Manic Episode

Manic Episode

Episode Features

A Manic Episode is defined by a distinct period during which there is an abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood. This period of abnormal mood must last at least 1 week (or less if hospitalization is required) (Criterion A). The mood disturbance must be accompanied by at least three additional symptoms from a list that includes inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, pressure of speech, flight of ideas, distractibility, increased involvement in goal-directed activities or psychomotor agitation, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities with a high potential for painful consequences. If the mood is irritable (rather than elevated or expansive), at least four of the above symptoms must be present (Criterion B).

The symptoms do not meet criteria for a Mixed Episode, which is characterized by the symptoms of both a Manic Episode and a Major Depressive Episode occurring nearly every day for at least a 1-week period (Criterion C). The disturbance must be sufficiently severe to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning or to require hospitalization, or it is characterized by the presence of psychotic features (Criterion D). The episode must not be due to the direct physiological effects of a drug of abuse, a medication, other somatic treatments for depression (e.g., electroconvulsive therapy or light therapy), or toxin exposure. The episode must also not be due to the direct physiological effects of a general medical condition (e.g., multiple sclerosis, brain tumor) (Criterion E).

The elevated mood of a Manic Episode may be described as euphoric, unusually good, cheerful, or high. Although the person's mood may initially have an infectious quality for the uninvolved observer, it is recognized as excessive by those who know the person well. The expansive quality of the mood is characterized by unceasing and indiscriminate enthusiasm for interpersonal, sexual, or occupational interactions.

For example, the person may spontaneously start extensive conversations with strangers in public places, or a salesperson may telephone strangers at home in the early morning hours to initiate sales. Although elevated mood is considered the prototypical symptom, the predominant mood disturbance may be irritability, particularly when the person's wishes are thwarted. Lability of mood (e.g., the alternation between euphoria and irritability) is frequently seen.

Inflated self-esteem is typically present, ranging from uncritical self-confidence to marked grandiosity, and may reach delusional proportions (Criterion B1). Individuals may give advice on matters about which they have no special knowledge (e.g., how to run the United Nations). Despite lack of any particular experience or talent, the individual may embark on writing a novel or composing a symphony or seek publicity for some impractical invention. Grandiose delusions are common (e.g., having a special relationship to God or to some public figure from the political, religious, or entertainment world).

Almost invariably, there is a decreased need for sleep (Criterion B2). The person usually awakens several hours earlier than usual, feeling full of energy. When the sleep disturbance is severe, the person may go for days without sleep and yet not feel tired.



    A common and serious mental disorder characterized by loss of contact with reality (psychosis), hallucinations (false perceptions), delusions (false beliefs), abnormal thinking

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    Manic speech is typically pressured, loud, rapid, and difficult to interrupt (Criterion B3). Individuals may talk nonstop, sometimes for hours on end, and without regard for others' wishes to communicate. Speech is sometimes characterized by joking, punning, and amusing irrelevancies. The individual may become theatrical, with dramatic mannerisms and singing. Sounds rather than meaningful conceptual relationships may govern word choice (i.e., clanging). If the person's mood is more irritable than expansive, speech may be marked by complaints, hostile comments, or angry tirades.

    The individual's thoughts may race, often at a rate faster than can be articulated (Criterion B4). Some individuals with Manic Episodes report that this experience resembles watching two or three television programs simultaneously. Frequently there is flight of ideas evidenced by a nearly continuous flow of accelerated speech, with abrupt changes from one topic to another. For example, while talking about a potential business deal to sell computers, a salesperson may shift to discussing in minute detail the history of the computer chip, the industrial revolution, or applied mathematics. When flight of ideas is severe, speech may become disorganized and incoherent.

    Distractibility (Criterion B5) is evidenced by an inability to screen out irrelevant external stimuli (e.g., the interviewer's tie, background noises or conversations, or furnishings in the room). There may be a reduced ability to differentiate between thoughts that are germane to the topic and thoughts that are only slightly relevant or clearly irrelevant.

    The increase in goal-directed activity often involves excessive planning of, and excessive participation in, multiple activities (e.g., sexual, occupational, political, religious) (Criterion B6). Increased sexual drive, fantasies, and behavior are often present. The person may simultaneously take on multiple new business ventures without regard for the apparent risks or the need to complete each venture satisfactorily. Almost invariably, there is increased sociability (e.g., renewing old acquaintances or calling friends or even strangers at all hours of the day or night), without regard to the intrusive, domineering, and demanding nature of these interactions. Individuals often display psychomotor agitation or restlessness by pacing or by holding multiple conversations simultaneously (e.g., by telephone and in person at the same time). Some individuals write a torrent of letters on many different topics to friends, public figures, or the media.

