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Is There a Hypomania Aura? – Hypomania Warning Signs

December 13, 2010 Natasha Tracy

Is there such a thing as a hypomania aura - warning signs that a bipolar hypomanic mood is coming How to avoid hypomania. More at Breaking Bipolar blog.

Epileptics often get what is known as an aura before they have a seizure. An aura is a sensation like hearing voices or seeing colored lights or experiencing numbness. An aura might be present a few seconds or a few minutes before the seizure depending on the person. It’s an early warning sign of a brain misfire. Similarly, I experience signs, an aura if you will, of upcoming hypomanias.

An Aura as a Hypomania Warning Sign

I don’t spend most of my life in a “normal” state. I hear many bipolars do. They experience one mood-related episode, and then another, and then they’re “normal” for a while. I’ve seen it plotted out on graphs. I think it’s more typical of bipolar I than bipolar II. (I use the term normal here over stable because I can be perfectly stable during depression, no movement, just depression. That’s not what I’m talking about.)

 

I tend to exist in a moderate depression most of the time. Sometimes I get worse. Sometimes I get really worse. And sometimes I go into a mixed or hypomanic state. There really aren’t any “normal” periods in there.

So, perhaps I’m plodding along with my normal level of depression and dealing with all the problems therein. It’s at this point that I might feel my version of an aura of a coming hypomania.

  • I start to think random things are funny
  • I feel giggly
  • I’m more focused
  • I get more work done
  • I have more energy
  • I write more
  • I social network more
  • I leave the apartment
  • My brain, my mind, my head just feel different, it's intangible

These are subtle changes. Nothing that a regular person would consider out of the ordinary. But out of the ordinary for me. And knowing me the way I do, I know these changes aren’t going to lead to normal. They are going to overshoot normal and end up somewhere on the spiky bits of euphoria.

The changes are so subtle, in fact, I might miss them. Because each behavior alone doesn’t really mean anything. It’s only when you put the behaviors together that you start to see a picture. A picture of the coming craziness.

Why Does a Hypomanic Aura Matter?

That answer is easy – you don’t want to swing into hypomania. Oh sure, I know it sounds all fun with the speed-talking, grandiose thoughts, and creativity, but it isn’t. Even if the hypomania is pleasant, the problem is that what comes up must come down. The higher you go up, the harder you fall. Trust me. It’s physics. Conservation of energy. Newton was a smart guy.

(As an aside, doctors will also tell you that the more you cycle the more likely you are to cycle and the worse the cycles become over time which is why to prevent them altogether.)

What to Do If You See the Aura of an Upcoming Hypomania

You’re lucky to have been forewarned about the coming apocalypse. For most people it would just immediately squash their head. So I say, don’t waste this precious gift.

These are a few things that work for me that you might consider:

  • Make sure you keep you routine going at all costs, including taking your meds. Now is not the time for an all-night kegger.
  • Get your normal amount of sleep. Yes, sometimes I have to use sleep meds to achieve this, but I find this is far preferable to not sleeping as that will induce mood problems for sure.
  • Eat good, solid, healthy meals. You might not want to due to your mood. Suck it up. It matters now more than ever.
  • Purposefully breathe and slow down your thinking. If you feel you’re running in tiny hamster circles in increasing speed: stop. Breathe. Consider what you’re doing. And then proceed. (If you’re a meditater or a relaxation-exerciser, now would be the time.)
  • Keep conscious of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. (Always good advice.) We all have our individual hypomanic quirks. Look for them. Control them. Be aware you’re doing them.
  • Don’t consume mass amount of coffee or sugar and absolutely no alcohol or drugs. This will not help matters.

There are also medication options, some of us keep tranquilizers and other meds around for this sort of thing, but that’s a decision between you and your doctor.

See a Professional

Finally, if you’ve already made it past the point of no return, see a professional. You’re going to lose the ability to make good decisions any second now so see a doctor before that happens; because, once it does, it’ll be too late.

