Most symptoms of Manic Episodes appear to be positive
Manic-depression or Bipolar disorder is usually perceived on of two ways – a person who alternates between depression and euphoria – or a person who alternates between depression and craziness.
Often a person who is told that they are bipolar will identify one of those two states – and will object based on the fact that they have never been “euphoric“, and they have never been actually psychotic or “crazy”.
Bipolar disorder or Manic-Depression is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) – “the Bible” of psychiatric disorders – as “…clinical course that is characterized by the occurrence of one or more Manic Episodes…”
7 “points” retrieved from: DSM IV Criteria for Manic Episode – Food and Drug Administration
A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least one week. With three or more of:
1. Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
2. Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only three hours of sleep)
3. More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
4. Flight of ideas, or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
5. Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
6. Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
7. Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)
There is another specifier – “The symptoms do not meet criteria for a Mixed Episode” which is left out in a lot of thought processes.
One problem that is often encountered when diagnosing Bipolar disorder – or when trying to convince someone who has Bipolar disorder that they do, indeed have the illness – is that most of the “symptoms” of a Manic Episode appear to be “positive” or “happy.” If you examine the wording – it looks on the surface and is often described as periods of “Euphoria” or extreme happiness.
In truth, many people with Bipolar disorder don’t have periods of “euphoria,” they don’t have what is perceived as “inflated self-esteem or grandiosity“, and they don’t seek out “excessive involvement in pleasurable activities.” They may have “dysphoria,” they may believe that they have to do everything themselves, they may experience psychomotor agitation…they may be in a really active bad mood.
This is a state of “dysphoria.” It is also called a “mixed state” where the Manic Episode and the Depressive Episode occur at the same time. Features may include the racing thoughts, irritability, lack of sleep, psychomotor agitation of a Manic Episode but also include anhedonia or lack of enjoyment, inappropriate guilt, or suicidal thoughts which are symptoms of depression.
Unfortunately, this disconnects in presentation, and lack of awareness of mixed states (in both the patient and some professionals) often gives the bipolar patient an “easy out” in acceptance of the diagnosis.