“Hypomania (literally “under mania” or “less than mania”) is a mood state characterized by persistent disinhibition and mood elevation (euphoria), with behavior that is noticeably different from the person’s typical behavior when in a non-depressed state. It may involve irritability, but less severely than full mania. According to DSM-5 criteria, hypomania is distinct from mania in that there is no significant functional impairment; mania, by DSM-5 definition, does include significant functional impairment and may have psychotic features.”
Ahh, good ole hypomania, the electric charge running through the veins of Bipolar Disorder, namely Type 2. I’ve included some anecdotes below from friends diagnosed Type 1, which would manifest as either hypomania or its more disruptive and severe cousin, mania. Now, this doesn’t mean hypomania isn’t ever a problem, but it generally does not require hospitalization. Hypomania is an elevated mood state, but this can manifest as mild to moderate euphoria, or the more distressing: dysphoria, irritability, impulsivity, and recklessness, to name but a few.
Hypomania can fly under the radar, but I recommend using the buddy system if you need to be out in public, where any stressor out there could affect one’s hypomanic state for the worse. I had a period where my hypomania was particularly severe and unpleasant. I was a mess. A sobbing, hysterical mess. And I could not understand why my dad was trying to hide in his room whilst I needed so badly to unscrew my whole head off and throw it across the room. There was too. much. going. on.
I was pleading with him to hear me, to console me. I couldn’t stop crying, I could hardly breathe. Thoughts and thoughts hijacked my brain to critical mass. I still didn’t know what was going on up there because I had totally forgotten my original diagnosis of Bipolar when I was 13 years old. I believe I remember being in denial about it, as most of us have been, and there’s just as many sufferers today finding it hard to accept their diagnosis. Their chronic, life-long diagnosis.
The medication, the mood stabilizers, the antipsychotics, the adjunct antidepressants. The unwanted side effects. The weight gain. The self-stigma. Society’s stigma. Workplace stigma. Interpersonal stigma. The inevitable conflict with loved ones and with doctors. The monthly costs. The monthly refills. The challenging access to effective, empathetic therapy.
But, I digress. That’s not the topic of today. Today is about lived experience with hypomania, the temporary “relief” from the crippling depths of Bipolar depression, distinct from your more commonly seen unipolar depression. Neither is easy to live with. Depression can kill. It is a very serious concern for those afflicted because it is always a mixed state away.
For many years I was “undiagnosed” and unmedicated. I developed an ever progressing dependence on alcohol that showed no signs of slowing down. One day while I was working I realized I had a problem. I sought out a therapist and I sought out a psychiatrist. Due to the lack of proper screening, I didn’t get on the appropriate medicine for 4 years. It wasn’t until spring of 2018 that this thing called hypomania reared its ugly head and forced me to recognize what the hell was going on. I thought it was totally normal to vacuum at 3 in the morning. Normal for us, maybe.
That spring, my friend and I were walking around an arts and crafts fair. I had an ice pack in the back of my shorts because I had a lot of inflammation and it was killing my back. Trying to relieve the pain, I was trying out liquid kratom. After a few drops under my tongue, I’m suddenly hurting my friend’s ears because I’m euphoric and I’m loud. Don’t kill my vibe, bro.
I had no intentions of visiting the booth where they had dogs up for adoption. But when it caught my eye, I felt a magnetic force toward the very first pup who met my gaze. I told my friend not to wait up for me: I needed to adopt this dog. Today. Before they leave. And that’s soon. The pressure was on. I needed a dog. This dog. And I wasn’t leaving without him. Mind you, this dog was kinda ugly. But that didn’t matter because he was going to be the one to change my life, to get me out of the house and socializing. This was the way and it was very important that my dad realize this.
He didn’t. This wasn’t the first time I pined for a dog over the 17 years I’ve been living under my dad’s roof. The refusal hurt every time. So, I did not visit places I could come to pine for a dog. But here I was at the booth and things just got worse over the next half hour. I was harassing my dad relentlessly, growing ever more despondent the more he ignored my frantic calls. The lady at the booth sensed this was an impulsive decision and required my dad’s approval. I shouldn’t have told her I lived with him.
