Paul goes to the beach with his friends. On the way to the beach he is extremely talkative and cheery. He brags about how he does not need to sleep anymore because he has so much energy. He is full of new and brilliant ideas and doesn’t understand why his friends can’t see how smart he really is. He’s invincible! He feels great! Why is everyone around him so slow these days?
As the day goes by he demands more and more attention and when his friends don’t listen he screams at them to be quiet. His friends think he’s weird but they are also getting worried.
The following week Paul is invited to go to the beach again. But this time, he can’t even get out of bed. He has no interest in seeing his friends – or anyone for that matter. Everything feels dull and black. Did he ever have a good day? Why can’t he just snap out of it? Nothing cheers him up and he feels as if nothing ever could again. How was it possible to feel such emotional extremes? Does anybody else ever feel this way…
Yes! There are many other people who feel this way. This mental illness is present in about 1% of the population. Medication is often much more necessary for successful treatment than with other disorders.
- Dramatic mood swings, causing the person to experience states of mania (highs), and depression (lows). These swings can impact the person’s ability to function at work, school or in relationships.
- Mania: lots of energy, undertakes many activities, bursts of creativity, functions on very little sleep. These feelings can increase to an extreme continuous elevated mood, during which the individuals self-esteem may be exaggerated, or may be accompanied by irritability, pressured speech (going from one topic to another very quickly), or the person may be distractible. It is possible that they may not notice anything is wrong, and may even enjoy the feelings associated with being in a state of mania.
- As mania diminishes, the individual may become disorganized, hyper sexualized, engage in extreme overspending, and/or become irritable. They may stay in this period for as long as 3 months, and then cycle into a period of major depression.
- Delusions: they may be convinced they will “win the jackpot”, gambling can be out of control; religious delusions (an agent of God).
- An individual may have a mix of mania/depression at the same time.
- In severe cases (as in Type I Bipolar Disorder) the person may experience psychosis (a state of being out of touch with reality), such as hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not there), or delusions (believing things that are not true).
A milder and less impairing form of mania. During a hypomanic episode, the person may have an elevated mood, reporting that they feel better than usual and may be more productive. Hypomania however can rarely be maintained and is often followed by an increased high (mania) or a crash (depression).
Symptoms of depression are often intense, persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and frustration. Sometimes this is accompanied by feelings of guilt and worthlessness, anger and irritability. Changes may occur in the person’s appetite or weight, and they may have difficulty sleeping. Thinking may slow down, and the person may have trouble concentrating, and making decisions. At extreme levels, depression can also cause psychosis (hallucinations or delusions). Suicide becomes a risk. Contrary to popular belief, depression is not something that someone can “snap out of.” It can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to function in relationships, work, school and even day to day tasks.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
The person has manic episodes and almost always experiences a depression at some stage. The person may also experience psychosis (out of touch with reality, including hallucinations and delusions).
The individual experiences hypomanic and depressive episodes (not full blown mania). This can be harder to recognize, because hypomania may go unnoticed if the person copes well and avoids getting into trouble, while remaining productive.
Individuals who rapid cycle, have at least 4 episodes per year of any combination of manic, hypomanic or depressive episodes. Rapid cycling can be caused or worsened by anti-depressants.
Mania and depression occur at the same time or alternate frequently throughout the day. As a result of this combination of highs and lows, this state presents the greatest risk for suicide.
A milder form of bipolar disorder, where cycles of hypomania and depression are shorter and less intense. Episodes often last for days rather than weeks.
Bipolar Disorder Mania Early Warning Signs
In order to prevent complete mania, it helps to know your own early warning signs (or those of your loved one). The following are some examples of early warning signs for some people:
Insomnia, surges of energy, flight of ideas, writing pressure, sleeping much less, others seem slow, speech pressure, making lots of plans, irritability, spending too much money, unnecessary phone calls, wanting to keep moving, increased appetite, euphoria, feeling superior, increased creativity, over ambition, taking on too much responsibility, nervous and wound up, anxious, overly self-involved, negativism, feeling unreal, more sensitive than usual, out of touch with reality, inappropriate behavior, poor judgement, oblivious, increased alcohol consumption, dangerous driving, increased community involvement, tingly feeling, friends notice behavior change, inappropriate anger, money loses its value, difficulty staying still, restlessness, compulsive eating, feeling great, feeling very important, obsessions, unusual bursts of enthusiasm, very productive, doing several things at once, inability to concentrate, outbursts of temper, disorganization.
“I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!” By Dr. Xavier Amador. Dr. Amador explains how lack of awareness can be a symptom of psychosis. This book describes the LEAP approach (Listen, Empathize, Agree & Partner). Dr. Amador explains how to use this technique to communicate with your loved one who may be lacking awareness, and how to help them seek help despite.
Mental Health Estrie offers support groups for family and friends who have a loved one coping with mental illness. For more information, click here.
Mental Health Estrie offers support groups for individuals coping with a lived experience of mental illness. For more information, click here.