Last updated:

November 4, 2022


 min read

What is Manic Depression?

Although depression is a common mental illness, its variations are not discussed often. Manic depression is one such variant. Let us take a closer look at it!

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Written by
Ipsa Khurana

What is manic depression?

Manic depression is a major affective disorder (or mood disorder) characterised by major, intense mood shifts. These mood shifts are much more complicated than general mood swings, ranging from extreme emotional highs to depressive lows. These phases can last a few hours to a couple of months, interfering with a person's day-to-day functioning. 

Is bipolar disorder the same as manic depression?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lays out the criteria that need to be followed for diagnoses. In DSM-III (the manual is revised periodically), 'manic depression' was replaced by 'bipolar disorder' for the following reasons:

  • The term bipolar disorder, as opposed to manic depression, provides more clarity to the diagnosis
  • To do away with the stigma associated with the terms manic, mania, and depression 
  • Manic depression, as a clinical term, did not initially include cyclothymia or bipolar disorder II (hypomanic conditions)

In other words, yes, manic depression is synonymous to bipolar disorder.

What causes manic depression?

Like most other mental disorders, the exact cause of manic depression is unknown. However, it is related to genetic predisposition, which means it can run in families. It can be caused by certain abnormalities in how the brain functions as well. Past traumatic events, strained childhood, and consumption of drugs and alcohol can also act as risk factors.

Symptoms of manic depression

The symptoms of manic depression range across three functional stages of bipolar disorder.


Extreme emotional highs, which might include:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Grandiose delusions
  • Psychosis 
  • Paranoid rage 
  • Euphoria 
  • Faulty and impulsive judgement (overspending, for example)


This is a milder form of mania, which does not last as long as manic episodes and does not impact everyday functioning severely. Its distinctive symptoms include:

  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Inflated sense of self
  • Racing thoughts 
  • Distractibility
  • Hyperactivity


This is the other end of the spectrum, and the ‘low’ extreme of bipolar disorder with symptoms like:

  • Constant depressed mood
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or pleasurable activities
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Suicidal thoughts

Types of manic depression

Bipolar I Disorder

This consists of severe manic episodes that last seven days or longer, or cause hospitalisations. For a bipolar I diagnosis, a person must have had at least one episode of mania in their lives or a week of mania without a depressive episode.  

Bipolar II Disorder

This is characterised by hypomanic episodes along with depressive episodes. There must be a major depressive episode preceding or following a hypomanic episode for a successful bipolar II diagnosis. 


Cyclothymia, also known as cyclothymic disorder, includes symptoms of depression or hypomania for two years or more in adults or one year in children. The symptoms are alternating, brief, and less severe.

Other types of bipolar disorder

There are a few other types of bipolar disorder that do not fit the diagnostic criteria for the types mentioned above. These can include rapid cycling (four or more distinct mood episodes within a 12-month period), mixed features (simultaneous symptoms of opposite mood polarities during manic, hypomanic or depressive episodes.) or episodes induced by drugs or alcohol.

How is manic depression treated?

Manic depression is a lifelong condition, but the mood swings it causes can be managed using proper psychiatric medication and therapeutic intervention. Online therapy can also help! Medications usually prescribed for manic depression include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antipsychotic drugs, and sleeping pills. Along with therapy, lifestyle changes like limiting alcohol and/or drugs may also be recommended.  

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or mania, the best course of action is to see a therapist or a psychiatrist as soon as possible! Rocket Health’s team of non-judgmental medical experts can help you by offering proper diagnosis, medications, and therapy.