Navigating Manic Depression: Insights & Therapies

Manic depression is a mood disorder described as episodes of extreme, elevated energy levels called mania and of emotional sadness or hopelessness called depression. This condition significantly increases the risk of suicide among those with it. People suffering from manic depression are supervised closely by a psychiatrist who can prescribe medications to help stabilize these mood swings. In most cases, this condition is incurable and requires lifelong treatment.

Also Know As…

Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and Manic Depression are all labels used to describe the same problem formally referred to as Manic-Depressive Disorder. The disease can affect different people in different ways, but it is more common in females. The term “manic depression” is broad and encompasses several mental illnesses. Among these mood disorders, the most common is bipolar disorder, which is a severe medical illness marked by extreme cycling between mania and depression.

Some Symptoms

The manic phase of bipolar disorder — which can also be called bipolar I or severe bipolar disorder — is characterized by periods of intense energy and an inflated self-esteem. A person in a manic episode might feel extremely powerful, like a king or queen (hence the “manic” name), and might also engage in risky activities like excessive gambling. People with bipolar disorder who are in this state also tend to sleep very little, ignore their obligations, and have racing thoughts, making it hard to concentrate on anything else besides their exciting fantasies.

They can have trouble sleeping as well. At the other end of the spectrum, people with bipolar disorder in the depressive phase — or severe depression — tend to sleep too much, often for days on end. They may feel sluggish or hopeless, and they may not be able to get out of bed for days at a time. Bipolar disorder can also include psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions (especially during manic phases)

If you have bipolar disorder, you know that it is both a daily struggle and an intensely personal experience. Your loved ones also likely experience a type of bipolar disorder by proxy. Worse, healthcare community members often have difficulty understanding the illness. Treatments for bipolar disorder vary depending on the severity of each person.

What Causes Manic Depression?

Mania, depression, and all the other symptoms of bipolar disorder have an actual physical cause. The real question is why it happens in the first place.

Treatment for manic depression is generally taken care of by medicinal or chemical means. Medication and therapy can get the person to a level where their symptoms are significantly reduced, which may be enough to allow them to function normally in society. However, the root cause of manic depression is usually never treated.

Since the root cause of bipolar disorder is not addressed by either chemical or psychological therapy, it is essential to understand what causes manic depression before going any further in understanding how to manage it. There are multiple reasons why someone may experience manic episodes, but most of them can be traced back to chemical imbalances in the brain. 

The underlying cause for most chemical imbalances in the brain has been linked to gene expression. This means that there are specific genes that you possess that can make you vulnerable to various mental disorders, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and even alcoholism in some cases.

 The medical community still has no consensus on what exactly causes this mental condition, but they have several theories:

Toxicology

One theory that many in the medical field subscribe to is that toxicology (poisons) may be a cause of bipolar disorder. It’s believed that neurotoxins may be a trigger for this mental illness. Neurotoxins are poisonous chemicals living organisms produce to protect themselves from predators or other dangers. Consuming neurotoxins can harm our central nervous system and the cells in our body. This can lead to long-term damage and a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Lack of vitamins and minerals

Other medical professionals feel that a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals may cause bipolar disorder (also called manic depression). They think that if someone’s diet isn’t healthy enough, they could lack one or more nutrients needed for a normal brain and central nervous system.

Infection & trauma

Another possible cause of bipolar disorder includes infections and trauma to the brain. Many doctors and researchers feel that infections such as meningitis or encephalitis can trigger an episode in those who have bipolar disorder.

Treatments for Manic Depression

Treatment for manic depression includes behavioral therapy and medications. Stabilizing moods with medication may be the priority, as it can be challenging to make a patient receptive to psychotherapy amid a manic episode.

Treatments for manic depression vary greatly depending on the severity of the symptoms. In some cases, home remedies may be all that a person with bipolar disorder needs to get through an episode. If home remedies are not enough, there are several treatment options available.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy teaches patients ways to cope with their illness. It is most effective when used as a supplement to other treatments rather than as a primary form of treatment for manic depression.

Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation is one form of behavioral therapy that teaches patients about the disease and how to manage it effectively. The idea behind psychoeducation is that if patients have an understanding of their illness, they will be able to make healthier choices while coping with mania or depression. Patients learn how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect their level of depression or mania, and they learn self-monitoring techniques that allow them to recognize early signs of an impending mood swing and take steps to avoid triggers before they spiral out of control.

Light therapy

During this treatment, you sit in front of a special light box that emits full-spectrum lighting. The exposure to light appears to help regulate circadian rhythms, which are responsible for sleep patterns and other bodily functions that may be disrupted during mania. Studies show that some patients who receive light therapy three times a week experience a remission of their symptoms within four weeks.

Exercise

Moderate exercise can increase serotonin levels, which helps to control mood swings associated with mania and depression. A study published in the “Journal of Psychosomatic Research” found that people who exercised three times a week experienced significant improvements in their symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder compared to those who didn’t exercise at all.

Diet adjustment

A strict diet isn’t necessary, but some experts recommend avoiding caffeine and sugar because they can trigger hypoglycemia, which worsens manic episodes.

Medications

Psychiatrists often prescribe antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or tricyclic medications, to treat depression symptoms. Antidepressants usually take several weeks before patients feel their mood-elevating effects, although some medications may have quicker effects. Antidepressants typically are used in combination with psychotherapy to speed recovery from depressive symptoms.

The term manic depression and the disorders associated with it (bipolar disorder) can be debilitating for those who have it. However, it is a treatable disease, and there are many ways you can help yourself to ensure that you are getting the proper care to manage it properly. When you’re in treatment for MD, be sure also to address any other mental or emotional conditions that may contribute to your overall well-being. Treating the whole of your situation instead of just a few symptoms will improve your chances of living a healthy, comfortable life.