Mania Eliciting the Magnified Self

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how depression can wipe out your sense of self.

I’ve been thinking even more about how mania does the opposite. Instead of eradicating the inner self, it seems to magnify it.

My thought is that manic episodes feed fuel to our inner most desires. It doesn’t create the desires, it just gives us the confidence and drive to play them out.

What happens when these desires/personas are amplified?

  • When the artist is amplified, one might be working on either huge pieces of artwork or hundreds at once.
  • When the entrepreneur is amplified, one might start or acquire businesses, or take on the persona of a business executive.
  • When the soccer mom is amplified, one might buy houses or cars they can’t afford, or bake enough cupcakes to feed an army for no apparent reason.
  • When the thrill-seeker is amplified, one might move around the country, fancy themselves race-car drivers or take up extreme sports of some kind.
  • When the bohemian is amplified, one might give up all of their possessions or sell their houses to regress into a simpler sort of philosophical living.
  • When the hippie is amplified, one might make an attempt to live in or commune with nature, become overly attached to various animals, or experiment with hallucinogenic drugs.
  • When the consumer is amplified, one might spend everything they’ve got (and more) on random things they think they need.
  • When the athlete is amplified, one might take up running marathons or body building or cycling an at extreme distances.
  • When the romantic is amplified, relationships might become suddenly very serious or blossom into immediate elopement.
  • When the comedian is amplified, one might spend night after night at the bar, getting as much time in with as many people as possible.
  • When the rockstar is amplified one might experience heavy drug and alcohol use that can turn into unruly behavior and unrecallable memories.
  • When the con-artist is amplified, one may fancy themselves a James Bond/spy type character, illicit various illegal activity for cash, or create various get-rich-quick schemes.
  • When the vixen is amplified, one might use their flirtatious demeanor for sport or personal gain.
  • When the carpenter is amplified, one might purchase a number of old vehicles to “fix up”, work on elaborate remodel projects, or be building any number of structures or projects at once.

I know there are many more, but these are a few of the traits I have seen amplified by mania, either in myself or in others. It seems common for these to overlap, and different people identify with any number of identities on this list.

This idea comes from a number of thoughts I’ve had recently, one being that I’ve been called out several times now for not participating in the “reckless spending” that is supposed to be a common symptom of manic episodes.

Personally, I don’t think one can always expect to couple reckless spending to mania. I think it is common because of our culture (as Americans, for example, we’re largely brought up to be consumers), but as an individual, consumerism is not something that I subscribe to. At my core, money causes me very extreme anxiety… so my most extreme desires usually involve some kind of banishment of money (something one might see with the hippie or bohemian, for example) or game to acquire it (like the con-artist). At that point, who needs reckless spending when I have the option of reckless earning?

So really, I guess I’ve just been considering how mania creates an exaggeration of the self (as opposed to some kind of “change” from one set of values to another) and how that information could potentially help in the diagnosis process as well.

In myself, I would say that most often in the last 10 years I have seen the artist, the bohemian, the hippie, the con-artist, and occasionally the athlete (though that one has failed to make an appearance for a while). Having a handle on these desires gives me a better idea of where an episode might go if things get out of hand, and can help me avoid situations (in theory anyway) that could potentially become catastrophic.

16 responses to “Mania Eliciting the Magnified Self

  1. I agree. I don’t think manic episodes make you necessarily want to go do something crazy that you have never thought of before. It make you dare to do the things that wished you had the guts to do but never thought you would

  2. Oh Lord, I have been many of your descriptions. I really enjoyed this post… it really reminded me of the different “states of being” we can posses.
    Myself personally, I have Borderline Personality Disorder as well, and as a result, I have an identity crises. I seem to fall into whatever is around me… I will blend. That is why I say I have been many of these descriptions.
    Thank you for this post 🙂 I have really enjoyed it. ♥

    • I am not super familiar with Borderline Personality Disorder, but I do know that there are aspects of it that I feel very connected to. I would go so far as to say that I also have some of that blendable quality (which I really enjoyed to some extent when I was younger), but it usually just gets chalked up to some form of very quick adaptation.

      I tend to think of my sense of self as being very kaleidoscopic, for better or worse.


  3. I’m probably in the minority, but mania eradicates my self. I do things that I never would have done or even thought of doing in a depressed or stable state. (Unfortunately this all results in apologies needing to be made when I am better.) Is this BP I as opposed to II? Interesting to ponder. Great post!

    • Can I ask (if you don’t mind) do you normally experience psychosis with your manic episodes? Because, at least for me, that is something of a game-changer, and at those times I would definitely say the self gets lost in there.

      • Sure, no problem. I’ve mailed you privately…hope you don’t mind. I’ve really enjoyed everyone’s replies. This has been a really great conversation!

