The name “bipolar disorder” is seemingly self-explanatory. It’s disorder involving the two poles of emotion – depression and mania or hypomania. People often think of this as the poles of “sad” and “happy.” But as any person with bipolar disorder can tell you, mania or hypomania is not necessarily happy at all.
Mania or Hypomania
The criteria for mania or hypomania is virtually identical but with mania being, “sufficient to cause impairment at work or danger to the patient or others.” Mania can also contain psychosis whereas hypomania does not.
These “up” moods may contain:
- Diminished need for sleep
- Excessive talking or pressured speech
- Racing thoughts or flights of ideas
- Increased level of goal-focused activity (although not necessarily accomplishing these goals)
- Psychomotor agitation
- Engaging in pleasurable activities, often with painful consequences
And while these moods may be characterized by elation or expansiveness, they may also be characterized by irritability.
I know, being irritated doesn’t sound that bad. It sort of sounds like what happens when a fly lands in your soup. But clinical irritability isn’t this. Clinical irritability is more like a grinding and gnashing of teeth to the point where you’re sure that ripping off the waiter’s head is the only reasonable recourse for his annoying allowing of a fly in the presence in your soup.
Irritability is the unreasonable desire to snap at everyone you meet simply because they are exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide. Irritability is the grating of nerves caused by the way a person blinks. Irritability is the feeling of scraping flesh on shards of glass.
Irritability is not a small thing and it is not a fun time (for the person suffering it or those around them).
Irritability is not Happiness
And given this explanation, people normally wouldn’t confuse irritability with happiness and thus, hypomania shouldn’t be confused with happiness either. While some people enjoy the times they spend hypomanic, or often less so, manic, many do not. And even hypomania can be just as destructive on lives and relationships as mania or depression.