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10 'Red Flags' That Let People Know Mania Is Coming

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When you live with a mental illness, it can be helpful (and even essential) to notice warning signs that let you know your mood is about to shift, for better or worse. While this is generally good advice for anyone, it is particularly true for people with bipolar disorder and any other mental illness that includes shifts into episodes of mania.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Episodes of mania can include risky or dangerous behavior a person otherwise wouldn’t engage it, so it’s important to recognize your own early signs — and meet them with self-care and self-compassion. With this in mind, we reached out to our mental health community and asked for “red flags” that let them know a manic episode is coming. While everyone’s warning signs will be different, we hope these will help you and your support network plan ahead when mania next makes itself known.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Having unusual motivation and energy.

“I get excited very easily. I get motivated at midnight for some cleaning.” — Audrey G.

“I get motivated for putting the closet in order in an obsessive way during the night.” — Marta L.

“I write and I write and I write and I write and I take a break to crochet then I write some more. If I’m shooting out pieces of writing and completing huge pieces of crochet without a break and in one day, then I know it’s about to get worse.” — Hannah G.

“I can tell when mine is coming because all I do is clean and organize, rearranging the whole house, and then I start to get panicked like if I stop I’m going to be judged because my house isn’t good enough. I’m not a dirty person, so when it happens, I run out of stuff to do.” — Ashley C.

2. Feeling paranoid.

“I think there are cameras watching me everywhere I go. My paranoia is at 100 percent.” — Karen V.

“Paranoia, paranoia and paranoia. It always starts with paranoia, about everything but especially thinking people are following me or trying to hurt me for whatever reason. I also stop sleeping, which leads to worse symptoms…” — Caleb S.

3. Needing less sleep but still having energy.

“Not being able to sleep and still feeling very rested and energetic in the morning. Once my body starts needing less sleep, I know it’s coming.” — Lieryn B.

Having a few hours sleep but being full of energy, very buzzed and feeling like I need to do everything at a fast pace. At the time, I don’t realize it’s because I’m leading to a hypomanic episode. I only realize it when it’s passed or if someone else points a symptom out.” — Courtney B.

“I start not sleeping or I get very little sleep. Full-blown mania is when I go 24 hours or more without any sleep. Usually, I average two to four hours in the days leading up to zero hours of sleep. It makes me really agitated and on edge.” — Moon N.

4. Juggling too many tasks.

“Overboard multitasking. I’ve always been good at multitasking but when I find myself getting to the point where I’m juggling five or more things all in the same hour, I have to start to worry.” — Lala M.

5. Having no filter or talking more than usual.

“My brain-mouth filter is absolutely gone. Any funny comment that I think of comes out, whether it’s a good idea or not. I don’t consider if it’s appropriate. I’ll say something and then think, oh, perhaps I shouldn’t have said that at work. Or ever.” — Ashley T.

“I often get mania with my personality disorder. I always know it’s coming on because I start talking a lot, like an excessive amount, and the filter between thinking and speaking doesn’t seem to exist at that point. I will basically say anything without thinking twice about it which is really, really embarrassing because most of the things I say when mania is starting to come on are things that are definitely not meant to be said.” — Caitlin T.

“I can’t stop talking and interrupting. I seem almost giddy and ramble on. My words are fast and I get flushed. I feel ‘buzzy’ in my head and out of breath. Sounds are irritating and more noticeable. My voice will become louder in order to compensate. I can’t sit still while talking, so usually, I rock from foot to foot. My thoughts are racing and my mouth has too much to say.” — Nicole L.

“I know mania is coming on when I can’t talk normally. My brain goes faster than my mouth so I get stuck in a feedback loop. I just stutter and repeat one word over and over until my brain reboots and I can say what I want to.” — Melissa W.

6. Spending too much money.

“I start spending more and more money, even when I don’t have it to spend. I may open up credit card accounts to enable my spending.” — Catherine C.

“Frivolous spending — when I feel an intense need to buy things I normally wouldn’t think twice about.” — Madelyn H.

7. Changing your appearance in a big way.

“This is totally weird (or maybe it isn’t) but I dye my hair. Not just any color though; it is always a deep burgundy, purplish red color. Always. I can dye my hair pink and purple and be totally stable, but as soon as that burgundy ends up in my hair, we know it’s happening. This is usually my very first sign of a manic episode, so if my family, friends, and I catch on quick and don’t play the “let’s wait and see game” (to see if I come down on my own) we can usually get it under control fairly quickly and easily.” — Megan D.

8. General bursts of energy.

“My manic episodes usually begin with a burst of energy. I often find myself bouncing up and down in my seat, laughing, for a decent majority of the day before a manic episode starts to get really bad.” — Kaitlin H.

“I get very, very restless. I can’t seem to sit still. I always have to be moving about or jiggling my body in some way. Being still becomes really physically uncomfortable.” — Caitlin T.

9. Needing human interaction.

“A sudden burst of confidence, and often overconfidence. I’m naturally very shy and reserved, but when I’m going through a manic episode I’ll switch into ‘popular girl’ mode and live life as if I were Rihanna, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé combined.” — Yoeli R.

“In the beginning, being inside my house makes me anxious. My skin crawls, knowing I’m going to be stuck inside all day. I crave human interaction when usually I’m fine without it.” — Jamilyn S.

“My social anxiety shifts. I go from feeling like hiding in a hut in the middle of nowhere to feeling like if I don’t show up to everything and talk to everyone, the world will forget I exist.” — Cheyenne L.

10. Feeling unusually irritable.

“I feel that a manic episode is about to come when I’m irritated by every little thing: the tick-tock of a clock, a child crying, a dog barking, people singing…” — Josue C.

“I know I’m in a manic episode when I’m extra irritable.” — Myta S.

What would you add?

Originally published: July 10, 2018
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