Sunday, January 29, 2006

A definition of mania

From the Merck Manual of Medical Information - Second Home Edition, online editon:

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Mania

Mania is characterized by excessive physical activity and feelings of extreme elation that are grossly out of proportion to any positive event. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania.

Manic symptoms typically develop rapidly over a few days. In the early (milder) stages of mania, the person feels better than normal, exuberant, and energetic.

A person who is manic may be irritable, cantankerous, or hostile. He typically believes he is quite well. A lack of insight into his condition, along with a huge capacity for activity, can make the person impatient, intrusive, meddlesome, and aggressively irritable when crossed. Mental activity speeds up (a condition called flight of ideas). The person is easily distracted and constantly shifts from one theme or endeavor to another. The person may have false convictions of personal wealth, power, inventiveness, and genius and may temporarily become delusional or assume a grandiose identity, sometimes believing that he is God.

The person may believe he is being assisted or persecuted by others or have hallucinations, hearing and seeing things that are not there. The need for sleep decreases. A manic person is inexhaustibly, excessively, and impulsively involved in various activities (such as risky business endeavors, gambling, or perilous sexual behavior) without recognizing the inherent social dangers. In extreme cases, mental and physical activity is so frenzied that any clear link between mood and behavior is lost in a kind of senseless agitation (delirious mania). Immediate treatment is then required, because the person may die of sheer physical exhaustion. In less severe mania, hospitalization may be needed during periods of overactivity to protect the person and his family from ruinous financial or sexual behavior.

Mania is diagnosed by its symptoms. However, because people with mania are notorious for denying that there is anything wrong with them, doctors usually have to obtain information from family members.