Know the Difference Between Mania and Maniac

Let's not confuse bipolar mania With maniacs

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While the words mania, manic and maniac do all have the same root, the Greek word mania, meaning "madness," equating a manic episode with a maniac is not accurate or fair.

One common perception of a maniac is of a crazed person who commits acts of extreme violence. Because of this association with insanity, and because bipolar disorder used to be called "manic depression," people may be afraid of those with bipolar disorder, even when it's someone they've known for years.

Symptoms of a Manic Episode

If you're experiencing a period of elevated mood accompanied by other symptoms of bipolar mania, you may be diagnosed as having a manic episode. Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling extremely energetic to the point of feeling "high"
  • Risk-taking behavior, such as shopping sprees or unprotected sex
  • Fast and/or excessive talking
  • Difficulty relaxing or sleeping because of the perpetual energy, resulting in feeling like you don't need as much sleep
  • Feeling keyed up and/or restless
  • Being irritable and/or cranky
  • Being more active than normal and trying to do many things at once
  • In some cases, delusions, paranoia, and/or hallucinations

A Sample Case of a Manic Episode

Larry was a young man who had become hyperenergetic, needing only three or four hours of sleep a night to be full of energy the next day. He seemed to be feeling exhilarated all the time. His friends and family weren't particularly worried at this point, but when he started running up thousands of dollars on all his credit cards, buying expensive clothing, furniture he didn't have room for and knickknacks that were not to his normal taste at all, they were worried and tried unsuccessfully to reason with him.

When Larry started jumping from topic to unrelated topic while talking and confided to his family that he was really the King of Somalia and was making plans to take over that country, a couple of them took him to the emergency room, where a manic episode was diagnosed based on his family members' reports and his own behavior.

Manic Doesn't Mean Maniac

Experiencing bipolar mania does not automatically mean that a person will be violent or dangerous. Yes, this can happen. A particular cluster of symptoms might make a person a reckless and dangerous driver, for instance. The delusions and hostility associated with one type of bipolar disorder could cause someone to write threatening letters or publish lies about another person on the Internet. Hallucinations and/or delusions could lead someone to jump off a roof, start a fire or attack another person. It depends not only on which symptoms are present, but also on what form they take.

Indeed, studies have found that people with severe mental illnesses are actually twice as likely to be victims of violence than the general population.

The fact is that the vast majority of people who experience mania never cause physical harm to anyone. On the other hand, manic symptoms can, and all too often do, lead to financial hardship, wrecked relationships, job loss and other events that can have disastrous long-term effects. Mania needs to be treated to minimize potentially devastating consequences.


"Bipolar Disorder." National Institute of Mental Health (2016).