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

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, December 13). Is There a Hypomania Aura? – Hypomania Warning Signs, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, June 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/12/is-there-a-hypomania-aura-hypomania-warning-signs



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Gayle S.
June, 12 2017 at 1:09 pm

I have Bipolar 1 and have been on mood stabilizers for 23 years with no more severe depression. What I do struggle with is recurrent hypomania....at least twice a year often lasting 3 months. My Dr. and I have an agreement that I treat with two different medicines that try to address the lack of sleep (6 hr norm during this time instead of 9) I practice wellness such as you mentioned, but but the middle or end of the episode I am quite tired of the side effects. My Dr. says he doesn't see how to prevent these cycles and I wondered if other people you have talked to have been able to get better results. I work is a part time, less stressful job than I used to, and also volunteer.

Murtz
December, 29 2015 at 12:39 pm

I am feeling like I need a mood stabilizer. I am very anger but totally unable to access or process what it's about. I'm alternately weepy. I feel forgotten by God. I wanted to give an angel to a stranger. I want to chat up strangers. I try to do the divine mercy chaplet but lose track start over. I am praying too much. For myself and others. I am seeking divine intervention for my weary soul. I find significance in random words numbers or events. Then need to research same. Extreme restlessness. Frustration. Body image issues. Too large feel expansive. Pressured speech. Lack of focus. Pray to angels for assistance. Archangel Raphael. Imagine I can communicate with deceased sister. Feel that I'm psychic. Physical discomfort. Acute anxiety. Sadness. Irritability. Fury beneath a frozen facade. Despondent. Lethargic. Sick of antidepressants. Constant ruminations on how sick i feel and convinced it's the medicine due to medication sensitivity. Shortness of breathe. Hyperventilating. Rapid heart beat. Eat junky food. Give people things. Food gifts. Impulsive. Fixated on ideas. Or products. Singularly focused e.g. the pair of Gucci shoes i must have....great lengths to find them. Bodily pain. Finding meaning in random events. None of this prevents my being a caring compassionate responsible super efficient person. Mother. Full time employee extraordinaire. I tend to be amazingly high functioning and i love people. I write too much. Drink too much coffee. Luckily i sleep well. I think i burn myself out on a supercharged lifestyle but it certainly doesnt help and so i need to switch gears in 2016 and find balance
I'll be praying for you

Natasha Tracy
March, 29 2011 at 3:42 pm

Hi Nicole,
My first question for you is, is this a problem for you? What kind of problem is it? Do these moods correlate to anything like your cycle, for instance?
Are you sure it is a hypomania? http://www.mental-health-today.com/bp/hypo.htm
Without depressions you don't fit into the bipolar II category proper: http://www.mental-health-today.com/bp/bi2.htm
However, you should never rely on self-diagnosis, you need a proper diagnosis by a professional if you are concerned. There may be things you are overlooking or are misinterpreting.
I certainly appreciate wanting to talk to others experiencing symptoms but mental illness is extremely personal and there is no way to say what you are experiencing without a proper assessment. Doctors do this every day. They will take into account your personal circumstances and can give you more information on how you would be assessed.
- Natasha

Nicole
March, 29 2011 at 3:27 pm

Great article, and thank you for sharing.
I am struggling with something, and could use some guidance.
I experience hypomania for certain. I have tons of energy and cannot stand to be home. I am a mother of two, work a full-time job, am a member of two social service organizations, and am working on my doctorate. What I don't have is the loss of a need for sleep, nor have I had what most would consider a severe depression (accept for when I was in college, and once out of college. I do get irritable, and constantly think about how to leave my job and be my own boss. In addition, I have experienced builimia in the past. Does this sound as if I could have Bipolar 2 disorder? Could there be something else going on?
I ask folks like you guys because I trust those who actually experience these conditions more than doctors who diagnose. I would love to hear from anyone who could provide insights.
Thank you!

