Hypomania, mania, and depression are all symptoms of bipolar disorder. A bipolar disorder does not necessarily entail extreme emotional swings from mania to depression. There is a moderate emotional and mental state in between termed hypomania.
What is Hypomania?
Hypomania is felt as a much lesser degree of mania. It is a state in which a person has all the symptoms of mania but with less the severity and the impairment that mania usually creates. A hypomanic person is on a “high” which puts him in a condition in which he feels more self-assured, energetic, expansively generous, sensual, and the like. On the flip side, hypomania can also bring on irritability, distracted thinking, racing thoughts, anger, and a dissociative feeling from the world.
Although the positive side of hypomania sounds like a good thing (and indeed it does feel great), it nevertheless will inevitably dip into depression or escalate into mania if a hypomanic person’s bipolar disorder remains undiagnosed.
Just as mania and depression are mental states that may last for some time, hypomania can last anywhere from weeks to years. Since the hypomanic condition does not really impair a person’s ability to function, hypomania may not be easily recognized enough to require a serious diagnosis or check.
Hypomania is more common in people with Bipolar II disorder. Bipolar II differs from Bipolar I in the severity of the upswing moods. Bipolar II patients do not experience extreme “elation” or “euphoria” typifying mania which often debilitates normal functioning, usually to a dangerous degree as to require hospitalization. Instead, they experience the dampened version of mania in which recognizable symptoms are present but do not pose as much impairments to judgement as mania does with dangerous behaviour that is highly destructive to one’s self and others.
What is Mania?
Mania is the state in which symptoms such as recklessness, irritability and aggression, super-inflated self-esteem and self-importance, and heightened senses are manifested in such extreme degree that resulting behaviour poses a significant threat to the bipolar patient’s safety and that of others. A manic patient’s symptoms debilitate him and usually impair normal functioning and reasoning so much so that sometimes, hospitalization may be required. A person who has impulsively thrown all his life’s savings on a sports car he can ill afford may be having a manic episode.
Symptoms of Hypomania and Mania
Both hypomanic and manic periods exhibit more or less these same symptoms:
- Very energetic
- Increased self confidence
- Increased aggression and irritability
- Feelings of intense happiness or “high”
- Increased sense of entitlement or self-importance
- Reduced concentration or focus; high distractibility
- Decreased inhibitions
- Increased sexual urges
- Thoughts and ideas coming in fast
- Increased sociability and social congress
- Indulgence in daring behaviour, sometimes bordering on recklessness
- Sharper sense of smell, taste, sight, and other senses
While hypomania and mania share the same symptoms, the major difference between them is degree of severity. Where mania takes these symptoms to a feverish pitch, hypomania simply coasts with these so that hypomanics actually feel great and are even grateful for this state as a relief from depression. To illustrate, where a woman in a manic state may damagingly splurge on 20 handbags, a hypomanic one may still exhibit some reasonable financial judgement by buying only five handbags at her shopping spree.
If hypomania just weren’t part of a disorder, a majority of us would actually enjoy being in this state of mind. With more energy and an increased feeling of purpose, hypomania can put us on a creative and productive high. It may come with a certain degree of crankiness and feelings of disconnectedness; yet for people with bipolar disorder, hypomania is a much better condition to be in than having to ride depression and mania.
Hypomania however can morph into a full blown manic period or crash into a depression; so treatment must be sought to help to stave off the other undesirable mental states.
The trouble with getting treatment for people in a hypomanic period is that they feel too good to believe they are sick enough to need help. Professional help, however, is vital to stabilize the extremities of mental states of people with bipolar disorder.
There are several approaches to treating hypomania and mania. Talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, and Mindful-Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT) form one approach. Medications to help prevent a hypomanic’s from sliding into mania or depression is another. Such drugs which should be prescribed by a psychiatrist, not just a GP, are antipsychotics, common of which are:
- risperidone (Risperdal).
- olanzapine (Zyprexa)
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
Bear in mind that medications, prescribed or otherwise, usually carry side effects about which one must always discuss with their psychiatrist.