The 6 differences between mania and obsession

Often, in everyday language, the terms “mania” and “obsession” are confused; so we use these concepts indiscriminately when in reality they are different concepts.

In this article, we will know the 6 differences between mania and obsession, Referring to 6 criteria or parameters making it possible to distinguish them. However, first, we will explain what each of these concepts consists of, citing a few examples.

Recommended articles:

  • “Mania: symptoms, associated disorders and treatment”

  • “What is an obsession? Causes, symptoms and treatment”

What is mania and obsession?

Before knowing the six differences between mania and obsession, let’s get to know the meaning (or meanings) of each of these concepts below.

1. Mania

It should be noted that mania, in turn, can take two different meanings: on the one hand, we find the mania of a bipolar disorder, which consists of an altered mood, which becomes expansive and euphoric (manic episodes). This meaning of mania is more serious than the following.

On the other hand, the concept of mania also alludes to small behaviors that we keep people as a ritual or for superstitious reasons: for example, sleeping with a small light on, closing the doors with the right hand, cleaning the vases in the same way, etc.

In other words, these are the kinds of rituals that people have, particular ways of doing things, which implies that we always do them the same way (these are “rigid” ideas or behaviors).

In this article, we will be referring to the second meaning of mania that we have explained. Before explaining the six differences between mania and obsession, let’s take a look at what an obsession is.

2. Obsession

Obsessions are characteristic of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and consist of recurring and persistent thoughts, images or impulses, which are experienced by the person as intrusive and inappropriate. In addition, they generate strong anxiety or discomfort.

In other words, these are thoughts that we compulsively return, ideas that come to mind that we can’t help but think about. They appear in people’s minds in a permanent and fixed way (they enter them), and the person can feel dominated by them. They are very difficult to control or slow down.

Examples of OCD obsessions are: thinking that your hands are always dirty (and therefore washing every “X” minutes would be a constraint), thinking that the door did not close properly before leaving, thinking that the gas was not turned off before leaving, thinking that if no “X” action is taken something bad will happen, and so on.

It should be mentioned that obsessions can also appear outside of obsessive-compulsive disorder, in “healthy” people (without mental pathology), although their characteristics may vary slightly. So an obsession can also be a person (compulsively thinking about it), or an idea related to that person, for example.

The differences between mania and obsession

Let’s examine the differences between mania and obsession, alluding to different parameters or criteria.

1. Degree of intrusion

The degree of intrusion refers to the ability of something to interfere with our mind or our daily functioning.. In this case, an obsession is much more intrusive than a mania, as it can affect important aspects of daily life, and also bursts into our consciousness more intensely than a mania.

This is also appreciated, because obsessions are generally (but not always) part of a mental disorder that can often be severe: OCD. Manias, on the other hand, appear more generally in people without a mental disorder, that is, in the general population.

2. Frequency of occurrence in the population

The second parameter to explain the differences between mania and obsession is its frequency of appearance in the population.

like that, obsessions are less common than mania, considering that almost all people have one or more manias. Obsessions, on the other hand, appear in the vast majority of cases of OCD (obsessions and / or compulsions must appear in order to be able to diagnose OCD); apart from this also appear, but compared to mania, not so much, because they are more serious.

3. Severity

Another criterion that differentiates mania from obsession, very compared to the first one we discussed (degree of intrusion) refers to severity. like that, obsessions are more serious because they generate significant discomfort or anxiety.

In addition, the vast majority of obsessions involve the person having to apply a compulsion (action which reduces the anxiety caused by the obsession), which, if not carried out, increases the patient’s anxiety. this aspect gives a greater seriousness to the obsession.

In contrast, mania, while it can cause some discomfort or discomfort if not practiced, usually does not cause as much anxiety. On the other hand, it is easier for people to incorporate obsessions as “part of their personality” or their “way of being” than obsessions.

4. Suffering population

As we mentioned on one occasion, manias appear both in the general population (without mental disorder) and in the clinical population (Against the background of some mental disorders) (probably in this second population they acquire more severity).

However, most manias appear in the first group (general population); thus, we certainly all know friends, family (or even ourselves) with certain obsessions.

Obsessions, on the other hand, although they may also appear in the clinical or general population, are more common in the clinical population (in the context of OCD or other disorder, such as schizophrenia or schizophrenia disorder. paranoid personality).).

5. Origin

Most of the differences between mania and obsession lie in its origin or cause. In this way, obsessions usually appear as a result of suffering from OCD (this is the disorder par excellence where they appear). The origin of OCD is not well known, but it is known that stressful or anxious states exacerbate the symptoms (and thus accentuate the obsessions).

Manias are also associated with states of anxiety or high emotional states.. On the other hand, they can also appear because a process of internal change is being experienced. In other words, the origin of mania and obsessions is usually similar, but with the corresponding nuances.

6. Frequency of onset of symptoms

While the obsession is usually permanent in nature (i.e., it does not go away until the compulsion is performed or, in the case of non-compulsive obsessions, it usually lasts), mania tends to be intermittent.

In other words, the latter generally appears and disappears “without more”, without it being necessary to perform a compensatory action such as coercion.

Bibliographical references:

  • American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.

  • Belloch, A., Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of psychopathology. Volumes I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.

  • Triglia, Adrián; Regader, Bertrand; García-Allen, Jonathan (2016). Psychologically speaking. Paidós.

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