Dawnetta
December, 23 2010 at 3:05 pm

Right now I feel hypomanic. I don't want to tell my husband because he has SO much going on at work right now. I feel like I don't want to sleep, my mind is going too fast which is esp not good because I need to be studying for a huge exam. I think tonight I will take Tylenol PM to help me sleep. I need to be able to focus.
My memory is not good. Is that a symptom of Lamictal and zoloft? I don't know. My dr. just increased me to 300 mg lamictal and now I've reduced zoloft to 50 or 100 mg because I wasn't sure if it was making me feel hypomanic.
I feel very sexual which is a little scary to me. And right now I am feeling sorry for myself. I think God allowed this as my "thorn in the flesh" but I have too much going on to spend time dealing with this. I think I may be having a mixed state because earlier I felt pretty good and now I just want to cry.

Richard J.
December, 17 2010 at 4:35 pm

I actualy likt that concept Aura! makes sense If that is true I'm must be in it or like got a lit up light a christmas tree thing happening. :)

Richard J.
December, 17 2010 at 4:19 pm

Thank god for computer net works. I always had that ime slip, on top the other signs which sometimes I miss or get by me. Still learning. One sign for me is if I'm on my online support group and my spelling is well like my rapid speach.If I am wanting to not sleep at least I'm on the computer at a safe place. I liked to share this video/song so maybe I can get out of my head now he he. I like this bands beat & there is two versions so I have listoned to numerous times. I dig you tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymT8PGiqPP8 I like when your post has helpful tips.

Natasha Tracy
December, 17 2010 at 7:31 am

Hi Caroline,
I knew I would win something eventually! My first blue ribbon!
OK, seriously, you're absolutely right, there is no competition but it's great to hear someone in our community respecting the struggle of others. Of course, I respect your too.
Thanks for the salute! I salute you back.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
December, 17 2010 at 7:29 am

Hi Ashaven,
Yes, it's tough looking long-term while in the midst of any severe mood, I totally agree.
Good suggestion regarding time slips being another good warning sign.
A couple of people have mentioned how debilitating they find a mixed state. I'll try and fit an article in on that topic sometime soon. It's interesting that coping techniques are less effective then. It's sort of counter-intuitive, but it can be the worst of both worlds.
- Natasha

Caroline
December, 16 2010 at 4:25 pm

I am mildly hypomanic, but mostly ADD, the inattentive type, and I spend a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. And I know, this isn't the competition to see who has the worst burdens to bear, but after reading these postings, I think you guys would win hands-down. I have had periods of depression in my life, but the lithium controls them now. Why am I writing, just to salute and bless you guys.
Marilyn

Ashavan
December, 16 2010 at 4:36 am

I'm definitely not good at looking at the long term. Especially in the moment when I'm sitting with my computer at midnight and realize that I'm still awake and didn't even notice it got that late. That sort of "time slip" is a definite warning sign for me. When I'm in a depressive, which is most of the time, time drags, like everything is muffled and slow. For me to be up late, not to have noticed that the time was passing -- that's a definite warning sign, especially if I'm also feeling somewhat sexual, cause night is not my normal time for that.
But I hate having to be aware of it. Forcing myself asleep. Not being able to risk even the potential of feeling good for fear of what that could become if I overshoot good. Because if I hit "great" -- what does that mean? Even if it's not spending a thousand dollars (or more) that doesn't mean the crash won't come.
And then there's the worse option... what if when it comes I also hit a major depressive - the dreaded mixed state. Then none of my coping strategies really work. My only hope is to sedate myself and try to sleep through it. And I'm not good at making myself do that.

Natasha Tracy
December, 14 2010 at 6:14 am

Hi Jake,
Thanks. And I totally agree, the idea of ignoring them is seductive because those early signs often feel good, but you do so at your own peril. Unfortunately you have to do the adult thing of looking long-term, which a lot of us just aren't good at.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
December, 14 2010 at 6:12 am

Hi Mrs. Life,
I agree. We all have warning signs but we have to know what they are and be conscious enough to be looking for them.
- Natasha

jake
December, 13 2010 at 7:54 pm

That was a good article Natasha, I agree, I think like epilepsy with bipolar disorder there are "auras" that may predate hypomania or full on manic episodes. I know for myself there are definate warning signs. My biggest risk is ignoring them.

Mrs. Life
December, 13 2010 at 2:17 pm

I think that helps a lot, especially if there are general forewarning signs that you're about to enter into hypomania. It can make the transition, and the prevention easier.

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