    Expansiveness, unwarranted optimism, grandiosity, and poor judgment often lead to an imprudent involvement in pleasurable activities such as buying sprees, reckless driving, foolish business investments, and sexual behavior unusual for the person, even though these activities are likely to have painful consequences (Criterion B7). The individual may purchase many unneeded items (e.g., 20 pairs of shoes, expensive antiques) without the money to pay for them. Unusual sexual behavior may include infidelity or indiscriminate sexual encounters with strangers.

    The impairment resulting from the disturbance must be severe enough to cause marked impairment in functioning or to require hospitalization to protect the individual from the negative consequences of actions that result from poor judgment (e.g., financial losses, illegal activities, loss of employment, assaultive behavior). By definition, the presence of psychotic features during a Manic Episode constitutes marked impairment in functioning (Criterion D).

    Symptoms like those seen in a Manic Episode may be due to the direct effects of antidepressant medication, electroconvulsive therapy, light therapy, or medication prescribed for other general medical conditions (e.g., corticosteroids). Such presentations are not considered Manic Episodes and do not count toward the diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder. For example, if a person with recurrent Major Depressive Disorder develops manic symptoms following a course of antidepressant medication, the episode is diagnosed as a Substance-Induced Mood Disorder, With Manic Features, and there is no switch from a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder to Bipolar I Disorder. Some evidence suggests that there may be a bipolar "diathesis" in individuals who develop manic-like episodes following somatic treatment for depression. Such individuals may have an increased likelihood of future Manic, Mixed, or Hypomanic Episodes that are not related to substances or somatic treatments for depression. This may be an especially important consideration in children and adolescents.

    Associated Features and Disorders

    Associated descriptive features and mental disorders. Individuals with a Manic Episode frequently do not recognize that they are ill and resist efforts to be treated. They may travel impulsively to other cities, losing contact with relatives and caretakers. They may change their dress, makeup, or personal appearance to a more sexually suggestive or dramatically flamboyant style that is out of character for them. They may engage in activities that have a disorganized or bizarre quality (e.g., distributing candy, money, or advice to passing strangers). Gambling and antisocial behaviors may accompany the Manic Episode. Ethical concerns may be disregarded even by those who are typically very conscientious (e.g., a stockbroker inappropriately buys and sells stock without the clients' knowledge or permission; a scientist incorporates the findings of others). The person may be hostile and physically threatening to others. Some individuals, especially those with psychotic features, may become physically assaultive or suicidal. Adverse consequences of a Manic Episode (e.g., involuntary hospitalization, difficulties with the law, or serious financial difficulties) often result from poor judgment and hyperactivity. When no longer in the Manic Episode, most individuals are regretful for behaviors engaged in during the Manic Episode. Some individuals describe having a much sharper sense of smell, hearing, or vision (e.g., colors appear very bright). When catatonic symptoms (e.g., stupor, mutism, negativism, and posturing) are present, the specifier With Catatonic Features may be indicated.

    Mood may shift rapidly to anger or depression. Depressive symptoms may last moments, hours, or, more rarely, days. Not uncommonly, the depressive symptoms and manic symptoms occur simultaneously. If the criteria for both a Major Depressive Episode and a Manic Episode are prominent every day for at least 1 week, the episode is considered to be a Mixed Episode. As the Manic Episode develops, there is often a substantial increase in the use of alcohol or stimulants, which may exacerbate or prolong the episode.

    Associated laboratory findings. No laboratory findings that are diagnostic of a Manic Episode have been identified. However, a variety of laboratory findings have been noted to be abnormal in groups of individuals with Manic Episodes compared with control subjects. Laboratory findings in Manic Episodes include polysomnographic abnormalities and increased cortisol secretion. There may be abnormalities involving the norepinephrine, serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine, or gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmitter systems, as demonstrated by studies of neurotransmitter metabolites, receptor functioning, pharmacological provocation, and neuroendocrine function.

