Mania or a Manic Episode is not in itself a diagnosable condition. Instead, a Manic Episode is considered to be more of an event. It is only diagnosed in the sense that a clinician can confirm that a Manic Episode has indeed taken place.
The gist of a Manic Episode is that a person feels an exceptional and unusual elevation in their mood and energy levels, leading to a variety of issues such as being extremely active, overly talkative, having an inaccurately inflated sense of self-esteem, and the tendency to engage in risky and potentially dangerous behaviors.
A Manic Episode is similar to a Hypomanic Episode. Though the symptoms of both are essentially the same, the intensity and duration of those symptoms is greater.
When a person experiences Mania, or more accurately a Manic Episode, they will go through a period of time that last for at least a week where almost all day and almost every day their mood can be described as exceptionally high or elevated, expansive, and/or irritable. Someone in the midst of a Manic Episode will have particularly high levels of energy and feel especially motivated to engage in a variety of activities.
An exceptionally high or elevated mood may at first seem like nothing more than a great day; but that would be a misunderstanding. A Manic Episode entails a significant change from one's normal mood and behavior that is readily noticeable by others.
This behavior is severe enough to cause problems in one's ability to function in social, occupational, school, or other settings. In many cases it is severe enough to require hospitalization in order to prevent people from hurting themselves or others. In other cases, psychotic symptoms such as delusions and/or hallucinations may also occur during a Manic Episode.
As part of their abnormally elevated and expansive mood, a Manic Episode may lead a person to develop an inflated sense of self-esteem and confidence, along with grandiosity, which includes exaggerated feelings of personal importance or greatness and perceptions of exceptional personal capabilities.
They will feel especially goal-driven in the sense that they feel capable of doing anything and taking on any challenge or activity. They may jump rapidly from activity to activity or alternatively experience feelings of physical agitation, such as jitters, edginess, the inability to sit still, and the urge to fidget.
This excess energy leads a person having a Manic Episode to not feel the need for typical amounts of sleep. For instance, three hours a night may be more than sufficient.
It's also common for a person having a Manic Episode to be extremely talkative and speak in a way that can be best described as "pressured" as though they have to keep talking and can't slow themselves down. Their thoughts may also be described as racing. These racing thoughts or flight of ideas can be thought of as a constant flow of thoughts and ideas pouring into one's mind in an almost overwhelming manner that makes it difficult to keep up. For example, before a person can complete one thought, five more have entered their mind.
They may also be easily distracted by simple, minor, and unimportant details that make it difficult to focus or concentrate on the task at hand or what should be the focus of attention. Instead of listening to a child's recital for instance, a person having a Manic Episode may be distracted by the musky smell of the auditorium, a fly landing on a chair two rows ahead, a piece of gum on the floor, and other such irrelevant details.
One of the more significant symptoms is the tendency to engage in risky behavior. Feeling a sense of grandiosity, a person is prone to feel much more capable and less vulnerable than they really are. This may lead to a person driving unsafely, using drugs, being promiscuous, or taking other unnecessary risks that would otherwise not be typical given their usual personality.
Not a diagnosable condition, a Manic Episode is an event. It is something that occurs in a person's life that causes an inflation of their mood, their beliefs of what they are capable of, and an overall disinhibition that puts them at risk of engaging in potentially unsafe behaviors.
A Manic Episode is a requirement for and the main feature that goes into a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder. Symptoms that may appear to look like a Manic Episode, but fall short of the full technical criteria, will also occur in cases of Bipolar II Disorder and Cyclothymic Disorder.
Mania is very similar to Hypomania. Though the symptoms are essentially the same, there are two key distinguishing factors. A Manic Episode requires that symptoms last at least seven days, while a Hypomanic Episode only requires that symptoms last for a minimum of four days. Secondly, if a person's symptoms are severe enough to cause significant problems in their social, school, or work environment, if there are psychotic symptoms, or if hospitalization is required to keep a person safe then it would likely be deemed a Manic Episode and not Hypomania.
As is true with all psychiatric conditions and events, it is important to consider the possible influence of medications, drugs, other mental health conditions, and any other physical health issues that may be the true cause of what otherwise appears to be a Manic Episode.