Managing Manic Episodes
Manic episodes are a key characteristic of bipolar disorder, a mental health disorder which causes the sufferer to experience extreme lows (depression) and highs (mania). There are two types of bipolar disorder and the frequency and severity of manic episodes help doctors to determine which type you suffer from.
You are said to have Bipolar 1 if you have a minimum of one manic episode with or without an episode of major depression before or after it. You may also have hypomanic episodes, which aren’t as severe as mania.
You are diagnosed with Bipolar 2 if you have an episode of major depression lasting for a minimum of 2 weeks then a hypomanic episode lasting a minimum of 4 days.
Here, we take a look at this condition, what is meant by mania and how best to handle it.
Mania – An Overview
Manic episodes are one of the symptoms linked with bipolar 1 disorder. During manic episodes, sufferers experience these symptoms:
- Persistent irritability
- Abnormally elevated moods
- Feeling unusually energetic
When someone is going through a manic episode, their behavior is extremely different from that which is considered to be normal. Some people have a naturally more energetic mood than others, however those who are manic have abnormal energy levels, are very irritable and may have goal-directed behavior. Other manic symptoms include:
- Feelings of inflated self-importance and self-esteem
- Being unusually talkative
- Having racing thoughts
- Easily becoming distracted
- Risky behavior like spending a lot of money or having unsafe sex
Mania may cause sufferers to develop psychosis, and to lose touch with reality. It’s important to never take a manic episode lightly. It can affect the sufferer’s ability to behave normally in social settings and to perform to their usual standard in school or work. In some cases, somebody having a manic episode will need to be hospitalized to prevent them from hurting themselves.
How To Cope With A Manic Episode
Different people experience mania in different ways. While some know they are going to have a manic episode, others deny that they are experiencing serious symptoms. Once you are in the middle of a manic episode, you probably will be unable to recognize that you are having one. Therefore, the best way of coping with manic episodes is forward planning and preparation. Here are a few steps to put in place.
Contacting A Medical Professional
If you’re experiencing manic episodes, you must contact a doctor or other medical professional. If you feel that a manic episode is about to develop, you must contact a mental health professional quickly to talk about your symptoms. A family member or friend who knows about and understands your condition can help you to get the support you need.
Doctors usually treat episodes of mania with antipsychotic medications. These reduce the manic symptoms in an acute episode. However, in the long-term, mood stabilizers are the best option for preventing future episodes of mania.
Manic episodes can be triggered by a number of things including illegal drugs, prescription mood-altering medications or alcohol. They can also prevent your swift recovery from a manic episode. If you avoid all these triggers, your emotional well-being can stay balanced and your recovery from acute episodes will be easier.
Adhere To A Regular Sleeping And Eating Schedule
If you have bipolar disorder it’s very important to have structure within your daily life. You should make sure you eat a healthy diet, avoiding sugary food and caffeine which could impact on your moods. Getting sufficient good quality, regular sleep also helps you to avoid depressive or manic episodes. It may also reduce the seriousness of episodes which do occur.
Be Careful With Money
One key symptom of mania is spending excessively. It’s possible to handle this by making it harder to access finances. You can keep sufficient cash at home to allow you to maintain your daily life at home, but avoid having extra cash available and easy to access. Keeping credit cards in a place which is difficult to access is also a helpful step to take. Lots of people who suffer from manic episodes with spending sprees give their cards to a family member or trusted friend for protection while others simply avoid applying for a credit card completely.
Establish Daily Reminders
You should make sure that you set reminders on your computer or smartphone to remind you to go to bed and wake up at regular times and to take your medication at the proper intervals.
The Recovery Period After Manic Episodes
During the period of recovery after a manic episode, you need to regain more control over your schedule and lifestyle. If you have learned anything new from the episode like a new trigger, you can discuss it with your doctor and family members. You should also begin to re-establish a sleeping, exercising and eating schedule at this time.
Guarding Against Manic Episodes
After you’ve suffered an episode of mania, you may gain an insight into triggers which could cause an episode to begin. Some common triggers of manic episodes include:
- Taking illegal drugs
- Drinking alcohol
- Not getting enough sleep
- Spending time with other people who are unhealthy influences
- Stopping your regular exercise program or diet
- Skipping your medications
- Not attending your therapy sessions
If you can stick to a clear routine, your manic episodes can reduce although preventing them completely will not be possible.
