Sometimes mania seems like the ugly stepchild of the bipolar duo of mania and depression. Depression seems to get all the hype, all the attention. And mania sits in a corner like Baby from Dirty Dancing.
But if any of you have seen a loved one (or you yourself) have experienced a manic episode, then you know mania is not some passive, quiet, meek stepchild.
I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for eight years now. I’ve experienced multiple episodes of mania and depression in that time. And for me, the mania is much, much worse. Hands down. I’ve experienced every symptom of mania: lack of impulse control, spending sprees, hypersexuality, racing thoughts, insomnia, creativity and productivity, and grandiosity. The mania feels good but it is not good for me. The worst is the spending. In the eight years of being diagnosed, I have charged around $30,000 to my credit cards. I’m still paying it off.
As you can imagine, the lack of impulse control, spending sprees, and hypersexuality can wreak havoc on a person’s life.
Well, how can you support your loved one? Here are some concrete questions you can ask and tasks you can do.
Ask how they’re eating. Manic people often don’t eat or eat less than they normally would. They find themselves too distracted by their racing thoughts or the world around them to eat. So spend time with your loved one, preferably over a meal. Good questions to ask would be: Did you eat today? How often? Do you want to go eat with me now?
Ask about their sleep hygiene. Lack of sleep is a huge trigger for mania; not getting enough sleep can induce a manic episode. The mania can produce a state of heightened productivity. Manic people feel a decreased need to sleep as it interferes with all the productive plans they have in their heads. Some manic people sleep as little as two hours per night or not at all. Good questions to ask would be: Did you sleep at all? How many hours did you get? Have you considered an over-the-counter sleep aid like Melatonin? Or should you see your doctor so he or she can prescribe a sleep aid?
Help them manage their emotions. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder, when not stable, often oscillate between the two poles of depression and mania; hence, the term bipolar. Often, mania can lead to euphoria just as easily as it can lead to irritability or hypersensitivity. Good questions to ask would be: How are you feeling? Are you irritable, excitable, distractible, elated? What can you do to manage the range of emotions you are experiencing? Have you tried deep breathing to re-center yourself and calm down all the feels?
Ask about their impulsivity. The lack of impulse control can sometimes lead to disastrous results. Such as quitting a job, having an affair, taking a lavish vacation, or spending excessive amounts of money. Good questions to ask would be: How much money have you spent? Can I have your credit card? Are you engaging in safe sex?
Make sure they engage in self-care. Coping skills are crucial during both times of crisis and times of stability. To quell the mania, it is important that your loved one still attend to him or herself. Good questions to ask would be: What self-care are you engaging in? Are you exercising to use up some of that manic energy? Are you meditating to slow down your racing thoughts? Did you remember to groom (bathe, brush teeth, wash hair, put on clean clothes, etc.)?
What tips would you add to the list above? Feel free to add them in the comments below!