What Is Hypomania?

Medically Reviewed By Karin Gepp, PsyD
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Hypomania is a psychological episode. It causes symptoms such as elevated mood or depression, increased energy and talkativeness, insomnia, and feelings of unusually positive physical and mental well-being. Hypomania is a milder form of mania and is usually associated with bipolar disorder. But the symptoms of hypomania, unlike mania, are typically not to the point of interfering with work or relationships.

In this article, we talk about what hypomania is and how it compares with mania. We also discuss what bipolar II disorder is and the symptoms, causes, and treatment for hypomania. Lastly, find out the treatment plan for hypomania and some self-help tips. 

What is hypomania?

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Hypomania is a distinct episode of time, typically at least 4 days, when a person experiences extra energy, insomnia, elevated mood, or irritability, among other symptoms. It is part of the cycle of bipolar disorder and can signal that a manic episode is coming on. It can also occur as part of other mental health conditions. 

The behavior during a hypomania episode is significant enough for friends and family to notice it. Still, it can sometimes be challenging to diagnose because the symptoms are less severe than mania. 

Hypomania vs. mania

Hypomania is similar to mania regarding the types of changes in behavior. However, hypomania symptoms are less severe than mania

There are also a few distinct differences between the two.

HypomaniaMania
Episodes of it last at least 4 days.Episodes of it last at least 1 week.
It does not cause a major impairment in the ability to perform daily activities for work, school, and home.It causes a major impairment in the ability to perform daily activities for work, school, and home.
The treatment does not require hospitalization.The treatment may require hospitalization.

What is bipolar II disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition in which a person experiences extreme changes in their mood, ability to function, and energy levels. These changes are called manic and depressive episodes and are different from the usual ups and downs many people experience at times. 

There are a few different types of bipolar disorders. The two most common types are bipolar I and bipolar II. Experts differentiate them by how severe the mood changes are and how quickly the episodes come on and leave. 

Bipolar II is the most common of the bipolar disorders. People with bipolar II experience the same changes in mood. However, they are less severe than a manic episode and are instead called hypomanic episodes. 

Because the symptoms are less severe, people with bipolar II can usually function in the community and family, performing everyday activities for work, school, and home. Treatment for bipolar II does not typically require hospitalization.

Click here to read about how bipolar I and bipolar II differ.

What are the symptoms of hypomania?

The symptoms of hypomania are nearly identical to those of mania, just less severe. These symptoms include:

  • feeling highly elated, touchy or irritable, and jumpy
  • decreasing sleep needs and appetite
  • talking fast and changing subjects rapidly
  • racing thoughts
  • increasing unusual and potentially harmful behaviors
  • experiencing feelings of unusual importance, talent, and power

What causes hypomania?

Bipolar disorder tends to run in cycles. You may experience phases of typical thinking and functioning, and then move into a time of hypomania.

The episode can last a few days, then your thought process goes back to how it usually is. The cause of the behaviors is unknown but it leads to the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Researchers do not know the exact cause of hypomania and bipolar disorder. But they agree that it is most likely several factors that cause bipolar disorder rather than a single cause. 

Brain differences

People who have bipolar disorder tend to have different brain structures from those who do not. Scientists are working toward understanding those differences and determining the treatment that is the most efficient. 

At this time, diagnosing bipolar disorder is based on a person’s medical history and symptoms.

Genetic differences

Researchers discovered that specific genes are more likely to cause bipolar disorder. Trends also show that when a family member has bipolar disorder, you have a higher chance of developing the disorder yourself. 

There are several genes involved rather than one single one. The more researchers can learn about these genes and their role in the disorder, the better they can develop new treatments. 

What are the treatments for hypomania?

Common treatments for hypomania include a combination of therapy and medication.

  • Psychotherapy: Also called talk therapy, psychotherapy helps people with bipolar disorder learn about their disorder and recognize the symptoms of an oncoming depressive or hypomanic episode. You can also learn coping skills when you experience stress and how to stick with your medication schedule. Therapy also may improve communications and relationships. 
  • Medications: Medications such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics are available to help. It is important to understand the risks and benefits of the medications. Sometimes you may need to try several medications to find which one is the most effective treatment for your individual needs. Once you start taking medication for your disorder, talk with your medical professional before you discontinue it.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy: This is a procedure that stimulates the brain and can relieve severe bipolar disorder symptoms. The treatment generally consists of several sessions over a few weeks, and experts can perform it when you are under general anesthesia. 
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation: This is a new approach and is still under study for its role in treating bipolar disorder. The treatment uses magnetic waves to stimulate the brain every day for 1 month. 

It is important to understand that even when feeling well, you need to continue with your medications to reduce the frequency and severity of your mood changes. 

Click here to read more about understanding psychotherapy.

Self-care tips

You can take steps to promote a healthy lifestyle and manage your bipolar disorder.

  • Eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise.
  • Keep a consistent routine.
  • Take your medications as prescribed.
  • Write in a mood journal.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs.
  • Reduce stress in your life.
  • Create a support network. 
  • Work with your doctor and mental health professional to create an effective treatment plan.

Always consult with your doctor before taking any new over-the-counter or prescription medications.

Summary

Hypomania is an episode of changes in mood, sleep, and behaviors that typically lasts for 4 or more days.

The symptoms are similar to mania. However, they are less severe. Hypomania is a symptom of bipolar II disorder. It is treatable with medications and therapy and does not generally require hospitalization.

Learning the symptoms of mania can help you manage your bipolar disorder. If you are experiencing symptoms of hypomania, contact your doctor or mental health professional.

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Medical Reviewer: Karin Gepp, PsyD
Last Review Date: 2022 Jun 14
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