High on whatever was hijacking my brain, I split. My dad was now the enemy and I did not want to hear from him ever again. If it wasn’t going to be the dog, I was going to collect my things and move out as soon as possible. Why wasn’t I thinking of my cats? I did not go back home that entire evening. I had a mission and it was to move out. Maybe then I could have my dog.
Midnight came. I was exhausted from the hunt. I would go home, even if he was there. Ultimately, things resolved themselves. I was coming back down to reality and maybe this didn’t need to happen yet. It was no longer an emergency. The dog was kinda ugly, anyway.
The hypersexuality. The foray into very dangerous environments. My dad, the hero. Me, feeling stifled. I couldn’t stifle the state I had come to find myself in. The return to the fetish community I once dabbled in. One night a professional flogger painted my ass purple, red, and blue. In that community, flogging is a staple. It made me feel sexy.
The compulsive spending. The end of my credit. The judgments. The ignored calls from banks. My phone was always ringing. Eventually, maybe a month later, the calls stopped. I was screwed. $30k in debt.
One night, out on my own, I found myself at a bar. I noticed someone I found attractive and I had the cojones to sit next to him. I tried to flirt but his gaze never left his phone. This was my 2nd rejection of the night. I had already been turned down by someone “so promising” maybe an hour before. And that was it. I left the guy who ignored me and walked to the bathroom where I hysterically cried while pounding down the rest of my Long Island Iced Tea. I was desperate. I needed validation.
I called an old acquaintance, a close friend of my fall-down alcoholic ex. I wasn’t even attracted to Barney but he answered in my time of need. He was so thrilled with my call he got up and left my ex’s house to meet up with me. We found a hotel and, well, the rest I keep to myself.
Hypomania can be reckless. The rational part of your brain shuts down and you’re only operating on impulse, primal impulse. It’s a thrill, but it’s nothing I can say I’m proud of.
I hope I’ve done my job of shedding light on an often misunderstood part of my illness.
“Hypomania is that welcome breath of fresh air after all that smothering pain. It’s like the veil gets lifted and everything is bright and beautiful and inviting. I want to do all the things I wasn’t doing and more. It starts slow then speeds up with lack of sleep.” 🙃
“When I am in hypomania, I tend to need to complete a lot at once and my anxiety skyrockets. But being Bipolar 1, it’s not often that I’m here. I often head right to mania and my behavior becomes completely destructive with sexual and spending sprees.
Rapid speech, racing thoughts, disregard for relationships, need for new pets/career/tangible items, etc. can all come with either hypomania or mania for me. Impulsivity is a bitch.” 😑
“Magical thinking seems more and more plausible every day, colours are brighter, music is more soulful, once impossible tasks seem possible, general clarity of all things… alas, the clearer they seem, the more skewed they have usually become.”
“I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and I actually don’t like episodes of hypomania. Sure, I get the energy but my thoughts are so all over the place, so I don’t get anything done. The heightened irritability and rages, throwing and breaking things I can do without. Scared my kids.
I’ve had episodes while at tea with a friend where my speech is rapid fire, I’m jittery and can’t sit still. She picks up on it right away because it’s not my normal.”
“Hyper-focused and find it difficult to stop doing a task obsessively. Since I submitted my MS to my publisher, triggered hypomania. MUST update social media branding and start book launch. Work on it all day without breaks, meals, water. Mind obsessed.
Talk fast and excessively, irritating those I’m with. Husband fell silent in car. I asked him if he was mad at me. He responded that I was talking non-stop. Acknowledged hypomania. Apologized to him because hard to listen non-stop, irritating to be on receiving end.
Mind races. Filled with ideas. Feel like I must act on or implement the ideas NOW.
