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What Is a Manic Episode?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A manic episode is a psychological event in which the mood is significantly elevated or irritable, normally for a period of at least one week. During this period, the individual undergoing the manic episode is likely to feel as though her mind has been sped up or “heightened,” and she may experience racing thoughts, a reduced need for sleep, intense feelings of focus on a goal, excessive talkativeness, and exaggerated feelings of self-esteem. She may also engage in risky activities such as gambling or taking drugs, or may display psychotic behaviors, necessitating hospitalization to prevent harm to herself or others. Manic episodes are usually part of a mood disorder, particularly bipolar disorder.

During a manic episode, an individual experiences a heightened sense of mood which typically lasts for at least one week. Specifically, she may feel excessively irritable, or may be suddenly consumed by the desire to achieve a particular goal which may be related to her work or creative interests. Some of the most common symptoms of a manic episode are racing thoughts, unusual talkativeness and rapid speech, an increased sense of self-importance, and a perceived reduced need for sleep. Unlike milder forms of mania, a true manic episode usually disrupts an individual’s sense of the external world.

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In some cases, an individual in the midst of a manic episode may engage in risky activities without a sense of the consequences that might result from these behaviors. For example, the individual may engage in gambling, illegal drug use, sexual promiscuity, or reckless spending. After coming out of an episode, the individual may find that her high-risk behaviors have interfered with her personal relationships or her job, or even resulted in legal prosecution.

Due in part to the reduced need for sleep common to manic episodes, an individual experiencing an episode may after several days begin to exhibit signs of psychosis, such as hallucinations or delusions. This aspect of a manic episode can be quite frightening for the individual as well as those around her. She may require hospitalization to ensure she does not harm herself or her loved ones.

The exact causes of manic episodes are not yet fully understood. In many cases, however, a manic episode is a symptom of a larger mood disorder, particularly bipolar disorder. More rarely, manic episodes may be triggered by certain medications and therapies used in the treatment of depression.

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