Bipolar Disorder

Coping With Mania: Treatments for Bipolar Disorder and Related Symptoms

June 26, 2020

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Bipolar disorder can bring about a variety of symptoms, and it is specifically associated with periods of extreme “highs” and “lows.” These highs, referred to as mania, are characterized by abnormal levels of energy and elevated mood. However, though they do not seem inherently negative in nature, manic episodes can actually cause a lot of serious issues in a person’s life, across many aspects such as work and relationships. Mania can be accompanied by a broad range of symptoms, but there are treatments out there that can help. 

What is Mania and What Does it Mean to Have a Manic Episode?

Manic episodes are different for everyone, but often have similar symptoms

It is safe to say that many people experience changes to their energy level or mood throughout the day, and this is most likely a normal part of our daily routine. However, manic episodes are considered to be abnormal changes in these aspects. When a person experiences mania, their thought patterns and behavior are drastically different than normal, and the episode can last for weeks or even months at a time. These major changes in behavior can result in serious problems across many aspects of a person’s life. 

Though mania presents differently across different people, there are some common symptoms that characterize a manic episode. Some of these symptoms include feeling: euphoric, invincible, impulsive, easily distracted, and detached from reality. People who experience mania sometimes have complicated feelings toward it. On one hand, people who have creative tendencies have found that this state of mind allows them to create or accomplish new projects. However, being that manic episodes often lead to risky behavior, it is common for people to engage in unhealthy behaviors like drug use or excessive gambling. 

A man stands on top of a hill with his arms spread out, appearing to be feeling euphoric and in a positive mood.
Mania is not necessarily the exact same in every person who experiences it, but it tends to be characterized by some common symptoms. Being that a manic episode results in behavior and thoughts very different from normal, a person who experiences one may find it to have both positive and negative consequences.

How Do Manic Episodes Factor into Bipolar Disorder?

Mania is one of the major components of bipolar disorder 

Bipolar disorder causes a person to experience extremely high and extremely low moods. These periods of highs and lows are termed mania and depression, respectively. There are two types of bipolar disorders, bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorder, and mania is more specifically associated with bipolar 1 disorder. The major difference between the two is that a person with bipolar 1 disorder does experience full manic episodes, whereas a person with bipolar 2 disorder experiences hypomania, which is considered less severe of a change in mood and energy. 

It is the severity and frequency of the episodes of mood changes that helps a healthcare provider determine which type of bipolar disorder a person has. In bipolar 1 disorder, it is not uncommon for a person to have a major depressive episode either before or after a manic episode. For a clinical diagnosis, the manic episode must last at least a week, unless it results in hospitalization. 

A woman is clenching her hands over her head, appearing to be distressed and upset.
Mania characterizes bipolar 1 disorder specifically, by factoring into the cycle of highs and lows that a person experiences. A person with bipolar 1 disorder experiences extremely high mood and energy levels for at least a week, with a major depressive episode occurring either before or after.

What Are the Treatments for Mania?

It can be hard to recognize when you are experiencing mania, but there are various treatment options that can help

Whereas some people can start to recognize when they are heading into a manic episode, others may have a difficult time with this. It is also possible for a person to be in denial about how severe their symptoms really are, or how many serious problems they may be causing. Due to issues of awareness, treatment may be most beneficial if a person does some planning ahead of time to be ready for when a manic episode occurs. Here are some tips for preparing to cope with a manic episode:

  • Talking to your healthcare team. If you are experiencing manic episodes it is important to reach out to your mental health provider to discuss a plan moving forward. If you are at all able to recognize the onset of a manic episode, it is important to call your psychiatrist or counselor and attempt to discuss the symptoms you are having. A family member or friend who has an awareness of your illness may be able to assist with this.
  • Avoiding triggers. Alcohol and drugs, specifically substances that alter your mood, can potentially trigger a manic episode. Maintaining a balance in your emotions is important, and doing your best to avoid mood-altering substances can play a part in this. 
  • Medications. Acute episodes of mania can be treated with antipsychotic medications, which are prescribed by your healthcare provider. For more long-term treatment, mood-stabilizers are used to help prevent future manic episodes. 
  • Maintaining a regular routine. Having a regular schedule for sleeping and eating is another important part of living with bipolar disorder. When it comes to diet, avoiding substances that might alter energy or mood such as sugar and caffeine is helpful in creating emotional stability. Sleeping regularly also helps to either avoid or reduce the severity of manic and depressive episodes. 

What About Bipolar Depression, and How Do We Treat It?

Related symptoms such as bipolar depression also greatly affect a person’s life, but there are treatments for this too

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder results in major mood swings that can be extremely difficult to deal with. We have already discussed the manic episodes that are associated with this disorder, and what types of treatment options there are for the symptoms that accompany them. The depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder, however, also factor into the serious problems that occur across a person’s life, and they need to be addressed as well. These episodes look a lot like those that accompany major depressive disorder, with symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, loss of energy, and possible suicidal ideations. Traditional treatment for bipolar disorder often involves a combination of medications, but the side effects can be hard to tolerate. 

However, more recent research has shown that Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) may be capable of treating bipolar disorder and its associated symptoms. With minimal side effects, TMS shows promise as a groundbreaking treatment for bipolar disorder. TMS is a non-invasive treatment that alleviates symptoms via electrical stimulation of certain areas in the brain. In this way, it helps to “rewire” the neural pathways that contribute to the symptoms experienced with a particular disorder. 

TMS is starting to become a more popular treatment for a variety of mental health and neurological issues, as it has proved to be a great alternative treatment for patients experiencing treatment-resistant conditions such as anxiety and depression. As previously mentioned, the biggest issue with traditional treatments for bipolar disorder is the fact that a lot of side effects tend to occur with balancing different prescription medications for different issues. With TMS, the burden of side effects is minimized while patients can still experience successful treatment of their symptoms. 

A man sits on a bridge looking out at a mountain landscape. He appears to be tranquil and in a peaceful state.
It is hard to be at peace with bipolar depression treatment when a variety of side effects accompany it. There is hope that an alternative treatment, TMS, can both lessen the burden of side effects and successfully treat the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. With its success in treating anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other disorders, TMS may prove to be a very beneficial treatment for bipolar disorder.

The mania and depression that bipolar disorder causes in a person’s life can be debilitating and difficult to manage. With extreme increases and decreases from typical mood and energy levels, a person dealing with bipolar disorder finds themselves in periods of highs and lows. Luckily, there are ways that these episodes can be dealt with in terms of mania treatments and treatments for bipolar depression. 

Treatment plans can be arranged in order to cope with the onset of a manic episode, and there is even hope for an alternative treatment for bipolar disorder that has minimal side effects. As we look further into TMS as a treatment for bipolar disorder, there is hope that patients who are struggling may find more benefits and a better quality of life through this treatment.

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