Find it difficult falling asleep, as my mind races. Listen to Calm app Sleep Stories and take sleep meds if can’t fall asleep. Must knock myself out if I can’t fall asleep using other techniques. Sleep is key for keeping hypomania from ramping to mania.”
“My poor husband I treated like a dolt because I knew everything he was going to say and I might as well say it for him to get to the point faster.
Also, if people around me were not moving or being productive, I judged them… me! The woman who sleeps 15 hrs/day when depressed.”
“I find when I am hypomanic, my house gets clean… but I start new projects which will involve a bigger mess. I am louder, more likely to dance randomly in public, want everyone else to be louder. I feel like bugs are crawling under my skin; I could research a topic for hours! And yes, I bought a dog while hypomanic. My husband was not impressed.”
“Extreme irritability, foggy brain because of literally all the thoughts you could ever have traveling at the speed of light in your brain. This also leads to not following a conversation (easily distracted), lack of sleep, and at times, overeating (sometimes forgetting to eat.)”
“Music has been so important to me when I am ill, in mania, and when I eventually get well or slightly better. Mania serves up different types, played louder and at unsociable hours, and I really relate to music pulsing in your veins. Music in mania allows me to totally switch off.”
“When I’m hypomanic, I get most of the classic symptoms but here’s some that are more specific to me:
When I see trash on the curb on garbage day, I’m flooded with ideas of what I’d make with them, when I see a commercial space for rent, I start picturing the business I’d run there. I get way into home repair, I start believing I’m above basic commodities (ex: baking without a measuring cup, sewing without a pattern.)
I have a bunch of “epiphanies” about myself and my life, I think I understand everything that has ever happened to me.
I also get mad at everyone for not being able to keep up with me. I’ve told another Bipolar friend, “The world doesn’t revolve around us, nor does it revolve at our pace.”
I get bolder in my clothing choices and behaviors in public; my social anxiety melts away. I’m hypomanic right now; I think it was triggered by a combination of med withdrawal and the stress of starting working again after months of leave.
This is one of the more pleasant hypomanias I’ve had, but I know if I don’t bring myself down soon it’ll get less fun. 😐
The worst thing I’ve done because of hypomania is buy a music school, which I still own, though I’m totally unqualified to (co-)run it and I’m terrified of running it into the ground and living up to the Bipolar stereotype.”
“Impulsiveness is overwhelming. Even when I’ve promised myself to be cautious, it suddenly doesn’t matter. Instinct and gut feelings are obscured. Obsessive traits appear, but also my mind blurs at a fast, fast speed. And with ADHD, this isn’t fun *at all.*
But when I know it’s gotten extreme— like, a warning sign that I know shit is baaaad —is when (and don’t laugh) I get so hyper with ADHD and the mania that I start speaking in rhymes.”
“My biggest hypomanic tell is my sex drive. I’m insatiable. If I make a joke a 6th grade boy would laugh at, I know.”
“The obvious hypersexuality, waaay too much energy, interrupted sleep cycles, etc. It also definitely pushes me into a semi-dissociative state, I guess? Like another person is piloting my body and the real me… just doesn’t care. Normal social boundaries go out the window.”
“I have Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar type, and for me hypomania is the reward I get for surviving depression. I feel uplifted and excited about life. My thoughts race and I feel absolutely brilliant. I am more creative and write a lot of poetry. It can be quite intoxicating.”
“I was diagnosed with postpartum Bipolar 2. I compulsively read everything I could get my hands on; I would read non-stop for hours, especially while breastfeeding. When I wasn’t reading, I was on Amazon spending my life savings. I also spent every night obsessively cleaning. I was so project-focused but it would bounce around between reading, cleaning, and shopping for all these projects I was dreaming up in my head.”
“Who, me? I just drive to Paris from Wales, get a plane to Mexico, grab a beer, and get the same plane back.”
“Too many thoughts, too many emotions, so many ideas, millions of projects, and selling myself to the fairies to be their sex slave. In a nutshell.”