What Is Hypomania?
Hypomania can be a symptom of bipolar disorder. In hypomania, your mood will be elevated, and you'll feel energized much more than usual. The change will be noticeable to the people around you. Hypomania also may be a symptom of other mental health disorders.
Bipolar disorder can bring with it dramatic mood swings. You can go from the depths of depression to episodes of racing thoughts, extreme energy, and wired feelings that doctors call “mania.” Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. It might feel pretty good because your mood is up and you have more energy than usual, but it’s not out of control.
Experts use guidelines to tell a hypomanic episode from a manic one. A period of hypomania:
- Lasts at least 4 days in a row. (Mania lasts at least 1 week.)
- Doesn't have a significant impact on your job, schoolwork, or relationships.
- Doesn't have to be treated in a hospital.
Hypomania can evolve into mania, or it can switch to serious depression. And you can’t tell which one might happen, because the pattern isn’t predictable.
Hypomania Causes and Risk Factors
The causes of hypomania aren't entirely clear, and they might be different for different people. Experts think a combination of risk factors and issues (both long-term and short-term) play a role. Among them are:
- A family history of bipolar disorder
- Chemical changes in your brain
- Use of some prescription drugs, including antidepressants
- Recreational drug or alcohol use
- Big life changes, such as moving, changing jobs, or divorce
- A history of trauma or abuse
- High stress levels (caused by things such as money or relationship troubles)
- Inability to deal with very stressful situations
- Poor sleep or disrupted sleep patterns
- Neurological issues such as brain injury or tumor, stroke, dementia, or encephalitis
- Seasonal changes
If you have hypomania, here are some of the ways you might act or feel:
- Abnormally energized or active
- Extremely happy or excited
- Feeling rested even though you slept only a few hours or not at all
- Feeling invincible (your sense of self-esteem is inflated)
- Talking so much and so fast that others can't get a word in
- Having many thoughts on many topics all at the same time, sometimes called racing thoughts or “flights of ideas”
- Becoming distracted easily by unimportant things
- Getting completely absorbed in an activity, so much so that you might work without interruption for hours and hours
- Pacing or fidgeting
- Impulsive behavior such as shopping sprees, reckless sex, or foolish business decisions
How long does hypomania last?
An episode has to last at least 4 days to meet the official definition of hypomania. However, it can last several months.
Certain things can set off an episode of hypomania. These are called triggers, and everyone's triggers are different. Common ones include:
- A stimulating situation, such as bright lights, a big crowd, or lots of noise
- A big life change, such as marriage, divorce, or a new job
- Lack of sleep
- Substance abuse of alcohol or recreational drugs
After a Mania or Hypomania Episode
Once your episode ends, you might:
- Feel unhappy or embarrassed about the episode
- Regret taking on commitments or responsibilities that now seem too much
- Have very few clear memories, or none at all, of what happened during the episode
- Feel exhausted and need lots of rest
- Feel as though you are a different person than you were before
- Feel depressed if your hypomania is related to bipolar disorder
Your health care providers may look to a combination of treatments to deal with your episodes of hypomania.
Talking with a mental health specialist can help you understand your hypomania triggers and learn to manage your symptoms.
If your hypomania is mild, you may not need medicine for it. Or your doctor might prescribe an antipsychotic drug. Those include:
- Aripiprazole (Abilify)
- Lurasidone (Latuda)
- Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
- Quetiapine (Seroquel)
- Risperadone (Risperdal)
Mood stabilizers are sometimes prescribed along with an antipsychotic. Your doctor might add a mood stabilizer if your hypomania is related to bipolar disorder, or if an antipsychotic drug alone doesn't work well for you. Mood stabilizers include:
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
- Valproate (Depakote)
Your doctor might prescribe an antidepressant as well, although those drugs can sometimes trigger hypomania or make episodes more severe. If you're already taking an antidepressant, your doctor may want you to stop using it.
