Depression vs Manic Episodes: a recipe for disaster

Depression and manic episodes are two very different things. Depression is characterized by low mood, low energy, and low motivation. Mania, on the other hand, is the polar opposite, with high energy, high mood, and high motivation.

If you suffer from depression, you may be all too familiar with the low, dark feelings that can make life seem unbearable. But when depression turns into mania, it can feel like you’re on top of the world – and it can be just as dangerous.

Unlike the common belief that manic episodes are only present in the bipolar disorder, manic episodes can also be triggered by depression, albeit often at a lower intensity or shorter period of time. This cycle can be very damaging, as it can lead to high hopes and promises that are not fulfilled once the depression sets in again.

If you are struggling with depression and manic episodes, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. They can help you understand your condition and develop a treatment plan that will work for you.

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So, how do these two work together?

Depression is a mental disorder that shows a persistent low mood and loss of interest in activities, while mania brings you into a period of abnormally high energy levels and mood. They tend to take turns, but depression can last for months or even a year or more without seeing a manic episode. Mania will only last a few days to a week before it runs out.

pictured: a sad mask and a happy mask

In manic episodes, you might be less hungry and have trouble sleeping, be much more talkative and have racing thoughts, or a “flight of ideas.” You may also have trouble concentrating…

Wait a minute, That sounds a lot like ADHD, actually.

So, bouts of uncontrolled ADHD. Which means, if you have ADHD, you may have some ADHD tricks that will work for a manic episode. For example, the concept of “following the dopamine” is very present in an attention disorder, and my theory is that it may apply to mania.

In that sense, what you do to bring yourself back from following the dopamine is probably a good start for handling your mania.

The dangers of depression + manic episodes combo

  • Returning to a depressive state after a manic episode makes the depression feel so much worse
  • Whatever was done, said or purchased during your manic episode cannot be undone: you may have hurt some feelings, have consequences to your actions, or a lot more debt than you had before
  • Some people may have seen your manic episode and believe wrongly that you’re all better, leading to confusion down the line. Those who are less believing of depression would be a lot more perplex after seeing a manic episode (aka: ignorance)

Mania is an extreme mood state that can be part of bipolar disorder. When you’re in a manic episode, you may feel like you can do anything and everything. You may be more talkative than usual, full of energy, and impulsive. You may take risks that you wouldn’t normally take, like spending too much money or engaging in risky sexual behavior.

When the high of mania wears off, you may feel depressed, exhausted, and confused. You may also have difficulty concentrating and making decisions. In worse cases, you may even forget the entire manic episode, or big parts of it.

pictured: woman crying into a piece of clothing or bedsheet, very muted colors to show depression.
When depression hits, it hits hard.

Living with Depression and manic episodes: my story

I have lived with depression for most of my life. It’s something that I have come to accept as a part of who I am. However, there are times when the depression lifts and I experience what is known as a manic episode.

It always feels nice to start a manic episode. Feeling good, euphoric, even, and ready to take on just about anything! And it’s not always bad; I once spent 3 days coming up with a great project concept that I put up on Kickstarter and funded. I had no choice but to keep going once that project was put on Kickstarter!

But most of the time, I just end up getting myself in some shitty situations. While a manic episode can be a brief respite from the low mood of depression, it is often followed by an even deeper period of depression. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.

If you are living with depression, it is important to be aware of the potential for manic episodes. While mania offers a brief respite from the low mood of depression, it usually ultimately make things worse.

How to manage Depression and manic episodes

Some of the tricks that have helped me so far:

  • (Online)Putting my wants in the shop cart and leaving it there for a few days. Lots of places even offer discounts for abandoned carts, so it’s a double win! Either I lose interest, or I get a discount.
  • Once I notice the mania, I try to focus the energy on cleaning my home and things that have been waiting.
  • I always speak with my partner about my shopping ideas. Not that he can or even would try to stop me, but his reaction can often tell me if my idea is over the top. Having an outside point of view really helps.
  • It took time for me to discern my manic episodes, but now that I do, I can base my responses to questions and invitations on how I would in my depressed state. I manage expectations and make very few promises.
  • Spontaneous outings are okay, if it’s the same day, but if I go somewhere I make sure to have a budget in mind. Then, I move any extra money in an account I have no card for. You could also clear that amount on a credit card but leave the debit card at home.
  • While I make use of my manic episodes for cleaning and other physical tasks, I make sure not to overdo it, as I could easily get a chronic pain flare.

All of these, I do in both my depressed and manic phases so that they become habits. That way, I don’t have to “trigger” new habits while manic, which would probably not be very successful.

On that note

Depression and mania are two very different states of mind, and it is both interesting and very fricking weird to have the two coexist. I won’t lie, sometimes I catch myself wishing I had more manic episodes just to have the energy to do things… It would be useful for these moments where you need a boost of energy for a big task and your depressed state doesn’t even know where to start.

All in all, though, I would happily get rid of both depression and mania so I could just have some mental health! But I hear they’re out of stock…

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