  4. I do have to agree that in many ways this is very true for me. Now, my reckless spending usually revolves around things I might actually need but am unable to afford. So I buy clothes when I cannot afford it. I also (in all phases) have a serious book addiction. [And before someone says that books are not an addiction, let me tell you, they might not be for others, but they are for me.]
    When I was in college, during hypomanic phases I was extremely outgoing, flirtatious and flat-out slutty. I suffer from a touch of social anxiety, and I think this was my brain’s way of trying to get past it. It took the thoughts of who I *wished I was* and acted them out without my permission or ability to prevent them.

    In that sense, hypomania both magnified me (or at least who I thought I wanted to be or should be) and eradicated me (the concepts of who I truly was).

    • I love the last sentence you put in there,

      “In that sense, hypomania both magnified me (or at least who I thought I wanted to be or should be) and eradicated me (the concepts of who I truly was).”

      Exactly, I feel like that is it to a T. There are qualities that seem to grow and overshadow the others, and it is like they push many of the other, more amiable qualities out of the picture.

  5. disorderlychickadee

    Very interesting analysis! I also agree that this is a really insightful view into the way that many individuals experience mania as an intensification of self. It’s not as though I lose who I am in any sense, it’s more like I become a better version of me. Everyone around me loves that side of myself, including me, but no one seems to realize that it’s intermittent, uncontrolled, and potentially disastrous. The positive feedback from being so intense and passionate sometimes makes me feel worse on the flip side because I can’t live up to my own standards.

    From my experiences, I could add…

    When the intellectual is amplified, one might make truly insightful connections between abstractions that are not apparent to anyone else, yet often stand up to examination.

    When the writer is amplified, one’s writing may become obscure and as convoluted as one’s thinking or become distilled into crystal clear and impressively expressive, all the while being produced in unprecedented volume.

    When the matchmaker is amplified, one might find new potential for collaboration or friendship between far-flung and seemingly unassociated individuals, with widely varying results upon introduction.

    When the maker is amplified, one might start innumerable new projects, take up new crafts and cultivate new artistic skills, make a year’s worth of gifts in a week, and leave guilt-inducing piles of supplies and half-finished projects when mania fades.

    • Good additions, I am very familiar with the writer and have produced some pretty bizarre, yet interesting things in that place in the past!

  6. Just hearsay – The diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder may be displaced with Bi-Polar I Disorder in DSM-V, but I just work here so I dunno for sure. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information. And really, what’s up with a diagnostic tool designed by commitee? I’m sure the big pharma companies with BP-I meds wouldn’t want to change things just to put more people on their FDA approved BP-I meds, yathink?

    By the way, this is me in “The all seeing, all knowing Wizard of OZ,” mood.

  7. I wrote this twice yesterday and never was able to finish. Life is distracting.

    Anyway, I wanted to mention The Dreamer. The Dreamer is like a master type that can give birth to all and any of these types in a singular person. For example, I am not athletic in the least. I am the opposite of such. I’ve had asthma my whole life, so I’m not inclined to participate in activities that would trigger an attack. But, in a hypomania that wakes The Dreamer, I can become that. That’s when I took up running. Running and I have this on again, off again relationship.

    That’s not to say that The Dreamer stirs every time I have a hypomanic episode. Usually, I stick to the gross exaggerations of my core self. The Artist, The Musician, The Idealist, The Writer, The Hippie, The Seductress (not to be confused with the vixen. The seductress’s only goal is sex.), and a number of other things.

    You’re right. It is an exaggerated self. Sometimes, for me, when it gets far enough, it includes things that aren’t me. The Bully is namely one of them.

    • I think The Bully is something I am familiar with, and when it comes to more outlandish and negative behaviors I’d say I’ve even channeled The Dictator (apparently some fragment of me wants to be a malicious leader) from time to time.

      I’m not sure if I have The Dreamer, but I do have something of The Explorer which I would say is similar, where I become increasingly interested in trying things that I never thought of trying before. It could be as simple as trying something new on the menu to taking up an unexplored hobby, or even wanting to walk into an autobody shop because mechanics have suddenly become incredibly fascinating!

      • disorderlychickadee

        Yeah, I don’t see a lot of The Dreamer in myself – I’m more of a Doer under all circumstances. But The Explorer, I can definitely relate to that!

      • Oh, see, for me, The Dictator manifests as The Petulant Toddler. I suppose I just don’t have a strong enough personality to make demands in that fashion. It usually just ends up with temper tantrums. Ugh. So embarrassing when I come out of it.

        For me, The Dreamer represents the very essence of hypomania. The thought that I can be everything and anything, sometimes at the same time. I reach for things I know are beyond my grasp. I get delusions about myself and my abilities. Instead of wanting to take up something knew, I am already assured that I am skilled in that area, and make attempts to achieve there. The worst fuel for that is when succeed. Because I know, under any other circumstance, I would not.

  8. Pingback: Reverse Vulcan & Evaporation | bi[polar] curious

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