Living With Hypomania
You can take steps to help manage hypomania. For instance, some lifestyle changes may make episodes less likely. They include:
- Have a regular sleep schedule, one that allows you 6-9 hours of rest each night
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get 30 minutes of exercise each day
- Learn relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine
- Avoid stimulating environments with large crowds, loud noise, or bright lights
- Don't use alcohol or recreational drugs
Know your moods
Learn to recognize your triggers and keep track of your moods. A journal can help you do this. If you notice your mood changing, you can move to a calmer environment, seek support, or focus on self-care.
Make a plan
When you're not having an episode, develop a plan for how to handle one in the future. Talk to someone you trust about your triggers and discuss how that person might help you during an episode. They might be able to spot changes in your behavior that you can't. You can decide ahead of time what steps to take. You can also talk about how you feel about your episodes and let those close to you know what is and isn't helpful.
Take your medicine
Make sure you take all of your medication on time and as prescribed. If you're having side effects, talk to your health care provider about how to address that. Don't change the dose or stop your medication altogether without talking to your doctor first.
Find peer support
Your health care provider may be able to put you in touch with a support group. Talking with others who have your condition can help you develop strategies for dealing with hypomania.
Caring for Someone With Hypomania
If someone close to you has hypomania, start by trying to talk to them openly about it. Ask about their experiences and how their hypomania affects them. It's important to build trust.
Ask how you can help. The person may have an idea of what works and what doesn't. Learn about their triggers and warning signs.
Plan for an episode
You may want to come up with things you can do together during an episode, such as a creative project that will give them an outlet for their energy. You might have an agreement that you'll let them know if you think they're taking on too much. Maybe they'd like your support in maintaining a routine such as getting enough sleep, eating well, or exercising. During an episode, they may make poor financial decisions, and maybe they'd like you to help them manage their money at those times.
Acknowledge how they feel
During an episode, your friend or loved one might experience things that, to you, aren't real. Don't focus on correcting them or challenging them. Instead, let them know that you understand what they're feeling, even if you aren't seeing it yourself. Be calm and supportive.
Acknowledge your worries
If your friend or loved one is showing signs of hypomania, express your concern without criticizing. Explain the pattern you're seeing; ask if they notice it, too. If they dismiss your worries, check back in after a couple of days.
Take care of yourself
During an episode, your friend or loved one might engage in challenging behavior. They're ill, but you're still allowed to set boundaries. You can end conversations if they become rude, for instance. Don't take on too much while trying to help someone dealing with hypomania. They should have a support system that includes mental health professionals and other people.
Be supportive afterward
After an episode, your friend or loved one might be embarrassed or upset about their behavior. Let them know you understand that they were experiencing hypomania. Discuss what you might do differently in the future.
What not to do
Don't assume that every shift in your friend or loved one's mood is the beginning of an episode.
When you have hypomania, you may feel especially energetic and upbeat. Others around you may notice the change. Hypomania can be a symptom of bipolar disorder or other mental health issues, but it has many causes and risk factors. Establishing a routine of regular sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet may help you manage hypomania. Tracking your moods and triggers also can help. The condition can be treated with psychotherapy and medication.
What are the signs of hypomania?
You may feel euphoric, or extremely happy, during an episode of hypomania. Your thoughts may race, and you may feel as though you can't talk fast enough to express them all. You might have increased sexual energy, or you could feel agitated. You might be easily distracted. You might spend money freely or engage in risky behavior. Although you sleep very little, you may not feel tired.
What does a hypomania episode look like?
In an episode of hypomania, you may experience an unusual burst of energy and activity. You may be especially talkative. You might do things such as thoroughly cleaning your entire house, focusing completely on a project for hours at a time, or starting several projects at once. You might feel as though you can take on anything, even without training or experience.
What should I do if I'm hypomanic?
If you think you're hypomanic, see a health care professional for a diagnosis. Learn all that you can about your condition, what triggers it, and how to manage it. Joining a support group, making a plan ahead of time for an episode, and talking to a trusted friend are other steps you can take. Follow your doctor's recommendations and take your medication as prescribed.