Mental Health, Mental Illness in Marriage

How to Recognize a Manic or Hypomanic Episode + 9 Common Triggers

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A few days ago while talking with my husband, the subject of bipolar disorder came up, as it often does.  He asked me a few questions that I just couldn’t seem to find the answer to, as I figured he shouldn’t have had the need to ask.  After all, we’ve been married for twenty-five years!

Firstly, he asked me when I was diagnosed.  He admitted to being completely oblivious to the fact that I, like most women who get handed the joker card, (AKA bipolar disorder diagnosis),  was twenty-one years old when I was diagnosed. Later in the evening he then asked me, what my warning signs of mania and my triggers are. Of course, I was more than just a tad bit taken back that he even had to ask me, I figured after all this time, he already knew.  But, again, he had to admit being completely oblivious to my warning signs and triggers.

Although at first I felt a little hurt and perturbed by these questions, I’m grateful that my husband loves me enough to admit that he doesn’t know certain things about my mental health.  I’m grateful that he cares enough to want to know. And I’m blessed and grateful for the opportunity to really ponder these questions as it pushes me to dig deeper into myself and be more mindful of what my personal red flags and triggers are.  

While many of the warning signs below are classic tell-tale signs of impending manic doom, not all who live with bipolar disorder will experience these signs.  Persons living with bipolar disorder may exhibit signs that are not listed here and also experience triggers not listed.

If someone you know has or may have bipolar disorder, it is generally a good to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the condition. The truth is, everyone ought to be aware of the signs of hypomania and mania in case they should happen to see a friend, family member, or even a co-worker experiencing these symptoms.

Recognizing the symptoms of mania is not just merely academic. Symptoms of mania or even hypomania can be a medical emergency, just as symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, and bleeding profusely are.

It is not necessarily important to understand all of the signs and symptoms or even the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder. Instead, let us take a look at some of the more common and obvious signs that you may witness if in case you should have a friend or family member develop mania. Then, depending on the severity of the symptoms, you may want to suggest to your loved one that he or she calls his doctor, or perhaps call yourself for emergency medical assistance.

Symptoms of Mania or Hypomania

Here is a brief checklist of some of the most common behaviors associated with mania or hypomania—behaviors that you may likely easily observe—so you can recognize the need for help:

  • Unusually upbeat
  • Racing thoughts
  • Rapid or slurred speech
  • Excessive spending
  • Hostility or irritability
  • Increased energy
  • Elevated mood
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating,
  • Poor judgment
  • Hypersexuality
  • Flighty ideas
  • Grandiosity

In cases of mania, these symptoms are severe enough to cause significant problems in your day-to-day life.

For me, insomnia is a trigger as well as a warning sign.  Sleepless nights spent tossing and turning, staring and the ceiling as the millionth sheep goes by, or being wide awake at 3:00 a.m is a tell-tale sign that mania is fast approaching.

When I feel mania coming on, I feel so much anger, rage, and negative energy that I will obsessively clean and sanitize every square in of my house, or work out in full-on beast mode until I could collapse.

Now, let us explore nine common mania triggers:

  • Changes in Sleep Patterns or Lack of Sleep
  • Blowout Arguments With Partners, Coworkers, or Friends
  • The Stress of a Bad Breakup or Failed Marriage
  • Alcohol Abuse and Drug Intoxication, and the Aftereffects
  • Antidepressants, Corticosteroids, and Other Medication
  • Financial and Emotional Strains Due to a Job Loss
  • Seasonal Changes
  • The Death of a Loved One and Bereavement
  • A Visit From the Stork Along With Altered Sleep Patterns and Shifting Hormones

When to Seek Help

If your friend or loved one describes auditory or visual hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that is not there) or shows paranoid or other delusional behavior (believing something that isn’t real) contact his or her psychiatrist immediately. These are serious manic symptoms.

Hallucinations and delusions are psychotic symptoms, in contrast to neurotic symptoms like depression or anxiety, that indicate a separation from reality. Note that hallucinations and paranoid delusions are not present in hypomania.

If your friend or loved one has had a recent change in medications, or if she has stopped taking her medications and exhibits any of these symptoms, contact her prescribing doctor promptly.


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