    Specific Culture, Age, and Gender Features

    Cultural considerations that were suggested for Major Depressive Episode are also relevant toManic Episodes. Manic Episodes in adolescents are more likely to include psychotic features and may be associated with school truancy, antisocial behavior, school failure, or substance use. A significant minority of adolescents appear to have a history of long-standing behavior problems that precede the onset of a frank Manic Episode. It is unclear whether these problems represent a prolonged prodrome to Bipolar Disorder or an independent disorder. See the corresponding sections of the texts for Bipolar I Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder for specific information on gender.


    The mean age at onset for a first Manic Episode is the early 20s, but some cases start in adolescence and others start after age 50 years. Manic Episodes typically begin suddenly, with a rapid escalation of symptoms over a few days. Frequently, Manic Episodes occur following psychosocial stressors. The episodes usually last from a few weeks to several months and are briefer and end more abruptly than Major Depressive Episodes. In many instances (50%-60%), a Major Depressive Episode immediately precedes or immediately follows a Manic Episode, with no intervening period of euthymia. If the Manic Episode occurs in the postpartum period, there may be an increased risk for recurrence in subsequent postpartum periods and the specifier With Postpartum Onset is applicable.

    Differential Diagnosis

    A Manic Episode must be distinguished from a Mood Disorder Due to a General Medical Condition. The appropriate diagnosis would be Mood Disorder Due to a General Medical Condition if the mood disturbance is judged to be the direct physiological consequence of a specific general medical condition (e.g., multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, Cushing's syndrome). This determination is based on the history, laboratory findings, or physical examination. If it is judged that the manic symptoms are not the direct physiological consequence of the general medical condition, then the primary Mood Disorder is recorded on Axis I (e.g., Bipolar I Disorder) and the general medical condition is recorded on Axis III (e.g., myocardial infarction). A late onset of a first Manic Episode (e.g., after age 50 years) should alert the clinician to the possibility of an etiological general medical condition or substance.

    A Substance-Induced Mood Disorder is distinguished from a Manic Episode by the fact that a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication, or exposure to a toxin) is judged to be etiologically related to the mood disturbance. Symptoms like those seen in a Manic Episode may be precipitated by a drug of abuse (e.g., manic symptoms that occur only in the context of intoxication with cocaine would be diagnosed as Cocaine-Induced Mood Disorder, With Manic Features, With Onset During Intoxication). Symptoms like those seen in a Manic Episode may also be precipitated by antidepressant treatment such as medication, electroconvulsive therapy, or light therapy. Such episodes are also diagnosed as Substance-Induced Mood Disorders (e.g., Amitriptyline-Induced Mood Disorder, With Manic Features; Electroconvulsive Therapy-Induced Mood Disorder, With Manic Features). However, clinical judgment is essential to determine whether the treatment is truly causal or whether a primary Manic Episode happened to have its onset while the person was receiving the treatment.

    Manic Episodes should be distinguished from Hypomanic Episodes. Although Manic Episodes and Hypomanic Episodes have an identical list of characteristic symptoms, the disturbance in Hypomanic Episodes is not sufficiently severe to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning or to require hospitalization. Some Hypomanic Episodes may evolve into full Manic Episodes.

    Major Depressive Episodes with prominent irritable mood may be difficult to distinguish from Manic Episodes with irritable mood or from Mixed Episodes. This determination requires a careful clinical evaluation of the presence of manic symptoms. If criteria are met for both a Manic Episode and a Major Depressive Episode nearly every day for at least a 1-week period, this would constitute a Mixed Episode.

    Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and a Manic Episode are both characterized by excessive activity, impulsive behavior, poor judgment, and denial of problems. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is distinguished from a Manic Episode by its characteristic early onset (i.e., before age 7 years), chronic rather than episodic course, lack of relatively clear onsets and offsets, and the absence of abnormally expansive or elevated mood or psychotic features.

    Criteria for Manic Episode

    A. A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).

    B. During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (four if the mood is only irritable) and have been present to a significant degree:

    (1) inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
    (2) decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
    (3) more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
    (4) flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
    (5) distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
    (6) increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
    (7) excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

    C. The symptoms do not meet criteria for a Mixed Episode.

    D. The mood disturbance is sufficiently severe to cause marked impairment in occupational functioning or in usual social activities or relationships with others, or to necessitate hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others, or there are psychotic features.

    E. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication, or other treatment) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

    Note: Manic-like episodes that are clearly caused by somatic antidepressant treatment (e.g., medication, electroconvulsive therapy, light therapy) should not count toward a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder.


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