If you struggle with bipolar disorder, then you may also experience a hypomanic episode. In short, these are periods of intense energetic moods that can either be happy or irritable.
While these mood episodes may feel good, they’re often met by depressive episodes soon after. For this reason, it’s important to keep hypomania in check in order to ease overall bipolar symptoms.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at hypomanic episodes, how they differ from mania, and what you can do to treat them. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What is a Hypomanic Episode?
Lasting about 4 consecutive days, an episode of hypomania results in intense energy that can make you feel very happy or very irritable. ¹ Due to these conflicting emotions, there may be some episodes of hypomania you enjoy and others you don’t.
Still, no matter the circumstances, hypomania does NOT conflict with daily activities as other mental disorders do. Though, some patients may themselves taking risks they wouldn’t normally take (i.e. participating in harmful activities, such as substance abuse).
Hypomanic episodes are typically found in those who struggle with bipolar II disorder. However, people with bipolar I can still experience hypomania symptoms.
Symptoms of a Hypomanic Episode
As mentioned, hypomania usually involves large amounts of energy that can make you feel happy, euphoric, excited, and/or agitated. Since this condition causes significant changes in mood and behavior, others may also notice you’re experiencing an episode.
Still, in order to receive a proper bipolar diagnosis, the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) claims an episode of hypomania must involve at least 3 of the following behaviors: ²
- Increased self-esteem, self-confidence, or feelings of gradiosity
- Decreased need for sleep (i.e. being well-rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
- Becoming more talkative than usual (or feeling as though you need to keep talking)
- Racing thoughts (ideas rapidly changing)
- Easily distracted
- Taking on multiple activities at once
- Engaging in risky activities (i.e. excessive spending, dangerous driving, etc.)
Under its definition, hypomanic symptoms won’t be severe enough to affect your day-to-day life (or require hospitalization). If such symptoms are interfering with your daily life, you’re likely struggling with mania.
It’s worth noting that some individuals may experience hypomania, but not actually struggle with bipolar disorder. Such circumstances are common in drug users – notably those who take stimulants, such as cocaine.
Furthermore, doctors may not diagnose you with bipolar disorder if you don’t struggle with enough symptoms. In turn, you may be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder instead. ³
Hypomanic Episode vs Manic
While symptoms between hypomanic and manic episodes are the same, the key difference is duration. If your symptoms are not severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life, you’re struggling with hypomania. If they are interfering with your life, you’re struggling with mania.
Furthermore, people who struggle with manic episodes may also experience psychosis. In other words, they may experience hallucinations and delusions that greatly inhibit their ability to function.
In terms of diagnosis, a hypomanic episode will last for (at least) 4 days. Whereas a manic episode can go on for (at least) 1 week and may require hospitalization.
How to Treat Hypomania
In order to treat hypomanic episodes, you must treat bipolar disorder as a whole. This helps to keep both manic and depressive symptoms in check and involves two processes:
Also known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapies can help you identify negative thought patterns and work towards changing them. The most common forms of psychotherapy for bipolar disorder are: ⁴
- Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Family focused therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
As a means of easing symptoms while you work through negative thought patterns, you may be prescribed: ⁵
- Mood stabilizers
- Atypical antipsychotics
- Medications for sleep or anxiety
While hypomania may not be as severe as mania, it’s still worth consulting a doctor and seeking treatment options. If symptoms ever get out-of-hand, you may find hypomania is interfering with your life.
Luckily, treatment options are available, depending on your diagnosis.
Still have questions about what a hypomanic episode is?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Bipolar Disorder
² National Library of Medicine: Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health [Internet].
³ National Library of Medicine: Cyclothymic Disorder
⁴ HHS Public Access: Psychotherapy for Bipolar Disorder in Adults: A Review of the Evidence
⁵ HHS Public Access: Treatment of bipolar disorder