatively uncommon, but can occur in individuals with manic depression. An example of a mixed episode is an individual who is feeling hopeless and upset while also feeling anxious and agitated.

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    Signs that Require Immediate Medical Assistance

    Seek medical assistance immediately if you or someone you know exhibits one or more of the following:

    • Suicide ideation or intent. Most individuals communicate to others their suicidal intent before attempting to commit suicide. Always take threats seriously no matter how offhand or flippant the threat sounds. Comments like "life doesn't seem worth it" or "I'm sick of it all" should not be ignored. If in doubt, ask the individual if they are thinking about committing suicide. If you are thinking about committing suicide, reach out to a loved one or call a crisis line immediately.
    • Extreme behavior that puts the individual or others at risk. In extreme cases of mania, individuals are significantly impaired. They may believe they are immune from harm, for example, and engage in dangerous and illegal activities like reckless driving and substance abuse.
    • Threats of harming self or others. Individuals may engage in self-harm or make threats against others. These can be serious and should not be ignored.

    NB: The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.

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    Sources

    Mood Disorders - http://www.mcgill.ca/mentalhealth/depression/

    Knowingbipolardisorder.com: http://knowingbipolardisorder.com/2010/11/high-energy-level-of-mania-and-hypomania-symptoms/

    Psychiatric Disorders - http://allpsych.com/disorders/mood/index.html

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    Sample contents.