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What is the Difference Between Mania and Hypomania?

One of the main differences between bipolar I and bipolar II is that bipolar II experiences hypomania and not mania. Last week I wrote from the perspective of a hypomanic mind, but what is hypomania really? Is hypomania fun or is it just plain crazy?

Mania

Many are familiar with Bipolar I mania, but few understand the hypomania in bipolar II. Hypomania and mania are similar but have a critical difference.In type I bipolar, a defining characteristic is mania. Mania symptoms include:

  • Abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood
  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
  • Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  • Distractibility
  • Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequence

 

In order for the mood to be considered manic, these symptoms must cause a “marked impairment in… functioning… or relationships with others, or to necessitate hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others, or there are psychotic features” (official diagnosis criteria).

It’s that last part that’s really key; mania must be severe and result in danger to yourself, others, relationships, employment, etc, typically leading to hospitalization.

Hypomania

For bipolar II we experience hypomania, which I like to call mania-light. All the crazy with half the impairment. It includes symptoms like:

  • A distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood
  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
  • Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  • Distractibility
  • Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences

The mood must also be unusual for the individual and noticeable by others. And now the important part, “the episode is not severe enough to cause marked impairment in… functioning, or to necessitate hospitalization, and there are no psychotic features.” (official diagnosis criteria)

Diagnostically, mania must be at least seven days whereas hypomania has to be at least 4 days.

(Other complexities like mixed-moods and rapid cycling aren’t discussed here.)

 

Mania vs. Hypomania

So if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note that the symptoms of mania and hypomania are virtually identical, the key differentiation is the severity. Mania is very dangerous because people don’t just act abnormally; they typically endanger themselves or vital parts of their lives. Mania often requires hospitalization due to the damage they are doing. Hypomania, on the other hand, may be an unusual mood, and it may cause some harm to the person or their lifestyle, but not to the point where they need to be hospitalized. People in hypomania buy five pairs of shoes, people in a mania buy 50.

Is Hypomania Fun?

So, if hypomania doesn’t get you hospitalized, and doesn’t severely endanger your life, is it fun? Well, it depends who you ask.

Some people say hypomania is enjoyable, happy, fun and the only break they get from their depression. Some people feel they’re more like the person they were before bipolar disorder than at any other time. They’re also fun to be around, creative and are social butterflies at that time. Oh, and the sex tends to be really good too. So, yes, some people really enjoy hypomania and find it fun.

On the other hand, some people get extremely irritable and even angry during hypomanic phases. They become very dissociative and disconnected from the world around them. They feel constantly bombarded by thoughts they can’t control and obsessed with fragments of music or literature that repeats endlessly in their mind. They feel possessed and like they’re being crushed by a very fast, very powerful outside force they can’t control. This is not in the least bit fun.

I Prefer Hypomania

If I got to choose between mania, hypomania and depression, I’d pick hypomania. True, I do feel awfully crazy and disconnected from the world when going through it, and true, the obsessive thoughts are tormenting, but the energy is such a great change of pace from the depression that I’ll take it any day. I’m more creative, can put more energy into achieving goals, and just plain get more done.

But that’s a personal thing. Would anyone care to share their experiences with hypomania?

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

135 thoughts on “What is the Difference Between Mania and Hypomania?”

  1. Hello I actually started going through this a year ago. It just hit me one day and I went into a bad depression. All because of my thoughts. They were thoughts that I would never even think of and they wouldn’t stop playing over in my head. I would wake up every morning at 4 am for no reason and it would start all over again. My doctor said I have depression. But I recently got off my medication and I noticed that my moods will change. One minute I’m fine the next I couldn’t stand anyone around me, then I started buying stuff on impulse. Like I bought probably 10 pairs of shoes then would take them back if I felt it didn’t fit right. I was in the stores everyday buying stuff then returning it. I felt like a crazy person. Now I’m going through the depression again but my doctor did put me back on my medicine. I’m just wandering should I be checked for bipolar disorder instead of depression?

    1. Hi Holly,

      It’s never a bad idea to be checked for bipolar disorder as it can often be misdiagnosed as depression. If you’re seeing your GP (family doctor) you may wish to get a referral to a psychiatrist for a formal diagnosis.

      – Natasha Tracy

  2. I’ve been trying to figure out for years if I’m depressed because I’ll go through weeks where I’m extremely happy and fun and I want to go out and do stuff with my friends and then there will be days that I’m really sad and everytime I get in my car I want to run it into a wall and kill myself. Also the times that I’m really happy I feel like I’m living in a movie and I feel like it can’t be real. Anything can make me sad and depressed but I hide it from my family and friends last night I couldn’t sleep because I was having an anxiety attack for no reason it’s gotten worse ever since I turned 18 and a realize now that I’m probably bipolar after reading about it more and also my grandmother had bipolar disorder really badly. The thing is I know I need to see a therapist but I don’t know how to tell my mother I’ve been crying all day for no reason I just got off of my happy high last night and I just started school and I don’t want it to affect my future.

