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 – feeling excessively ‘high’
- increased irritability and aggression
- increased confidence and self-esteem
- a reduced need for sleep
- increased talkativeness and talking very fast
- feeling full of ideas and racing thoughts
- having a lot of energy
- an exaggerated sense of your own importance
- restlessness and difficulty relaxing
- a lack of concentration and being easily distracted
- increased social activity
- risky behaviour, such as going on a spending spree
- increased sexual desire and decreased inhibitions
- poor judgement
- heightened senses – sight, smell or other senses being sharper than usual
These symptoms on their own are things anyone may experience from time to time, but for most people they will not be severe enough to cause problems. Whether you are diagnosed with hypomania or mania, or whether you receive a diagnosis at all, 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 (see Mind’s booklet Understanding bipolar disorder for more information). However, you can also experience hypomania or mania on its own.
The symptoms of hypomania and mania are the same, but hypomania is a milder form – it is less severe and lasts for shorter periods.
You may be given a diagnosis of hypomania if you have experienced at least three of the symptoms together 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. Hypomania is not normally severe enough to cause major problems in relationships or work, and you will not need to be treated in hospital.
“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.”
The diagnosis would be mania, rather than hypomania, if your symptoms have been present for a week or more, and your work and social activities are seriously disrupted or you need a stay in hospital. You will also receive a diagnosis of mania if you have psychotic symptoms, such as hearing voices, other hallucinations, or delusions.
“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 to see a doctor.
If you experience hypomania or mania as well as depression, 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 doctor 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.”