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Why the Idea That Mania Is Always a Good Thing Is Wrong

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When most people think of the word “mania,” they think of it as a “high.” They think happy and tons of energy. They think of creativity and productiveness. However, mania isn’t always a good feeling. Sometimes, it’s worse than depression.

For a long time, the lows of my depression were what I struggled with the most. I rarely experienced mania, and when I did it was enjoyable or I didn’t notice it at all. It was hypomania. I felt it helped me with my writing and getting more things done. However, more recently I’ve been dealing with mania more often, and it’s not always good. It was triggered by returning to college, which meant a wildly irregular sleep schedule and the anxiety of classes and other responsibilities.

Some of my least favorite symptoms of mania include racing thoughts, loss of ability to concentrate, heightened senses, impulsiveness and restlessness.

Sometimes, my thoughts are going so fast I can’t keep up with them. I can’t remember how I got from one thought to the next, or I can’t make sense of my thoughts. Sometimes, I have so many ideas in my head that I don’t know how to process them. This is very overwhelming.

I tend to make a lot of plans and to-do lists which I won’t follow through on, either because I’ll get distracted and move on to something else or because depression comes before I can finish the task. The distractedness affects everything I do. It can be difficult to pay attention when I’m reading. When I watch a TV show or movie, I have to do something else at the same time. I will often write, draw or go on my phone while watching a show.

Heightened senses can be difficult when you’re in a room full of people, because everything seems louder and brighter than usual. Every little noise is magnified. I notice this the most when I walk around campus at night and I hear every little sound — every leaf blowing across the ground, every person’s footsteps and every animal moving in the bushes.  Sometimes, I even become paranoid someone is following me.

I can’t sit still. It’s nice to have energy, but it’s hard when you can’t stop moving. It’s hard to sit in a class, and when I’m not in class, I often pace around and think about all the things I want to get done. However, it’s hard to finish doing anything.

In some cases, people also experience delusions or hallucinations which can be extremely unsettling. It is scary to not know the difference between reality and what’s going on in your head. Delusions can include the idea someone is “out to get you.” Hallucinations can be auditory or visual.

All of these things can happen to people experiencing mania.  Mania isn’t always the wonderful high many people think it is. It can be a horrible experience. So next time you think, “it must be nice to need less sleep and be able to get more done,” remember that many other negative symptoms come with the decreased need for sleep.

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Getty Images photo via lovell35

Originally published: December 27, 2017
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