What causes hypomania and mania?

Mental health problems are complex and it is generally felt that they develop because of a combination of factors rather than one particular cause. There are no known causes that are specific to hypomania and mania.

What else might cause these symptoms?

Possible causes include:

  • high levels of stress
  • lack of sleep and long flights (jet lag)
  • stimulants such as drugs or alcohol
  • a difficult or abusive childhood
  • challenging life experiences such as bereavement, domestic violence or unemployment
  • family history – if you have a family member who has bipolar disorder, you are more likely to experience mania or hypomania
  • brain chemistry – the fact that some people’s symptoms can be controlled by medication suggests that the function of the nerves in the brain could play a role, but research evidence is not conclusive

Certain physical problems can cause symptoms that are very similar to those caused by hypomania and mania. To make sure you are given the correct diagnosis and treatment, it’s extremely important that your doctor checks for these before you are given a diagnosis of hypomania or mania.

Thyroid function

Mood is influenced by the thyroid gland, which controls your metabolic rate (the amount of energy you use to keep your body functioning). In some cases, symptoms similar to mania or hypomania may be caused by an overactive thyroid gland. Your doctor should check your thyroid function before making a diagnosis.

Effects of medication

“I’d never [experienced mania] in my life until I started on antidepressants and now [again] in withdrawal.”

Some antidepressants (especially specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors – SSRIs) can cause mania as a side effect while you are taking them or when you stop. (See Mind’s booklet Making sense of antidepressants for more information.)

If you are prescribed an antidepressant, and then experience symptoms of mania, your doctor may see this as a sign of bipolar disorder and change your diagnosis. This will probably mean they will change your medication to a mood stabiliser. If you have only ever experienced symptoms of mania or hypomania while taking an antidepressant, you may wish to discuss this with your doctor.

“On my meds [it] feels like you can do anything and everything with no consequences. Everything has calmed down since I stopped taking [them].”

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