Hypomania (literally "under mania" or "less than mania") is a mood state characterized by persistent disinhibition and elevation (euphoria). It may involve irritation, but less severely than full mania. According to DSM-5 criteria, hypomania is distinct from mania in that there is no significant functional impairment; mania, by DSM-5 definition, does include significant functional impairment and may have psychotic features.
Characteristic behaviors of persons experiencing hypomania are a notable decrease in the need for sleep, an overall increase in energy, unusual behaviors and actions, and a markedly distinctive increase in talkativeness and confidence, commonly exhibited with a flight of creative ideas. Other symptoms related to this may include feelings of grandiosity, distractibility, and hypersexuality. While hypomanic behavior often generates productivity and excitement, it can become troublesome if the subject engages in risky or otherwise inadvisable behaviors, and/or the symptoms manifest themselves in trouble with everyday life events. When manic episodes are separated into stages of a progression according to symptomatic severity and associated features, hypomania constitutes the first stage of the syndrome, wherein the cardinal features (euphoria or heightened irritability, pressure of speech and activity, increased energy, decreased need for sleep, and flight of ideas) are most plainly evident.
Signs and symptoms
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; it arises in sequential procession as the mood disorder fluctuates between normal mood (euthymia) 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. Numerous people with bipolar disorder have credited hypomania with giving them an edge in their theater of work.
Cyclothymia, a condition of continuous mood fluctuations, is characterized by oscillating experiences of hypomania and depression that fail to meet the diagnostic criteria for either manic or major depressive episodes. These periods are often interspersed with periods of relatively normal (euthymic) functioning.
When a patient presents with a history of at least one episode of both hypomania and major depression, each of which meet the diagnostic criteria, bipolar II disorder is diagnosed. In some cases, depressive episodes routinely occur during the fall or winter and hypomanic ones in the spring or summer. In such cases, one speaks of a "seasonal pattern".
Mania and hypomania are usually studied together as components of bipolar disorders, and the pathophysiology is usually assumed to be the same. Given that norepinephrine and dopaminergic drugs are capable of triggering hypomania, theories relating to monoamine hyperactivity have been proposed. A theory unifying depression and mania in bipolar individuals proposes that decreased serotonergic regulation of other monoamines can result in either depressive or manic symptoms. Lesions on the right side frontal and temporal lobes have further been associated with mania.
Often in those who have experienced their first episode of hypomania – generally without psychotic features – there may be a long or recent history of depression or a mix of hypomania combined with depression (known as mixed-state) prior to the emergence of manic symptoms. This commonly surfaces in the mid to late teens. Because the teenage years are typically an emotionally charged time of life, it is not unusual for mood swings to be passed off as normal hormonal teen behavior and for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder to be missed until there is evidence of an obvious manic or hypomanic phase.
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.
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
- easily distracted and attention-deficit; the inability to 'follow-through' with complete tasks, even despite a conscious effort to do so, as similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- increase in psychomotor agitation, or occasionally in some, increased irritability
- 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, physical and verbal conflicts, foolish business investments, quitting a job to pursue some grandiose goal, etc).
The Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates called one personality type 'hypomanic' (Greek: ὑπομαινόμενοι, hypomainómenoi). In 19th century psychiatry, when mania had a broad meaning of insanity, hypomania was equated by some to concepts of 'partial insanity' or monomania. A more specific usage was advanced by the German neuro-psychiatrist Emanuel Ernst Mendel in 1881, who wrote, "I recommend, taking into consideration the word used by Hippocrates, to name those types of mania that show a less severe phenomenological picture, 'hypomania'". Narrower operational definitions of hypomania were developed in the 1960s and 1970s.
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