Hypomania is a condition in which an individual exhibits an uncharacteristically elevated mood, a boost in energy levels, and spontaneous or risky behavior. Often associated with bipolar disorder, a hypomanic episode can be concerning for those who experience them.
In this article, we’ll discuss what hypomania is, how it can be treated, and why self-evaluations can play an important role in helping you seek care for this serious mental health concern.
What Is Hypomania?
Hypomania is an elevated state marked by uncharacteristically heightened energy levels and mood. Hypomanic episodes are primary features of bipolar disorder, in which an individual cycles between periods of mania and periods of depression. Hypomania can also occur, however, on its own. Hypomania—which is a less severe form of mania—is generally characteristic of specific forms of bipolar disorder.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V), a hypomanic episode is marked by “abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently increased activity or energy, lasting at least 4 consecutive days and present most of the day, nearly every day”. Manic episodes, on the other hand, typically last at least seven consecutive days and are marked by symptoms that, while similar to those of hypomanic episodes, are more intense.
Someone who is experiencing hypomania might not feel tired for days at a time. They may struggle to maintain a consistent speech pattern, skip multiple meals, and leap from topic to topic in conversation without needing time to readjust to a new train of thought. This condition can seriously affect an individual’s relationships, ability to function, and mental and physical health. It can cause them to engage in risky behaviors that lead to long-term challenges and complex emotions after an episode is over.
The most common symptoms of hypomania include:
Elevated mood – Feelings of elation, joy, or positivity are common.
Changes to sleep patterns – A period of hypomania might allow individuals to get by on 3-4 hours of sleep. They might not notice a decline in reasoning skills, alertness, or mood.
Differences in eating habits – People experiencing hypomania might feel as though they have no appetite and skip meals frequently.
Heightened productivity – An individual may focus intently on certain tasks, which could be related to their career, housework, etc.
Increased self-esteem – A person may feel a boost in their self-worth, so much so that they view themselves as inherently smarter or better than others.
Difficulty focusing – Distractibility is common in those experiencing hypomania, making it hard for them to pay attention for extended periods of time.
Hypomania and mania are often associated with bipolar disorder, which comprises three different conditions: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. Bipolar I is considered the most severe and is characterized by manic episodes, which must have been ongoing for seven days. Bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder (also called cyclothymia), however, are less severe and are marked by hypomanic episodes.
Using A Hypomania Test
Self-evaluations can help people learn more about the symptoms of mental health conditions and identify when it’s time to seek help. When using a hypomania self-evaluation, it is important to remember that these tests do not take your personal circumstances into account, including a family history of mental illness, the presence of other conditions, the use of medications, and lifestyle factors that could be causing your symptoms. Hypomania tests can be used as tools to determine whether further intervention is necessary; but they are not meant to be used for self-diagnosis.
Several different inventories have been developed over the years to help identify the existence of hypomania and evaluate its severity. Healthcare professionals often use these scales to diagnose an individual with mania, hypomania, or bipolar disorder and determine how severe their symptoms are. They may then intermittently administer the assessments to evaluate the individual’s progress.
While these scales are typically developed for professional use, many of them can be utilized by individuals who want to get a better idea of whether they might be living with mania or bipolar disorder. Though these self-evaluations can be helpful, it is necessary for a healthcare professional to interpret their results—and, in many cases, to score them. They can then help you determine whether further testing, a diagnosis, and treatment are necessary.
These tests may be particularly helpful in acquainting you with the symptoms of hypomania and helping you understand its varying severity levels. For example, the first question on the Young Mania Rating Scale asks about the extent to which the participant has experienced an elevated mood. From least severe to most, answers can include:
“Mildly or possibly increased on questioning”
“Definite subjective elevation; optimistic, self-confident; cheerful; appropriate to content”
“Elevated; inappropriate to content; humorous”
“Euphoric; inappropriate laughter; singing”
Reviewing the possible manifestations of an elevated mood may help you better understand that symptom. The Young Mania Rating Scale includes ten more questions that cover the primary symptoms of hypomania, including sleep disruptions, irregular speech patterns, and irritability.
In addition to the Young Mania Rating Scale, there are several other assessments that can be used to measure hypomania. The hypomania checklist (HCL-32) is a 32-item questionnaire that is meant to assess the manic symptoms of bipolar disorder. It starts with a question about how the individual is feeling, then one about their typical state, and then 32 questions about how they feel when they’re in an elevated state.
