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Hypomania

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Hypomania is a state of heightened or irritable mood and unusually increased energy or activity that is similar to but less intense than mania. A hypomanic episode is a distinct period of time in which these marked changes from a person’s baseline mood and energy are apparent.

What Is Hypomania?

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A hypomanic episode is defined by the DSM-5 as lasting four or more days in a row, for most of the day, and involving several other symptoms in addition to changes in mood and activity. Among those symptoms are a spike in self-esteem or grandiosity, a lowered inclination to sleep, greater talkativeness, and increased engagement in potentially hazardous activities such as excessive spending or risky sexual behavior.

Unlike a manic episode, however, a hypomanic episode does not necessarily significantly disrupt a person’s work or social life and does not involve psychotic delusions or hallucinations.

Hypomania is a feature of some mood disorders, namely bipolar disorder and cyclothymic disorder, and those who experience symptoms of hypomania often also go through separate periods of depression.

What are the signs of hypomania?

Signs of hypomania include:

• Sudden confidence and assertiveness

• Increased energy

• More time spent on activities and/or unrealistic activities

• Reduced need for sleep

• Racing thoughts

• Distractibility and irritability

• Talkativeness

Hypersexuality

What triggers hypomania?

There are several causes and risk factors for hypomania. People may be genetically predisposed to the condition. Drugs and alcohol can put people at risk, as can stress, life transitions, changes in sleep patterns, changes in season, certain prescription medications (antidepressants, steroids), and certain medical conditions (thyroid disease, seizures, multiple sclerosis).

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Positive and Negative Aspects of Hypomania

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For someone experiencing a stretch of hypomania, a burst of energy, rush of ideas, or interest in achieving goals may add up to a generally positive experience. There may be a blurry line between a functional period of hypomanic productivity and a more severe state that indicates professional care is warranted.

Hypomania can, however, involve negative aspects (including irritability) and may increase the possibility of harm resulting from risk-taking behavior. It can also coincide with depressive symptoms.

While not everyone who experiences hypomanic symptoms has a mood disorder, their presence is important to any broader consideration of a person’s mental health history. A hypomanic episode is key to the psychiatric definition of bipolar disorder type II, which also involves major depression, and is associated with a high risk for suicide.

Can someone with hypomania be fully functional?

Hypomania can be positive when the symptoms coalesce to produce an extremely goal-oriented and focused individual. Functional people in a hypomanic state are able to keep their goals rational and concise, and they can plan around them accordingly. Freud believed, for instance, that people are fully functional when they retain the ability to do three things: work, play, and love. Hypomania becomes a problem, however, if risky behaviors emerge or if the episode progresses into mania or depression.

How can people with bipolar disorder control hypomania?

Some people with bipolar develop the ability to understand and control hypomania, preventing it from becoming a manic episode. Those who control hypomania explain that they rely on a few key strategies: learning how to assess their state via intensity, awareness, functionality, and comfort, recognizing their state and separating their feelings from their reactions, and taking an inventory of behaviors that adversely affect others.

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