What Is Hypomania?

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What Is Hypomania?

Hypomania is an abnormally revved-up state of mind that affects your mood, thoughts, and behavior, and is a potential symptom of bipolar disorder, particularly type II.

A hypomanic episode commonly manifests with unusual gaiety, excitement, flamboyance, or irritability, along with potential secondary characteristics like restlessness, extreme talkativeness, increased distractibility, reduced need for sleep, and intense focus on a single activity.

Symptoms

The specific signs and symptoms experienced during hypomania vary from one person to another. Examples of hypomanic behaviors and characteristics include the following:

  • Behaving inappropriately, such as making crude remarks at a dinner party
  • Dressing and/or behaving flamboyantly
  • Hypersexuality, which may involve making unusual demands on your partner, inappropriate sexual advances, engaging in an affair, or spending a lot of money on phone sex, pornography, or sex workers
  • Jumping from one subject to an unrelated topic while speaking
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Spending recklessly, like buying a car you cannot afford
  • Taking chances you normally wouldn't because you "feel lucky"
  • Talking so fast that it's difficult for others to follow what's being said
  • Unusual irritability, excitement, hostility, or aggression

Diagnosis

Diagnosing hypomania depends on the presence of a combination of key symptoms and features. There must be a persistent and abnormally elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, accompanied by unusually increased activity and energy for most of the day over at least four days.

The mood, activity, and behaviors that accompany hypomania are clearly different from the person's normal, everyday state, and are readily noticeable to those around them. A lack of mood fluctuation and persistence of the mood state helps distinguish a hypomanic episode from a normal mood variation.

By definition, certain characteristics and features rule out a diagnosis of hypomania and often point toward a manic episode instead. For example, symptoms of psychosis, such as ​hallucinations or delusions, exclude the possibility of a hypomanic episode.

Additionally, symptoms so severe that they significantly interfere with your daily functioning or necessitate hospitalization exclude hypomania as a possible diagnosis. It's also important to rule out medications or recreational substance use as a possible source of the symptoms before making a diagnosis.

Bipolar Hypomania

To be diagnosed with bipolar I or bipolar II disorder, a person generally must experience depressive as well as manic and/or hypomanic episodes. Experiencing symptoms associated with hypomania and depression, but not mania, suggests bipolar II disorder. Other factors may determine if another diagnosis, such as cyclothymia, is more appropriate.

Bipolar hypomania is considered present when a person experiences three of the following symptoms accompanied by a persistently elevated mood, or four of these symptoms in association with a sustained irritable mood:

  • Easily distracted
  • Excessive involvement in activities associated with a high potential for negative consequences, such as spending sprees, gambling, sexual indiscretions, or risky financial investments
  • Feeling intensely driven to accomplish specific goals
  • Fidgetiness, pacing, or restlessness, also known as psychomotor agitation
  • Flight of ideas or feeling that your thoughts are racing
  • Grandiose thinking, meaning unrealistic thinking about your powers, talents, or abilities
  • Reduced need for sleep without feeling tired
  • Unusual talkativeness or feeling pressure to keep talking

Hypomania and bipolar disorder are diagnosed separately, so receiving a diagnosis of hypomania does not necessarily mean also being diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

Causes

While hypomania could be a symptom of bipolar disorder, this state can occur for other reasons, including:

  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Depression
  • High levels of stress
  • Medication side effect

Treatment

Even in the absence of the psychosis and wildly exaggerated moods associated with mania, hypomania can have serious long-term consequences. For example, hypersexuality can lead to ruined relationships and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Reckless spending can result in severe financial hardship and inappropriate behavior can cause you to lose a job or alienate your loved ones.

Use of medications called mood stabilizers is the most common and effective way to treat hypomania; your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following:

  • Antipsychotics (can reduce hypomania symptoms until lithium or valproic acid take full effect)
  • Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs)
  • Lithium (a mood stabilizer with antidepressant effects)
  • Valproic acid (an anticonvulsant)

Additionally, there are holistic approaches and lifestyle changes that can help including the following:

  • Avoiding stimulants that could act as triggers, such as caffeine, sugar, and loud, crowded social scenes
  • Exercising daily
  • Getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night
  • Regularly eating meals

Coping

If you've been experiencing symptoms related to hypomania, make an appointment with your psychiatrist. They will determine if a diagnosis of hypomania is accurate and if it's a symptom of bipolar disorder.

In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you cope with hypomania:

  • Educate yourself. The more you learn about hypomania and your individual symptoms and triggers, the easier it will be for you to manage your condition.
  • Keep a mood diary. Writing in a journal or using an app can help you chart your moods so you and your doctor can work together to keep your hypomanic episodes under control.
  • Stay the treatment course. If you do have bipolar disorder, complying with your treatment will be key to managing hypomania.
  • Ask for support. Whether you reach out to trusted friends and family or join a support group for people with bipolar disorder, it’s important to ask for help.

If you or a loved one are struggling with hypomania, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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Article Sources
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