How Hypomania Makes Work Hard
There is a common perception that the hypomanic phase of bipolar disorder type II does not impede one's ability to work, unlike the full-blown manic episodes that come with bipolar disorder type I. I believe that this is misleading. While it is true that hypomania is less severe than mania, the symptoms -- elevated mood, inflated optimism, distractibility, increased goal-oriented activity, racing thoughts, and impulsivity -- are the same. Hypomania may not have sent me to the hospital, but before I began treatment, hypomania made it almost impossible for me to work.
Hypomania and Work Can Wreck Havoc
When I experienced hypomania at work, the slightest distraction would immediately derail my attention. I would frequently get a flight of ideas and quick bursts of energy, prompting me to jump into a lot of projects all at once; inevitably, I would run out of steam and fail to actually follow through on any of them, which led to the crash-and-burn pit of depression.
When I was able to focus on a single project or goal, it ate up all of my concentration and energy, to the point that I would simply forget to eat, drink water, sleep, or even use the restroom -- and mercy on anyone or anything that dared to break my concentration. (Needless to say, I was on the giving end of more than one awkward apology afterward.)
But the most debilitating part of working with hypomania was the extreme inconsistency in my job performance. There was rarely an in-between for me: I either gave a project my all and received high remarks from my bosses and coworkers, or I flopped by procrastinating, rushing through the work, and missing important details just to meet a deadline. I'm an over-achiever and a communal-minded person by nature, and disappointing the people around me only fed the vicious cycle of guilt and shame.
Coping with Hypomania at Work
Now that I work from home (and am on an appropriate bipolar treatment plan), managing work with hypomania is much easier, even in these uncertain times. Making my own schedule with structured time for work, meals, sleep, physical activity, and recreation has reduced my symptoms and the frequency of hypomanic episodes and gives me a sense of discipline and accomplishment. Learning the ins and outs of self-regulation is an ongoing process, but one that I actually look forward to these days.
Not everyone has the privilege of being able to work from home on the regular as I do, and some folks simply prefer the structure and social interactions of traditional work environments. As the COVID-19 situation continues to disrupt life across the world, many of us are being forced to adjust to work lives that are less-than-ideal. If you're struggling to work with hypomania on top of adapting to our "new normal," remember that you are not the only one facing this unique workplace challenge in the age of coronavirus.
Here are some quick tips for managing hypomania at work:
- Fill your workplace with things that make you feel calm and grounded (e.g., a plant, mementos from family and friends, salt lamps, etc.)
- Stick to regular meals and snacks, and limit your caffeine intake throughout the day.
- If possible, keep fidget toys on hand to help shake out excessive energy.
- Create your own grounding routine, such as taking a five-minute mindfulness break or repeating a calming phrase to yourself.
How do you cope with hypomania at work? Feel free to share in the comments.
Rose, N. (2020, May 13). How Hypomania Makes Work Hard, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 14 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/workandbipolarordepression/2020/5/how-hypomania-makes-work-hard
Author: Nori Rose Hubert
Wow, hypomania sounds tough. More power to you for figuring out healthy coping mechanisms to deal with it!
Thanks, Mahevash. Hypomania can be very challenging, and honestly one of the most difficult parts of dealing with it (for me, anyway) is that because it's "mild" compared to full-blown mania, a lot of people don't see it as detrimental - even within the mental health community. That's why I write about it!