A young female sits at her desk. She is having a manic episode and is using tips to cope.

5 Tips for How to Cope With a Manic Episode

5 min.

When left untreated, manic episodes can impact school, relationships, and future success. Learn how to manage mania and improve daily functioning here.

By: Alex Bachert, MPH

Clinically Reviewed By: Dr. Don Gasparini

October 17, 2023

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Table of Contents

How to cope with a manic episode

Mania is a state of mind characterized by an abnormally elevated, expansive, or irritable mood for at least one week. It’s most often associated with bipolar disorder but can also occur with other mental illnesses such as schizoaffective disorder. Mania looks a little different for each person, but some obvious signs and symptoms of a manic episode include increased talkativeness, rapid speech, racing thoughts, distractibility, and impulsivity. 

Mania causes unusually high levels of mental and physical energy and can interfere with everything from school to relationships to future success. During manic episodes, people are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as promiscuity, skipping school, or spending too much money. They may also become more aggressive, agitated, or irritable — leading to physical or verbal conflicts with others.

Knowing all of this, you may wonder how to help yourself or others during future manic episodes. It’s not always easy to recognize when you’re experiencing a manic episode, so planning ahead is one of the best ways to effectively manage symptoms. Below, we list five considerations for coping with manic episodes. 

1. Follow a routine  

A healthy routine starts with a consistent sleep schedule. If you have bipolar I disorder, research shows sleep deprivation may increase your risk of manic episodes, so consider going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. A healthy routine should also include a balanced diet to increase energy, mood, and mental clarity. This can be difficult, especially during manic episodes, so try meal-prepping or carrying healthy snacks so it’s easy to eat throughout the day.

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2. Practice self-care 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, self-care means prioritizing things that help you live well and improve your mental and physical well-being. Self-care offers your mind and body an opportunity to rest and replenish and provides a strong foundation for coping with stressful life events, including mania.

In addition to quality sleep and a healthy diet, other self-care practices that can prepare people to better cope with manic episodes include:

  • Mediation and mindfulness
  • Physical activity
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Activities that bring you joy, such as painting, gardening, or dancing 
  • Avoiding harmful or addictive habits, such as alcohol, caffeine, or smoking 

3. Recognize your triggers

Learning how to spot triggers and warning signs can empower people to manage their mania. If you’ve already been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or have a history of manic episodes, you may already know how to recognize symptoms. For example, maybe you stay up all night, drive faster than usual, or start skipping your medication. 

If you’re not sure how to spot warning signs of manic episodes, consider starting a mood journal to help you identify patterns. By documenting how you feel on a daily basis, you’re in a better position to notice changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits, or other risky behaviors. You can also track your medication to see if you may benefit from adjusting the dose. 

4. Build a support system

“Maintaining social connections and avoiding isolation is of utmost importance for people with bipolar disorder,” said Charlie Health’s Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer, Caroline Fenkel, DSW, LCSW, who has bipolar disorder.

People with a support system are better prepared to navigate the highs of mania. Even something as simple as having a daily touchpoint with a loved one can help youth to better cope with the mental and physical effects of manic episodes. 

Joining a support group is another way to feel more connected and less isolated. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer various resources, including peer support groups and support groups for family members, to help youth share their experiences with mania and learn useful tips for coping with manic episodes. 

5. Seek professional mental health support 

If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or any other mental illness, you might already be working with a team of therapists, psychiatrists, or other mental health professionals. And if you’re not, this is a good reminder that there are resources available to help you treat your unique mental health needs.

Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, can help teens and young adults understand their mental illness, recognize the warning signs of a manic episode, and develop coping skills for handling stress and overcoming symptoms. Medication may also be used to manage manic episodes, so it’s best to work with a mental health professional to create an effective treatment plan. 

A young male is seeking mental health support to help cope with a manic episode.

How to spot a manic episode 

Symptoms of mania are typically severe enough to impact a person’s daily functioning and may even require hospitalization. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the clinical manual used to diagnose mental health conditions, a manic episode requires at least three of the following behavior changes:

  • Inflated self-esteem, self-confidence, or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep (for example, feeling rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
  • More talkative than usual or feeling pressure to keep talking
  • Racing thoughts or quickly-changing ideas
  • Easily distracted or unable to pay attention to anything for long periods of time
  • Doing too many activities at once
  • Excessive involvement in activities that can have harmful consequences (for example, shopping sprees or risky sexual behaviors)

Is mania different than hypomania?

Manic episodes

Hypomanic episodes

    • Last for at least one week

    • Significantly impact school, work, or social functioning

    • May lead to hospitalization

    • Defining feature of bipolar I disorder

  • Last at least four consecutive days
  • Don’t significantly impact school, work, or social functioning
  • Typically don’t lead to hospitalization
  • Associated with bipolar II disorder

Mania and hypomania are both characterized by sudden mood swings, but hypomania is considered to be a less severe form of mania. While manic episodes are a defining feature of bipolar I disorder, hypomanic episodes are associated with bipolar II disorder.

Bipolar I is characterized by at least one manic episode that may or may not be followed by a major depressive episode. With bipolar II, people experience a major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks, followed by at least one hypomanic episode.

Other differences between mania and hypomania include: 

  • Length: Manic episodes last for at least one week, while hypomania is defined as at least four consecutive days.
  • Severity: Only manic episodes are considered severe enough to significantly impact school, work, or social functioning.
  • Hospitalization: Manic episodes may lead to hospitalization, while hypomania doesn’t normally require hospitalization.

Manage manic episodes with Charlie Health

Navigating manic episodes can feel overwhelming without adequate resources and support. If you think that you or someone you know is struggling with bipolar disorder or other mental illness, Charlie Health is here to help.

Charlie Health offers personalized mental health treatment for teens, young adults, and families. Our virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) combines individual therapy, group sessions, family therapy, and access to psychiatric support (if needed) to create a personalized treatment plan for every client. Whether you’re seeking services for the first time or are looking for additional resources to help you manage your health, Charlie Heath’s team of compassionate mental health professionals is here to provide care. 

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