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How Long Will a Bipolar Manic Episode Last?

Bipolar disorder is a complex and widely misunderstood mental health condition. Common questions about this disorder include what types of symptoms does a person experience; how severe are manic, hypomanic, and major depressive episodes; and how long do bipolar episodes last?

What Is a Manic Episode?

Manic episodes are one of the defining characteristics of bipolar disorder. When a person is in the midst of a manic disorder, they may experience or exhibit symptoms such as the following:

  • Elevated mood and energy level
  • Little to no apparent need for sleep
  • Strong self-confidence, to the point of pomposity or grandiosity
  • Desire to launch multiple projects or otherwise engage in task-based activities
  • Talkativeness, which can include rapidly jumping from one topic to the next
  • Racing mind
  • Impulsivity and recklessness
  • Overeating
  • Lavish spending sprees
  • Gambling with large sums of money
  • Engaging in unsafe sexual practices
  • Substance abuse
  • Aggressive driving

What Are Other Types of Bipolar Episodes?

People who have bipolar disorder may experience three types of episodes: manic (which we discussed in the previous section), hypomanic, and major depressive.

Hypomanic episodes are similar to what a person experiences during a manic episode. The main difference between manic and hypomanic episodes is that the symptoms of a hypomanic episode don’t last as long. 

As is the case with manic and hypomanic episodes, major depressive episodes are also defined by drastic changes in mood, energy level, and behaviors. Common signs and symptoms of a major depressive episode can include the following:

  • Deep, profound sadness
  • Pervasive sense of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Exhaustion, fatigue, and other signs of minimal energy
  • Difficulty with memory, concentration, and focus
  • Low motivation to complete goal-directed activities or start new projects
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, which can include either sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or not being able to fall asleep and stay asleep (insomnia)
  • Diminished self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Recurrent thoughts of death and dying
  • Suicidal ideation

How Long Do Bipolar Episodes Last?

Now that we’ve discussed the types of symptoms a person can experience when they have bipolar disorder, we can address the question at the top of this page: How long do bipolar episodes last?

Though this is one question, it has three answers, as each type of bipolar episode may persist for different lengths of time. As established in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), here are the criteria for how long bipolar episodes last:

  • Manic episodes will last for a period of at least seven consecutive days. A person may not experience intense symptoms 24/7 during this time, but they will have symptoms most days, and these symptoms will last for the majority of the day.
  • Hypomanic episodes will last four to six days. As with manic episodes, symptoms will be present most days for the majority of each day. If the symptoms persist for a seventh day, the episode will be reclassified from a hypomanic episode to a manic episode.
  • Major depressive episodes are the longest type of bipolar episode. To meet the DSM-5 criteria, depressive symptoms must occur most days, for the majority of each day, for a period of 14 consecutive days. 

There are actually three distinct types of bipolar disorder, which are differentiated by the types of episodes or symptoms that a person has:

  • Bipolar I disorder: To be diagnosed with this form of bipolar disorder, a person must have at least one manic episode. People with bipolar I disorder may also have hypomanic and/or major depressive episodes, but they are not requirements for this diagnosis.
  • Bipolar II disorder: People who have at least one hypomanic episode and at least one major depressive episode meet the criteria for bipolar II disorder.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: This diagnosis is reserved for people who have hypomanic symptoms that don’t last for four days and depressive symptoms that don’t endure long enough to qualify as a major depressive episode. 

Technically, for people who have cyclothymic disorder, there is no correct answer to the question, “How long do bipolar episodes last?” However, cyclothymic disorder does have a duration requirement. A person must experience hypomanic and depressive episodes on and off over a period of at least two years to receive this diagnosis.

How Is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

The various forms of bipolar disorder are usually treated with a combination of medication and therapy.

Depending on which types of symptoms a person develops, they may receive a prescription for antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and/or anti-psychotics. Since the effects of bipolar disorder can vary so widely from one person to the next, it can take some time to determine which medications and which dosage levels are right for each individual. 

The therapeutic part of a person’s treatment for bipolar disorder may focus on helping them manage the symptoms that are not alleviated by medication. Therapy can also help people learn to recognize the signs that they are about to have an episode, so that they can more effectively control their thoughts and moderate their behaviors.

At Peachtree Wellness Solutions, treatment for bipolar disorder may occur at the residential, partial hospitalization program, and intensive outpatient program levels of care. Depending on factors such as which level a person is in and if they have any dual diagnosis disorders, their care may include services such as:

Find Treatment for Bipolar Disorder in Atlanta, GA

Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers customized treatment for adults in the Atlanta, Georgia, area whose lives have been disrupted by bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymia. Our center is a safe and welcoming place where you can receive personalized care from a team of dedicated professionals. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our admissions page or call us today.