Bipolar disorder is an illness where individuals alternate between moods of euphoria (mania) and depression. There are several types of bipolar disorder, characterized by the severity and frequency of manic and depressive episodes.

A less severe form of mania, known as hypomania, can also impact a person’s ability to function in everyday life. It is important for individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and their loved ones, to have an accurate understanding of hypomania. People that experience hypomania can receive medical treatment, live fully functional lives and create meaningful relationships despite their diagnosis. This page aims to address several myths and misconceptions about hypomania.

1. Myth: Hypomania is always a positive experience.

Fact: Hypomania can cause irritability, sleep problems, and risk-taking behavior.

Generally, hypomania is characterized as a mood state marked by feelings of elation and euphoria and increased energy levels. These symptoms may sound pleasurable, even ideal. However, hypomania is often also accompanied by feelings of irritability, agitation, grandiosity, and restlessness. It is also associated with increased impulsive behavior, including spending sprees, unprotected sexand other risky behaviors.

In a study conducted in 2011, certain life events brought about hypomanic episodes in predisposed individuals, including attaining a goal, taking antidepressants, sleeping pattern disruptions, changes in seasons and increased stress. Therefore, having a hypomanic episode may not always be a positive experience and could be triggered by common life events.

2. Myth: Hypomania helps people get things done.

Fact: Hypomanic episodes can be both productive and destructive.

Although hypomania may bring about feelings of grandiosity, increased energy levels, and improved confidence, this is not always the case. The nature of an individual’s hypomanic episodes determines how productive or destructive these episodes are. Unfortunately, hypomanic episodes are unpredictable as far as how long they last, and how an individual feels during the episode. An individual in a hypomanic state may have trouble finishing tasks or may bounce from task to task. Some episodes may be pleasant and productive, while others may be anxiety-ridden and destructive.

3. Myth: People with hypomania are always fun to be around.

Fact: People experiencing hypomanic episodes need your support regardless of their moods.

People diagnosed with bipolar disorder are not always fun to be around. Everyone needs time alone to relax and rejuvenate. Individuals in a hypomanic state may appear to be having a good time on the surface, but underneath may be suffering. There is no one set hypomanic personality. A person experiencing a hypomanic episode may feel agitated if their friends or family members are not as elated or excited as them. They may get angry if those around them cannot keep up with tasks or do not feel as creative as them. Clearly, how an individual acts during a hypomanic episode is dependent on their personality and their dynamics with friends and family. In some cases, hypomania can negatively impact relationships with others. However, through therapy, people can stabilize their moods and repair or strengthen their relationships with others.

4. Myth: Individuals with hypomania never get tired.

Fact: Individuals with hypomania still require sleep.

Just like any other human, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder and hypomanic episodes require sleep. However, individuals in a hypomanic state may find it difficult to stay or fall asleep. In a study conducted in 2016, between 69–99% of individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder reported sleep problems during a manic or hypomanic episode. In the same study, cortisol secretion was dysregulated in individuals in a hypomanic state, indicating that the body’s stress response is disrupted. Additionally, there is an association between genes involved in the brain’s normal sleep-wake cycles and bipolar disorder. Despite sleep difficulties, this study suggests a link between bipolar disorder and severe dysregulation of normal sleep patterns.

Some individuals report feeling a hypomania crash after feelings of euphoria, hyperactivity and elation have dissipated. A hypomania crash may or may not precipitate a depressive period for individuals with bipolar II disorder or cyclothymia. During depressive periods, individuals are more likely to seek treatment than in a manic state. Loved ones should try to offer support for an individual in both depressive and hypomanic states.

5. Myth: Hypomania co-occurs with psychosis.

Fact: People experiencing hypomania DO NOT exhibit psychosis.

Psychosis is defined as a change in an individual’s perceptions, thoughts or actions that make them question their reality. If an individual experiences psychosis and hypomania, this is no longer clinically considered hypomania. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mania is specifically distinguished from its less severe form, hypomania, based on the presence of psychotic episodes. However, whether someone struggles with mania or hypomania, treatment options are very similar.

If you or a loved one struggle with untreated bipolar disorder and an addiction, help is available at The Recovery Village.  Contact a representative at The Recovery Village to learn about specialized treatment options for bipolar disorder with hypomania and a co-occurring addiction and how you can get started on the road to recovery.

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