  3. Hi Filania. There are many possible reasons for you to be feeling like this. I would definitely advise you to seek professional help to get an assessment and figure out what could be causing these symptoms. If it is Bipolar or something else that’s serious, leaving it untreated means it’ll get worse and worse and harder to treat. If you’ve been suicidal before you know how easy it is to do something that you might later regret, and sometimes people get stuck with tricky health problems like liver and kidney damage because of a moment of impulsivity. You owe it to yourself to get it checked out and make sure you’re on top of your health. Most people get better and there’s lots of different treatments nowadays, not all of them even involve medication. So don’t be afraid to ask and see what they have to suggest. In the UK and most of Europe there are free mental health services you can access. Ask your regular doctor or call a helpline and ask what’s available. If in the UK, google or call 111 to see what your nearest IAPT service is and they can help you for free.

  4. I haven’t been diagnosed and haven’t tried to go seek professional help because of some money problem, but I keep having mood swings, at times I’m really happy, and hyped without a reason, I keep smiling and laughing for hours without any reason (yes, even when I’m all alone I’ll still laugh at nothing), and I tend to be more creative, I could write thousands poem that somehow very sad, and I can’t stop moving around, dancing and singing and sometimes do extreme things such as smoking (i’m underage) and other things. But the next 1 or 2 days I’ll feel extremely sad, have no desire to live, feel really depressed, avoid people, sleep alot, feel really really weak and empty. I’ve tried to kill myself a few times and I also self-harm (cutting, hitting myself etc,)

    I thought its just some stress but over 3years this had gotten worst and worst, to the point I felt like I can’t do this anymore, cause really I’m so tired of feeling really happy and then really depressed
    Am I bipolar or is this another things? Or am I just crazy or really stressed?

    1. Please don’t harm yourself, I just dealt with a
      Suicide in the family, I wish you could see what it does to the lives of people around you. You may have bi-polar, if you are underAge urge your parents to take you For help…there’s no shame in that. I went through a state of mania and depression but I started to repair and heal. It’s almost like an addiction, your never going to just wake up one day and be cured. Every day you have to put in effort, take it one day at a time. Just WIN THE DAY! 💖

  5. i am not sure what i have is either hypomania or mania r depression or bipolar but i do tend to have these scary thoughts about death, and things that did’t even happen yet or will never happen. it is like episodes of tv shows in my head, it kept flowing in and each passing day i got more scared. even one day, i got my study tour to one of the most beautiful city on my country with the rest of my classmates at university, i was hyped, very excited, i couldnot shut up the whole trip, i move around in the bus while everyone was asleep, i talked to the driver and i kept doing things, but then the next day the hype decreased i felt slowly sad, and irritated by everyone around me, i started to being silent by thounsand thoughts runnin in my head. then at one moment, i broke down, i cried, i sobbed, with no apparent reason, i just cried, i felt very sad, lonely, and hurt. in my head all i know was pain, cheating, and misunderstood, i felt so distant with everybody. is that even normally? and i think now it’s gettin worse, not the fun part tho but the bad part. i keep having thoughts that aren’t even mine. i talked to my self like i was talking to another person, it was kinda scary. am i crazy?

    1. Daniera,
      What you describe, to me ( bipolar II), sounds very much like my experience of hypomania. Please consult a doctor to see if more stabilizers might help in your situation. I wish you the very best.
      Linda

    2. Daniera,
      What you describe, to me ( bipolar II), sounds very much like my experience of hypomania. Please consult a doctor to see if mood stabilizers might help in your situation. I wish you the very best.
      Linda

  6. How do you diagnose hypomania or bipolar 2… I think my girlfriend has it.( Dating . ( her sister who is normal think so too) her mother is schizophrenia and grandfather is bipolar.. but she is in total denial of being bipolar stating that a therapist diagnosed her with complex ptsd wig panic disorder.. because her dad was an alcoholic n he wasn’t there so much for her..but there are things that are highly questionable.. I am a nurse .. But not an expert psych patients ..however her actions look like this.. she has few bouts of depression crying at times, she admitted to flight of ideas, very creative as she paints, makes clothes , sometimes she has many ideas but does not finish them she talks fast especially when she meets new people .. she takes over the conversation, she used to be hyersexual in the past .. she has since slowed down ( she been to sex addiction classes before) , but now and at times would say some off the wall stuff that has nothing to do with conversation, like tell people she knows pornstars when people don’t care. She is taking peroxitine for gen anxiety . She is very smart however she many degrees n is about to be a lawyer..but also has a degree in Buisness n photography.. please help!

  7. My hpomania, which occurred only three times, is VERY lite. I’m naturally euthymic, have been all my life. So hypomania is not that much of an upgrade and does not seem so different. Either that or I’ve been hypomanic for 60 or so years. It’s the depressions that are a nightmare. The distinctive difference I noticed only the last time between hypomania and euthymia is “push.” There is something subtley driving it inside that I am not doing, not me. It’s chemicals. (I’m organic bipolar.) The process is not really all that unpleasant but I’m very sensitive to being pushed around, which I can’t abide. If I just calm myself though its power is lost.

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