What are hypomania and mania?

Hypomania and mania are terms used to describe periods of overactive and excited behaviour that have a serious impact on your day-to-day life. The symptoms of hypomania and mania include:

  • Feelings of extreme and intense happiness
  • Increased irritability and aggression
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • A reduced need for sleep
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Talking very fast
  • Feeling full of ideas and having racing thoughts
  • Having a lot of energy
  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Restlessness and difficulty relaxing
  • A lack of concentration and being easily distracted
  • Increased social activity
  • Risky behaviour e.g. excessive spending, reckless driving, etc.
  • Increased sexual desire
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Poor judgement
  • Heightened senses i.e. sight, smell or other senses being sharper than usual

Anyone could experience any one of these symptoms from time to time, but for most people they will not be severe enough or last long enough to cause problems to the extent of significantly impairing their everyday lives. Whether or not you are diagnosed with hypomania or mania depends on how severe the symptoms are, how long they last, and how much they prevent you living your life as you wish.

“It starts out great (for me anyway). I’m full of ideas and plans. I then get frustrated that other people don’t understand how great my ideas are or I think they want to stop me having fun. This generally leads to me being quite angry and that’s when it stops being fun and starts to be overwhelming.”

If you have bipolar disorder (manic depression), you may experience hypomania or mania followed by periods of depression. However, you can also experience hypomania or mania on its own.

The symptoms of hypomania and mania are the same, but hypomania is a less severe form of mania i.e. it is less impairing, and lasts for a shorter period of time.

Hypomania

You may be given a diagnosis of hypomania if you have experienced at least three of the mentioned symptoms for most of the day, for at least four days in a row, and this is not how you normally behave. Your behaviour may be causing problems for you, and those around you may be concerned about you. Although the symptoms of mania and hypomania are the same, there is much less impairment in social and occupational functioning in hypomania, and hospitalisation is not required.

“If I am hypomanic I tend to recognise the signs easier and tend to rest more, but if I go to mania then I don’t know I am there.”

Mania

The diagnosis would be mania, rather than hypomania, if you have experienced at least three of the mentioned symptoms for most of the day, for at least one week, and your social or occupational functioning are seriously disrupted or you need a stay in the hospital to prevent harm to yourself or to others. You will also receive a diagnosis of mania if you experience psychotic symptoms, characterised by a loss of contact with reality and delusions or hallucinations.

“I could not sit still. I walked for miles… I stopped sleeping… I was myself ‘to the power of ten’.”

Seeking help and diagnosis

While you are experiencing hypomania or mania, you may find it enjoyable and exciting and may not see it as a problem. You may not think that there is anything wrong and you may not want to seek help. You may also feel frustrated or angry if your friends and relatives say you need help or advise you to see a general practitioner.

If you experience depression as well as hypomania or mania , you may seek help for your ‘low’ moods and not think to mention your ‘high’ moods. This can lead to you receiving inappropriate diagnosis and treatment. It is therefore important to tell your general practitioner about all your mood changes.

“I would be ‘buzzing’ for days on end, not needing much sleep and writing down what I thought were hilarious comments. I would feel amazing and invincible, like I could take on the world. Then my mood would gradually lower until I was experiencing severe depression leading to several suicide attempts.”

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