The Altman Self-Rating Mania Scale (ASRM) is a significantly shorter measure of manic and hypomanic symptoms. The ASRM asks 5 questions about individuals’ feelings and behaviors. This can be a more accessible and easier-to-use evaluation.
There are several other scales that can be used to assess hypomania severity. The Hypomanic Attitudes and Positive Predictions Inventory is a longer-format scale focused on an individual’s perception of their current state. The Child Mania Rating Scale is a parent-reported inventory used to evaluate children and adolescents aged 9-17. And the Bech-Rafaelson Mania Scale (MAS) is similar to the Young Mania Rating Scale in that there are 11 items. The MAS is considered a particularly reliable and consistent scale.
All of the above self-evaluations are available to be printed and filled out online. Additionally, many have been adapted into online examinations by various sites.
If the results of an evaluation suggest you may be living with hypomania, or you otherwise believe seeking help could be beneficial, consider consulting with a healthcare professional. A medical or mental health professional can interpret the results of your assessment, provide screenings of their own, and determine whether a diagnosis is necessary.
Treatment for hypomania typically includes medication and psychotherapy. Lithium, valproic acid, and lamotrigine are common forms of medication for mania. Therapy can help an individual navigate the emotional highs of hypomania, address potentially risky behaviors, and develop coping mechanisms for their symptoms.
Always consult with a healthcare professional prior to starting or stopping any medication.
Addressing Hypomania With Online Therapy
Research supports online therapy’s effectiveness for managing mental health concerns that may be related to hypomania. In one review of 17 studies on online cognitive behavioral therapy, researchers found it to be for a range of mental health symptoms, noting that it is widely utilized for disorders in which an individual’s mood may be affected. The study also mentions that online therapy is a more cost-effective option for most individuals.
If you’re struggling with the symptoms of hypomania, bipolar disorder, or a related mental health concern, consider seeking the support of a licensed therapist online. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can process the difficult emotions that may accompany bipolar disorder or a hypomanic episode remotely, through video call, voice call, or in-app messaging. BetterHelp works with a team of mental health professionals with diverse specialties and areas of expertise, so you’ll have a good chance of matching with someone who can address your specific concerns regarding manic episodes or similar challenges.
How do I know if I am hypomanic?
People who experience hypomania are likely to have the following symptoms:
- Noticeably elevated or irritated mood
- Higher levels of energy
- An increased sense of self-esteem, and, in some cases, grandiosity (believing one has special abilities)
- Decreased desire for food or sleep - a hypomanic patient may feel rested and appear fully functional after only a couple of hours of sleep
- Talking more than usual
- Racing thoughts
- Being easily distracted
- Engaging in risky behavior, such as spending sprees or sexual affairs
What is the dark side of hypomania?
Hypomania can often feel euphoric to the person experiencing the manic episode. However, hypomania can have serious and lasting consequences in a person’s life. The higher levels of risk-taking associated with any kind of manic episode can damage relationships and personal finances, and in some cases, may result in hospitalization.
Can hypomania feel like anxiety?
Hypomania shares some features with anxiety. Racing thoughts, decreased appetite, and agitation are all symptoms associated with both conditions. Irritability is another common anxiety symptom that can also occur in a hypomanic episode.
How do you trigger hypomania?
Hypomania can be triggered by a number of different factors, including:
- Substance use, particularly stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine
- Significant changes in one’s life (positive or negative)
- Seasonal shifts
- Intense sensory stimulation, such as being in a crowded place
- Certain medications
- Lack of sleep
- Hormonal changes
Can you be self-aware of hypomania?
It is possible to be aware that you are experiencing a hypomanic episode. However, many people experiencing hypomania are unaware that they are behaving any differently than usual.
What mimics hypomania?
Other mental health disorders may result in symptoms similar to hypomania. One example is cyclothymic disorder, a mood disorder that results in mood swings that are not as severe as those associated with bipolar disorder.
What do manic eyes look like?
“Manic eyes” refers to the physical changes in appearance in a patient’s eyes when they are experiencing a manic episode. Though not present in all mania patients, some patients’ eyes may appear to “sparkle.” Eye color may darken, and pupils may dilate, which typically makes eyes appear darker as well.
What mental illness has hypomania?
Bipolar disorder is associated with experiencing hypomanic episodes.
Can I be hypomanic and still sleep?
It is possible to sleep during a hypomanic episode, but it is likely that you will not sleep as much as you would on a regular basis.
What does irritable hypomania look like?
Irritability associated with hypomania may manifest in different ways for different people. Common symptoms associated with hypomanic irritability include becoming annoyed easily, “snapping,” and being argumentative.
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