Mania (manic episode) is a psychological state characterized by extreme mood, behavioral, and energy changes.
Manic eyes appear sparkling or change color, shape, and gaze depending on the type of mania. Others might notice these changes, although proper diagnosis is required to confirm the condition.
There are two types of mania:
- Euphoric mania (energized good mood)
- Dysphoric mania (energized bad mood)
Bipolar Disorder and Mania
The most common cause of mania is bipolar disorder (BP), previously known as manic depression.1 This condition is characterized by episodes of mood changes, including emotional highs and lows.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, but scientists associate it with the following:
- Genetics (family history)
- Environmental factors
- Changes in brain chemistry
- Some medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and asthma3
Can You See Bipolar Disorder in Someone's Eyes?
You can't easily identify bipolar disorder by looking at someone's eyes. Although some studies show bipolar disorder can make your eyes change in certain ways, so do other emotional episodes not connected with this condition.4
If you want to know if a loved one has bipolar disorder, a doctor's opinion is more reliable.
What are ‘Bipolar Eyes?’
A few studies suggest that bipolar disorder can affect pupil dilation and gaze.5 These changes occur during episodes of mania. This is what is known as bipolar eyes or 'manic eyes.'
Claimed Characteristics of Manic Eyes
There are claims that manic eyes may have the following characteristics. However, they need to be sufficiently proven by research:
1. Sparkling Eyes
This sign is often associated with euphoric manic episodes—feeling energized, elated, or overjoyed. In this case, the eyes appear more ‘sparkly’ than usual. More research is needed to determine if any structural changes are involved.
2. Darker Eyes
Adrenaline rushes occur when you’re excited, angry, or emotionally charged, and they cause pupil dilation. When the pupils dilate and take over the eye, it may appear darker than usual.
3. Change of Eye Shape
During a euphoric manic episode, eyes may appear bright and open, whereas dysphoric mania narrows them. According to research, dysphoric mania makes people more mean and suspicious, making them narrow/squint their eyes.
4. Change in Eye Color
How Does Bipolar Disorder Affect the Eyes?
There's some evidence that bipolar disorder affects eye movement and visual processing:
A 2019 study found that bipolar people tend to make errors in vergence eye movements.6 Vergence (binocular) eye movements enable the eye to align with the object you're looking at.
Researchers identify irregular saccadic eye movements as a common sign of BP. Saccadic eye movements are rapid, involuntary shifts in eye gaze, typically toward a focus target. These actions occur involuntarily, although they can be deliberate.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), some people living with BP have a slower reaction time for both saccadic and anti-saccadic eye movements (movements away from the object of interest).7
Overall, people who have lived with bipolar disorder for a longer time will show more irregularities in eye movement.
Recent imaging studies have pointed to a significant disruption in visual processing among people with bipolar disorder. The studies suggest visual disruptions commonly occur during manic episodes or bipolar depression.8
A 2010 study found that people with a genetic risk of developing bipolar disorder have a lower response to light.9
Another pilot study investigating the color discrimination thresholds in type 1 BP identified a possible link between the disorder and color vision processing.10
With euphoric mania, colors become vivid and may seem to be in motion. In contrast, dysphoric mania causes vision to constrict, resulting in angry-looking eyes that hardly notice color. More research is required for insights into these findings.
Other Physical Signs of Bipolar Disorder
Someone with BP may experience the following manic symptoms:
- Feeling full of energy or overjoyed (euphoric mania)
- Feeling self-important
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of appetite
- Racing thoughts and ideas
- Rapid talking
- Being easily irritated
- Energized bad mood (dysphoric mania)
- Poor decision making
- Impulsive behavior and finding oneself in risky situations
- Illogical thinking or false perceptions
A manic episode can last about a week or even months, depending on how you manage it. Those who follow a treatment plan recover quicker.
Bipolar Disorder Myths
Below are some bipolar disorder myths to debunk:
Bipolar Disorder is a Rare Condition
Although the cause is unknown, bipolar disorder is relatively common in the United States. According to statistics, about 4.4% of American adults experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives, with 82.9% of the cases having serious impairments.11
Manic Episodes are Exciting
Although some manic episodes involve sparkling eyes, increased energy, and feeling good about oneself, mania can cause irritability, restlessness, and impulsivity.
During a manic episode, someone may behave impulsively and engage in dangerous behavior, such as drunk driving. Some episodes are accompanied by psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and depressive episodes.
People With Bipolar Disorder Are Always Moody
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme highs and lows, but mood swings are never constant. These mood swings do not occur rapidly but gradually. Some people may experience one mood episode daily, while others may have one or two a year.
You Can Stop Taking Medication After a Manic Episode Subsides
Medication for bipolar disorders prevents future manic episodes. Doctors often combine medications and cognitive behavioral therapy to achieve better results. Always consult your doctor or mental health professional before starting or stopping your medication.
- Manic eyes appear sparkling or change color and gaze depending on the type of mania.
- The most common cause of mania is bipolar disorder (BP). It's characterized by emotional highs and lows.
- You can't easily identify bipolar disorder by looking at someone's eyes.
- However, some studies show that bipolar disorder affects eye movement and visual processing.
- Other physical clues of bipolar disorder include feeling full of energy, being easily irritated, lack of sleep, impulsivity, etc.
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