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Manic Depressive Symptoms and Living as a Manic Depressive

Manic depressive disorder explained.  Includes manic depressive symptoms and what it’s like living with manic depressive disorder.

Manic depressive disorder, now known as bipolar disorder, is a mental illness characterized by cycling high and low moods. A cycling mood disorder has been written about as a clear mental illness since early Chinese authors and was described by the encyclopedist Gao Lian in the late 16th century. German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin developed the term "manic depressive psychosis" in the early 20th century.1 This term made the most sense at the time as the illness has episodes of mania and episodes of depression.

Manic Depressive Disorder Symptoms

Manic depressive disorder was defined in the mid-20th century as cycling periods of mania, depression and normal functioning. Around 1957, the term "bipolar" was first used and subclassifications of the illness began to appear combining these states:

  • Mania – a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal and/or energy levels. For a diagnosis of bipolar mania, this state must last for at least seven days and severely impact a person's functioning, often to the point of landing them in the hospital. May include psychosis.
  • Hypomania – a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal and/or energy levels. These are present to a lesser extent than seen in mania, last for at least four days and impact the manic depressive's functioning not as drastically. Does not include psychosis.
  • Depression – a state of abnormally low mood, arousal and/or energy levels. Present for at least two weeks and drastically impairs the manic depressive's ability to function. May include psychosis.

Manic depressive illness is sometimes still preferred, particularly over bipolar type 1, as it indicates the constantly changing mood present in the illness. Bipolar type 2 consists of periods of depression and hypomania, rather than mania.

What is it Like to be Manic Depressive?

Manic depressive disorder symptoms can dramatically impair a person's ability to function in day-to-day life. Where once there were average periods of happiness and sadness common through life, there now is mania and depression for the manic depressive. Mania and depression are greatly exaggerated states from the normal and, by definition, severely impact the manic depressive's life.

A Manic Depressive During Mania

During a manic state, life may appear to be perfect to a manic depressive. The patient feels like they are on top of the world, can talk to god or perhaps even have godlike powers themselves. The manic depressive feels no need to sleep or eat and never gets tired. The patient feels brilliant and talks non-stop in a steady stream of ever-changing ideas. The patient may get very irritated when others don't see their brilliance or agree with their delusional beliefs. A manic depressive may even become paranoid and psychotic and think they are being communicated to through inanimate objects. This manic state spirals out of control often leading to drinking, gambling and sex binges and puts the manic depressive and those around them in danger as the patient engages in risky behavior like driving while intoxicated or believing they can fly. (More on alcohol abuse, substance abuse, sex abuse and other types of addictions here.)

(Learn more about Bipolar Mania.)

A Manic Depressive During Depression

Life in a depressive state is almost exactly the opposite. Manic depressive symptoms include heavy sadness, constant crying, worrying, guilt and shame. A patient may not want to get out of bed and may sleep for most of the day. The manic depressive looses all ability to feel pleasure, retreats from life and those around them. The depression may include psychosis where the manic depressive believes people are out to get him or her and they may cease leaving their house entirely.

(Learn about Bipolar Depression.)

Results of Being a Manic Depressive

Either mania or depression can impact a manic depressive life to the point where they lose their job, friends and even family. Because the patient is often no longer able to take care of themselves, they can't take care of others either and may lose custody of their children. In very severe cases of manic depressive disorder the patient may be hospitalized due to the concern that they may harm themselves or others. The manic depressive may even commit suicide.

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next: Effects of Bipolar Disorder
~ all articles on manic depression
~ all articles on bipolar depression

Last Updated: 12 April 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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