What is Manic Behavior?

Erin J. Hill

Manic behavior, or mania, is a term used to describe the “up” portion of manic depression, also called bipolar disorder. People in this state are generally unusually happy, even when not appropriate. They often experience elevated energy levels and some may even require little or no sleep at all during this time. Mania is also hallmarked by patients exhibiting uncharacteristic behavior, such as increased risk taking, aggression, or violent mood swings. This is often followed by a period of severe depression.

Lithium is often used to treat the manic episodes that accompany bipolar I disorder.
Lithium is often used to treat the manic episodes that accompany bipolar I disorder.

Although manic behavior is generally associated with bipolar disorder, periods of mania may occur without being followed by a period of deep depression. Some patients with bipolar may have more problems with the manic episodes than with depression, with some patients rarely having a depressive episode at all. Medications are generally given to stabilize mood and calm patients down. Some patients do not like giving up the manic behavior because they may feel happy or giddy during this time, and unhappy at any other time.

Manic behavior may be followed by a period of depression.
Manic behavior may be followed by a period of depression.

Despite the often positive feelings patients may experience during a period of manic behavior, it is still a serious problem and should be treated as such. During these episodes, patients often engage in risky or promiscuous behavior, thus impacting their personal relationships and careers. Poor management of money, gambling, and high risk sexual behavior are all common in patients suffering from mania. They often view themselves as invincible. When something inevitably goes wrong due to irresponsible behavior, this can lead to a steep decline into depression.

The most common medicinal treatment for manic behavior is the drug lithium, which has proven effective at ending a manic episode and preventing new ones from occurring. Treatment is generally most effective when combined with psychotherapy with a trained mental health professional. When depression is also an issue, additional medications may be needed, such as an antidepressant. This can create difficulties in some patients because many medicines used to treat depression can lead to manic behavior. Rarely, an antidepressant medication may lead to mania in someone who does not have bipolar disorder.

Manic depression does not have a cure, but it can be controlled with proper treatment. Many patients are able to lead productive lives once a diagnosis is made and treatment has begun. In some severe cases, patients may have to be hospitalized and undergo more extreme evaluation and treatment. This is becoming less common as researchers learn more about bipolar disorder and effective ways of treating it.

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