Helping A Loved One With Bipolar Disorder
If your friend or a family member suffers from bipolar disorder, you can take certain steps to prepare properly for episodes of mania. Although it can be difficult to cope with a manic loved one, it’s possible to help them to come safely through the episode and out the other side if you follow these top tips.
Create A Recovery Action Plan
While your loved one is well and not going through a manic episode, you can work with them to draw up an action plan for their recovery. This helps you to make any important decisions in a crisis and to contact the essential people who can help. In the plan, you should list key telephone numbers of friends, family members, and healthcare providers as well as numbers for local crisis helplines.
The sufferer’s address and telephone number should be listed in the plan along with known triggers for manic episodes and any medications currently being taken. The plan may also include more personal details such as who within the family will be responsible for handling certain aspects of a manic episode such as who will feed the pets or pay the bills.
It may also be advisable to create a Psychiatric Advance Directive too. This is a legal document which appoints a specified person, such as a trusted friend or family member, to act on the sufferer’s behalf if they are going through a serious depressive or manic episode. This can ensure that their wishes will be carried out in the event of a crisis.
Practising For A Manic Episode
Often, family members and friends can benefit from holding a drill to prepare for future manic episodes. This is, effectively, a simulation in which everything is acted out as if a manic episode is occurring. It gives the opportunity to practice who would be called and what would be done. This helps to pinpoint anything which is missing from the plan so it can be added in.
Using The Right Language And Approach
When someone is going through a manic episode, it’s important to use appropriate language and to avoid taking a combative or patronizing tone. This is something that family members often find very difficult. They tend to say things like “just relax and calm down”. While this may sound positive, it’s very unhelpful and can lead the sufferer to feel powerless and more angry.
Family members often find that they struggle to cope with a manic loved one because they take their behavior personally. When their loved one seems to push them away or behave irritably with them, it’s hard to let it go without feeling resentful and offended. However, this makes it difficult to get over the episode and move on. It’s important to remember that your loved one doesn’t really mean the things that they say and do – they simply cannot control themselves during a manic episode. It’s best to simply give your loved one some space so they can calm down at their own pace.
Be Protective And Supportive
One of the most important things that family members can do to support their bipolar loved one is to protect them when they are going through a manic episode. When someone is going through mania, they behave in erratic ways and may make very bad decisions which can severely impact on their life in the long term. If your loved one is tempted to engage in risky behaviors or to take detrimental actions that could affect their future or health, it’s important to offer the right level of help, support and protection to make sure that nothing bad happens.
Protecting your loved one financially is particularly important. Taking away credit and debit cards and preventing access to cash during a manic episode is a good way to ensure that your loved one won’t end up in a lot of debt which causes serious future problems. Taking away their passwords, smartphone or laptop may also be beneficial since some people with bipolar disorder end up posting potentially dangerous things on social media or shopping online. Of course, this is something which should be discussed with your loved one before a manic episode occurs so that they will be aware of what will happen, why it needs to happen and that it is all part of a package of care.
Get Medical Help For Your Loved One
Sometimes, it’s important to call your loved one’s psychiatrist or doctor to get more medical help. Usually, someone going through a manic episode doesn’t realize what is happening and may not think they need to see a doctor, so making an appointment on their behalf and making sure they get to it is important.
You should also make sure to remind them to take their medication and to make sure that they take all of the right meds at the right time. This will help to reduce the severity of any manic episodes and will make sure that future episodes can be reduced.
Be Patient, Prepared And Supportive
Above all, it’s important to remember that a depressive episode will probably follow an episode of mania, so you need to be prepared for your loved one to suddenly hit a low period afterwards. Although it’s difficult to cope with a loved one who has such an unpredictable mental health condition, it’s important to recognize that they cannot help their behavior. Showing understanding and support, even when times are tough, is one of the best ways to help a loved one with bipolar disorder so that they can eventually come through the crisis and out the other side as quickly and safely as possible.
Coping With Manic Episodes – It Needn’t Be An Insurmountable Challenge
When a loved one goes through a manic episode, it can be difficult for family members and friends to handle their behavior. They may say and do things which are uncharacteristic for them, and they may behave in a manner which is inappropriate or even dangerous.
By following the steps outlined above, you’ll have a better idea of how to help someone who is living with bipolar disorder and you’ll be well placed to make sure that they get the help and support that they need, whether they are going through an episode of mania or depression.
With the right medical help and the unconditional support and love of friends and family, bipolar disorder sufferers can stay safe and protected from harm even when they are hitting the highs and lows which are a key feature of their medical condition.