Mania is not always Euphoric
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"Mania" is not always euphoric -- absolutely right

Q: I am a 27 year old BIPOLAR first diagnosed with the illness at the age of 23. I personally know three other persons suffering with the same affliction. What seems to boggle my mind is that none of them express the same severe symptoms as I. When I go into a state of acute mania my mind is like a tornado. Signals from my brain are so confused that I can not command my feet to move. I stand there like a frightened child extremely discombobulated, pupils dialated and lost in a deep dark cave. I can not comprehend simple words or select food from a menu. The word potato is foreign to me. The last Manic episode that occured was in April of 2000. I went six long days without ANY sleep, my body was trembling and I felt as if an electrical current was being sent through me continuously. I was put back on Lithium and it took several months for me to stabilize. Personally I prefer E.C.T. because the Lithium can not relieve 100% of the symptoms. I once was on 1,800mg. of Lithium and was not responding very well so my psychiatrist suggested E.C.T. After a day or two of researching it I told lets do it. After the E.C.T. I was stable and almost completely unmedicated for one full year until the DEMON reared its head again in April 0f 2000. Basically what my inquiry is about is why does most of the information on symptoms of the illness always describe hypomania with feelings of euphoria, rapid pressured speech, elated moods etc. failing to include the severe symptoms of mania which is without a doubt "insanity". To me the symptoms of hypomania are much more tolerable than the full blown mania. Believe me I know I have experienced both. In my opinion the symptoms of mania are sugar coated and due not express the severity of the illness. Perhaps I am an exception and suffer worse than the average bipolar.
It is unfortunate that you do not respond to any of your e-mails personally because I would like to pry your brain a little more on this issue. I do not feel I can truly convey the extent of my concern in a few lines on an inanimate object. Although I would truly appreciate your response in whatever form you deem neccesssary.
Thank You and Happy Holidays!!
Sylvia 

Dear Sylvia --
You're absolutely right.  The public's general understanding of mania as euphoric is very unfortunate.  The severity of the symptoms is hard to understand, if that's how people see it.  You'll like this description from Dr. Kay Jamison, whom you probably know has bipolar disorder herself, as well as being one of the lead researchers/writers about it:

"The clinical reality of manic-depressive illness is far more lethal and infinitely more complex than the current psychiatric nomenclature, bipolar disorder, would suggest. Cycles of fluctuating moods and energy levels serve as a background to constantly changing thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. The illness encompasses the extremes of human experience. Thinking can range from florid psychosis, or "madness," to patterns of unusually clear, fast and creative associations, to retardation so profound that no meaningful mental activity can occur. Behavior can be frenzied, expansive, bizarre, and seductive, or it can be seclusive, sluggish, and dangerously suicidal. Moods may swing erratically between euphoria and despair or irritability and desperation. The rapid oscillations and combinations of such extremes result in an intricately textured clinical picture."

Dr. Phelps


Published December, 2000

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