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Hypomania (literally, “below mania”) is a mood state characterized by persistent disinhibition and pervasive elevated (euphoric) or irritable mood, as well as thoughts and behaviors that are consistent with such a mood state. It is most often associated with the bipolar spectrum. Many who are in a hypomanic state are extremely energetic, talkative, and confident. They may have a flight of ideas and feel creative. Many people also experience signature hypersexuality. While hypomania often generates productivity and creativity, it can become troublesome if the subject engages in risky behaviors. It is generally less severe than full mania.
Individuals in a hypomanic state have a decreased need for sleep, are extremely outgoing and competitive, and have a great deal of energy. However, unlike with full mania, those with hypomanic symptoms are often fully functioning.
Specifically, hypomania is distinguished from mania by the absence of psychotic symptoms and grandiosity, and by its lesser degree of impact on functioning. Hypomania is a feature of bipolar II disorder and cyclothymia, but can also occur in schizoaffective disorder. Hypomania is also a feature of bipolar I disorder as it arises in sequential procession as the mood disorder fluctuates between normal mood and mania. Some individuals with bipolar I disorder have hypomanic as well as manic episodes. Hypomania can also occur when moods progress downwards from a manic mood state to a normal mood. Hypomania is sometimes credited with increasing creativity and productive energy. A significant number of people with creative talents have reportedly experienced hypomania or other symptoms of bipolar disorder and attribute their success to it. Classic symptoms of hypomania include mild euphoria, a flood of ideas, seemingly endless energy, and a desire and drive for success. A lesser form of hypomania is called hyperthymia.
While most often associated with bipolar disorder, hypomania is also a side effect of numerous medications, often those used in psychopharmacotherapy. In cases of true drug-induced hypomania, discontinuation of the antidepressant or drug that has triggered the episode—for example steroid therapy or stimulants such as amphetamine—usually causes a fairly swift return to normal mood. It is less likely to be a side effect in those with pure clinical depression or unipolar depression, unless for example tricyclic antidepressants are given in very high doses. SSRIs are less likely to trigger manic symptoms.
Often in those who have experienced their first episode of hypomania – generally without psychotic features – there will have been a long or recent history of depression prior to the emergence of manic symptoms, and commonly this surfaces in the mid to late teens. Due to this being an emotionally charged time, it is not unusual for mood swings to be passed off as hormonal or teenage ups and downs and for a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder to be missed until there is evidence of an obvious manic/hypomanic phase.
Hypomania may also occur as a side effect of pharmaceuticals prescribed for conditions/diseases other than psychological states or mood disorders. In those instances, as in cases of drug-induced hypomanic episodes in unipolar depressives, the hypomania can almost invariably be eliminated by lowering medication dosage, withdrawing the drug entirely, or changing to a different medication if discontinuation of treatment is not possible.
Some, such as Johns Hopkins psychologist John Gartner, argue that hypomania is better understood as a stable non-pathological temperament rather than an episode of mental illness. The DSM however clearly defines hypomania as an aberrant state, not a stable trait.
Hypomania may also be triggered by the occurrence of a highly exciting event in the patient's situation, such as a substantial financial gain or recognition.
The DSM-IV-TR defines a hypomanic episode as including, over the course of at least four days, elevated mood plus three of the following symptoms OR irritable mood plus four of the following symptoms:
- pressured speech
- inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
- decreased need for sleep
- flight of ideas or the subjective experience that thoughts are racing
- easy distractibility and attention-deficit similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- increase in psychomotor agitation
- involvement in pleasurable activities that may have a high potential for negative psycho-social or physical consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, reckless driving, or foolish business investments).
Some commentators believe that hypomania actually has an evolutionary advantage. People with hypomania are generally perceived as being energetic, euphoric, visionary, overflowing with new ideas, and sometimes overconfident and very charismatic, yet—unlike those with full mania—are sufficiently capable of coherent thought and action to participate in everyday activities. Like mania, there seems to be a significant correlation between hypomania and creativity. A person in the state of hypomania might be immune to fear and doubt and have negligible social and sexual inhibition. People experiencing hypomania usually have a very strong sex drive. Hypomanic people are often the "life of the party". They may talk to strangers easily, offer solutions to problems, and find pleasure in small activities. Such advantages may render them unwilling to submit to treatment, especially when symptoms do not impair functioning.
Relationship with disorders
Cyclothymia is a condition of continued mood fluctuations between hypomania and depressive symptoms that do not meet the criteria for a major depressive episode. These are often interspersed with periods of normal moods.
When a patient presents with a history of one or more hypomanic episodes and one or more depressive episodes that meet the criteria for a major depressive episode, bipolar II disorder is diagnosed. If the depressive episodes are routinely during the winter and the hypomania presents in the spring/summer it is possible that the person may be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder instead of bipolar II disorder.
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If the hypomanic state is a result of side effects of medication (e.g.: amphetamine) the benzodiazepines can bring about a rapid return to normal mood and energy levels.
- Hyperthymic temperament
- Bipolar disorder
- Bipolar I
- Bipolar II
- Clinical depression
- Regression (psychology)
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- Hypomanic Episode – Bipolar Disorder
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance – Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Advice for Bipolar Disorder Sufferers and Their Loved Ones