14 People Describe What It’s Really Like to Experience Mania


Increased energy, activity and restlessness. Extreme irritability. Racing thoughts. These are some of the symptoms of mania, the “high” side of bipolar disorder. But just because bipolar’s “low” can take the form of depression, doesn’t mean mania is simply the opposite. It doesn’t just mean “really happy” — and unless you’ve lived it, it’s hard to understand what it’s like.

So, we asked members of our Mighty community who live with bipolar disorder to describe what it’s really like to experience mania.

Here’s what they had to say:

1.A tornado. I’m whirling so fast I don’t realize what’s happened until it’s too late.” — Loretta Woods

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2. “Mania is the most intense experience. Everything is sped up. I walk fast, talk fast and don’t make much sense because the thoughts are racing through my brain so fast I can’t keep track of them. I can’t stop walking, talking, thinking, fidgeting. I call people night and day and talk for hours, all the while pacing around the house or the neighborhood. I don’t eat because I’m not hungry and I’m not physically capable of standing still long enough to make a sandwich.” — Becky O’Grady

3. “It’s like I’m looking at myself from the outside seeing myself lose control, but I’m not able to stop it. I know when I’m manic but can’t stop myself from being self-destructive.” — Laura Blair

4. “The analogy I usually give is that I’m driving a car but the gas pedal is stuck to the floor, and other people keep trying to grab at the steering wheel.” — Kitt Collins

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5. “It’s a dangerous bit of happiness.” — Sarah Dismuke Garcia

6. “It’s the best roller coaster you’ve ever been on, except it keeps getting more and more dangerous and scary and you can’t get off.” — Katie Pico-Conner

7. “When I’m manic I feel like I have superpowers. I have endless energy. I can see every single detail in everything I look at. I can hear each note by each instrument played in a song. I have confidence and the ability to do anything I want to. I cannot fail. I am afraid of nothing. I am superwoman, and it is euphoric. But then it starts going bad. The energy becomes uncomfortable, and I literally can’t stop moving. Sounds and sights become overwhelming, and I start experiencing things that aren’t really there. I become a danger because I can’t tell the difference between what’s safe and what isn’t.” — Paula Stauffer Bostrom

8. “Inside your head, it’s busy and chaotic. It’s standing in a room full of people talking loudly, while the person you’re actually trying to talk to is whispering. — Erin Howard

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9. “It’s like being on a carousel that won’t stop. Like drinking 10 cups of coffee and thinking every thought that comes into your head is the most fantastic idea anyone has ever had. Sometimes it’s as if I can’t do anything wrong, and sometimes it’s like I can’t do anything right, and neither can anyone else.” — Jenna Bagnini

10. “It’s like I have electricity running through me and like my skin and scalp are tingling. My thoughts go so fast sometimes I feel as though I’m moving in molasses and everything or everyone around me is in slow motion.” —  Brittany A. Torres

11. “It’s a roller coster without a harness. Hold real tight and hope for the best. It will end.” — JoJo Agnello

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12. “It’s not the antithesis to depression like many think. It’s not just happiness but a volatile amount of energy.” — Kristin George

13. “A lot of people don’t realize mania can manifest itself in several ways. One that is often overlooked is anger. Full force anger at the world and you can’t control it. No sleep. You feel like you should want to sleep, but you don’t. And we’re not talking about getting just a couple of hours here and there. This is wide awake, full of energy, but you can’t focus it. Your mind jumps from subject to subject. People around you aren’t sure what you are talking about because you start in the middle of a new subject.” — Nadine Hughes

14. “I feel like a robot whose wires are short circuiting.” — Mary Jo Chadwell

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*Some answers have been edited and shortened

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