Mania is not usually thought of by itself because it is almost always followed by depression, hence the names Manic Depression or the current Bipolar Disorder. However, while the shutdown response is simultaneous with the underlying emotional hyperactivity in major depression, it is manifested serially in Bipolar Disorder. So, the manic part of this condition is the active illness and the depressive part is a compensatory reaction.
Mania is the only major mental illness which represents the escape from regulation of a segment of normal emotional function that is goal-driven and euphoric. Despite the euphoria, this illness can wreak a terrible toll, but here I write as a philosopher, not a doctor. As described, the anxiety and depressive disorders represent evolved modules of emotional function driven by aversion to the painful emotions of fear of separation and the fear of being socially trapped; these segments of anxiety and depression escape from their integration into the whole of emotional function and each spin out into their own separate pathology.
There are two lines of evidence that Mania is an exclusively human disease, and therefore exists as a treasure trove about what is exclusively human about human nature. First, there are definitely no animal models for mania – none. Second, one of the cardinal symptoms of mania is hyperactivity in the cognitive capacity which has clearly only recently evolved and is a hallmark of Homo sapiens. I refer to the syntactical or structural component of language. I must confess as a psychiatrist, an occasional patient with mania would mesmerize me with the gymnastics of their verbal virtuosity in the most complex cognitive feat displayed on the face of the planet.
I came to the conclusion that, after 6 million years of selection at the level of the group for aversive emotions in order to repress selfish individual id impulses, Homo sapiens suddenly evolved a highly sexualized, goal driven intentionality at the level of the individual. Hyper-sexuality is a consistent part of mania. But this sexuality, placed in a functional biological context motivates sexual display, such as in the songs and feathers of male birds. Once one is aware of the connection, the grandiosity so characteristic of mania is clearly an exaggeration of the thoroughly human impulse to display oneself favorably to the opposite sex
Evidence for the predominance of sexual display in humans abounds. Human fossils are distinguished from their forebears by the “cuteness” of juvenile characteristics (neoteny.) About 100,000 years old, the first cultural artifacts found in both the north and south of Africa and including the Levant, are pierced shells and red ocher clearly used for body ornamentation. The most valuable commodity since the invention of money has always been gold, 78% of which is still used for jewelry. I could go on and on.
So, human nature is comprised of primate dominance instincts, suppressed by 6 million years of selection at the level of groups, and then our own species has installed an “advertising agency” in every individual, commonly called vanity. While Schizophrenia reveals how our groups communicate with us, Mania reveals how we dress it up and show it off to each other. What a thoroughly odd creature we turn out to be!