Responding to Manic Behavior

I am wondering what is the best way to react when manic behavior is very extreme. I worked in a home this past summer and one of the ladies who had bipolar disorder acted out when she was manic. She would laugh a lot and if you paid any attention to her she would sometimes get violent. Is this typical, and how might someone respond or help calm the person down in a situation like that?

Manic behavior can be very scary at times if the person is really out of control.  Sometimes highs are very euphoric or what they call a ‘rage’ high.  Those also can be mixed together as you described above.

I would approach the person very calmly and explain what you see as behavior issues.  The person might listen or might not listen.  You can expect that most of the time they will think that nothing is wrong with them.  Of course, you can see that but they may not.

When dealing with mania is best to ‘respond’ and not ‘react’.  There is a big difference between the two.  Reactions get them hyped up where responses may get you farther. 

You might try helping the person by cutting out outside stimuli until they can respond.  Make the lights low, talk calmly, and be compassionate.  If they still don’t respond and you think the person is in danger then you must call 911 for help.  And sometimes that is your best move if they aren’t responding to you.

Other things you can try are:

*calling a friend or family member of theirs to see how they’ve helped the person in the past.
*calling a caretaker.
*inform the staff of where the person is living that they are out of control and need help.
*Be compassionate.
*Try and comfort them.  Sometimes mood changes are scary.
*Make sure they are safe.

Mania is really not that fun for the patient.  Usually after the mania ends the person ends up crashing into depression and then other problems arise.

I commend you for asking about what to do.  Maybe in the future you can help somebody who needs to be understood.

5 thoughts on “Responding to Manic Behavior

  1. Without medication, there is a point when a person with mania may begin to show psychotic behavior so it’s very important to know the difference between the two and to recognize when the signs and symptoms of psychosis begin to occur. All of the steps outlined in Shari’s response are important to consider because, in this state of extreme mania, the person may be a danger to him/herself, or to others. My mother tried to burn herself and needed hospitalization to turn things around. I’d rather be safe than sorry, even if the person is resisitant to help.

  2. Thank you for answering this question. I am a college student studying elementary education. As a future teacher, I may have students with bipolar disorder or other special needs. Any advice related to helping students is very helpful. The advice you suggested is useful for any grade level that I may teach. One suggestion in particular that stood out to me was that you said there is a big difference between reacting and responding to behavior. This is so true! I have been aiding in a school for students with special needs. I have observed many different behaviors from students, but the teacher and paraprofessionals in the classroom always stay calmed even though the students were not. Thank you again for the very practical advice.

  3. That is a really good post Shari. And that i a very good point you made nana10x. Sometimes I am manic and acting out,but sometimes Im just being my silly self. I (my self) do not get,or have not gotten violent during my manic phases,so im lucky for that. How scary!!

  4. Thank you for this advice. I am studying to be a special education teacher and I know that it is very likely that I will work with individuals with bipolar disorder. After reading this, I feel more prepared for my work, but I also feel armed with information I can use with friends or family members that I may come across with this disorder. The most helpful part of this for me was to read that I should try to comfort them because mood changes can be scary. This is very true. Not only is it scary for the person working with the individual, but it is also frightening for the individual going through the mood changes. Sometimes it seems like it has happened for no reason. Removing external stimuli will be something I remember in working with individuals with bipolar. Thank you again for this post.

  5. This information here, and the site is extremely helpful for future teachers in the classroom. I am studying to be a special education teacher, and learning about bipolar and how to respond in this instance will help me give my students the best educational experience. I think its very important for teachers to know that they should respond to a situation and not react.
    I have seen in one of the classrooms I have observed in where the teacher reacted to a situation by yelling and the child’s response was blown out of proportion. I feel that if she responded to the child’s needs in a calm manner rather than reacting and yelling, the child’s behavior would have passed. I think it is also very valuable to seek information from others on what helps the child like how you wrote about in the answer. In that way, you can find out information from family members that can further help you provide the best educational experience. Thank you!

Thoughts? Questions? Leave your feedback here!