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Hypomania is Happy – Myth

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:

  • Grandiosity
  • Diminished need for sleep
  • Excessive talking or pressured speech
  • Racing thoughts or flights of ideas
  • Distractibility
  • 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.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus 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.

16 thoughts on “Hypomania is Happy – Myth”

  1. Many thanks to all the good Comments, especially wen is not easy for you but to know that is ok to get help if only you know you need it ,and sad to wait till you are 50 wen you already wasted 20,25 years of your Life, and made others life Miserable.

  2. Whilst I agree that the blanket statement “Hypomania is always fun” is inaccurate, the reverse is just as false. The times I spent hypomanic were without a shadow of a doubt the happiest of my life. I have experienced pretty much every drug under the sun, but they all pale in comparison to the glorious euphoria of hypomania that I had every single day. Of course, there were downsides, but did I care at the time? Hell no. Happy is a huge understatement when it came to my hypomania, euphoria almost seems underplaying it. It was godly. So don’t put out that hypomania isn’t a subjectively good time just because you may get the irritabile side to it.

  3. So glad you posted – I used to have focused, high-energy hypo manias where I wrote a lot. Now all my hypomanias are irritable, and I feel like I’ve been cheated out of something. I hate moving through the world most of the time, except when I’m baseline, which is really rare.

  4. First, Hello.
    I am responding to ‘I’ve never had “highs”, meaning I don’t usually felt elated and happy in excess.’ THAT is a HUGE part of ‘bipolar II’-the ‘swings’.
    I, MYSELF, thought the same thing-mostly just depression. What the hell am I doing crying watching some movie and why the hell can’t I get out of bed?! I never associated the manic parts of my life as anything other than ‘GOODTIMES!’ 🙂
    It wasn’t until they put me on some meds that really messed me up did the subject of bipolar come up and it took a lot of introspection to realize that YES, I did have those ‘manic’ periods but for me they were great times and I never associated them as anything other than ‘that’s just life’and they weren’t as frequent as the ‘lows’.
    I don’t know how old you are but I wasn’t diagnosed till I was almost 50 so I missed out on a lot of experiences that I could have had were I correctly diagnosed in my youth. It is a great source of sorrow- the ‘if only’ scenarios. I can now look back, with hindsight, and see all the options and choices that were askew and the missed opportunities for a grander life than the ‘existence’ I am now shackled to.
    I beg you to look through your life, CAREFULLY, and see if there were not, indeed, these times of unbelievable happiness , joy and energy.
    I don’t think I could have recognized any of them when I was young.
    All the best to you.

  5. Again, thank you. This issue was another hesitation for me in pursuing the idea that I might have a bipolar disorder. I’ve never had “highs”, meaning I don’t usually felt elated and happy in excess. But oh, in the past, I’ve had some SERIOUS issues with irritability. Something as simple as dropping my pencil or pen caused me to be so angry that hurting someone seemed perfectly justified and would cause me no remorse at all. I used to get so angry when driving that I would challenge any cops around me (thankfully only from within the safety of my car and not outwardly) – “Come one, I DARE you to pull me over. Come on!” What I planned to do if they did pull me over, I had no idea.
    My question for you is this: As angry as I’ve gotten in the past, there’s always been some kind of check in my mind that stops me before I do anything really stupid. For instance, one time I walked in the door of my apartment, spilled the coffee I was carrying, and just went completely mad, throwing things and breaking things. But before I could cause too much damage, some thought in my mind reminded me that not only would I have to clean all this stuff up, but the more stuff I break, the more stuff I have to buy again. It was just a really practical voice, and it stopped me. I spent the rest of the night curled up in the fetal position on the couch trying to calm myself down.
    Is this mental “check” normal for someone with a bipolar disorder? Does this relate to your other post about being “high-functioning”?
    I’m so thankful for your site! It’s always nice to know that one is not alone!

  6. Hi Emily,

    Yes, at that time we weren’t aware of the effect antidepressants could have on people with bipolar disorder. Too bad your doctor made light of something that can be so serious.

    – Natasha Tracy

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