Mental Health Tips: Signs Of Hypomania

Hypomania is a mood disorder characterized by elation and activity. It can turn into mania or depression if not checked. Find out the warning signs.

If you or someone you know is afflicted with a mood disorder, it is important to be able to identify the warning signs of hypomania. Bipolar disorder, previously called manic-depressive disease, refers to a disorder that involves recurring mood swings spanning the gamut from depression to mania. The term "hypomania" refers to a mild to moderate level of mania without psychotic symptoms. It doesn't greatly impair functioning, but if unchecked, this condition can progress into severe mania.

Bipolar disorder is classified into several categories. Bipolar I involves recurrent episodes of depression and mania. Bipolar II, which is less common, consists of milder episodes of hypomania, which alternate with depression. Rapid-cycling Bipolar is defined as four or more episodes within twelve months. It tends to develop later in the course of the illness. Cyclothymia is a similar but milder illness, in which hypomania and mild depression alternate rapidly. It is often a precursor of Bipolar II.

The warning symptoms of hypomania are as follows:

1. Euphoria with irritability. A person with hypomania will probably feel extremely "high," exhilarated, or happy. Even so, they will probably also be very irritable if you suggest that an idea they have is irrational or unwise.

2. Decreased sleep. The patient will be too interested in activities to sleep. They may sleep very little for several days and yet show no sign of fatigue.

3. Rapid speech that seems pressured. The person may seem to want to discuss an issue, but is unable to stop talking long enough to let the other person make a comment, and they may be unable to consider the other person's ideas, anyway. Speech is often loud and emphatic. (Incoherent speech would indicate a more severe level of mania.)

4. Appetite is lacking. They may quit eating for several days.

5. Restlessness. They may attempt to relax but be too antsy to sit still.

6. Distractibility. Racing and disjointed thoughts. Jumping from idea to idea. When these thoughts become too fast for the person to keep up with, and thus confusing instead of pleasant, it marks the beginning of mania.

7. Grandiose thinking. They may feel as if they are very important in some way. For example, they may think that God has given them an important revelation that the entire world needs to find out about. Or they may have larger-than-life feelings about their own power or knowledge, or be uncharacteristically boastful or pretentious. A person with talent in music or art, for example, may feel as if they are extremely talented.

8. Financial extravagance. They may gamble big, write hot checks, or make unwise large purchases.

9. Inappropriate humor or behaviors, including an increase in sexual interest, or aggressive actions. A person who is normally reserved or shy may be loud, unreserved, and embarrassing to others. There are sometimes religious overtones to this person's behaviors or ideas.

10. Risk-taking behavior.

11. Becoming intensely interested in previously uninteresting people or things.

12. Uncharacteristic anger or hostility.

13. Mild paranoia is possible.

Even though the personality changes and atypical behaviors are alarming to those who care about them, a person with hypomania will probably deny that anything is wrong.

A condition seen on rare occasions is "chronic hypomania," in which people habitually sleep less than 6 hours a night, are constantly too enthusiastic, too busy, full of plans, and full of restless impulses. This condition may lend itself to success in business and the creative arts, but also tends to be accompanied by marital break-ups and an unstable life. These people may tend to be binge drug and alcohol abusers, and are unable to stay settled down for any length of time.

Not only adults, but also children and adolescents are capable of having hypomania. In general their symptoms are the same as for adults, except that they are more prone to be irritable than euphoric. However, they may have their condition diagnosed as ADHD, ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), or CD (Conduct Disorder); or these conditions can occur simultaneously, which makes the diagnosis of early-onset bipolar disorder difficult.

In children, symptoms include hysterical laughing and elation with no apparent reason. They may display grandiosity by bragging, for example, that they can complain to the principal about teachers they don't like, or that they can do superhuman feats. They can get by on only 4-6 hours of sleep without any fatigue, and may show preoccupation with sex even though they have never been molested or abused. It's important to be aware of hypomania symptoms in children because children are more likely to have rapid mood swings from giddy highs to gloomy suicidal depressions.

Without treatment, bipolar disorder tends to get more severe over time, with episodes becoming more frequent. Even though the disorder comes and goes, treatment is most successful when it is continuous. Even with a good doctor and an appropriate course of medication, mood changes can break through. It is very important for patients and their loved ones to keep open and honest communication with their medical caregivers.

Sticking with the treatment plan is important to prevent a relapse in any mood disorder. Any use of supplements, herbal medicines, or over the counter preparations should be discussed with the doctor, as these substances can interfere with the effectiveness of the medications prescribed. And of course, any mental illness is complicated greatly if drug or alcohol abuse is present.

In summary, if someone you care about is exhibiting the symptoms of hypomania, speak up. They need medical care. And if someone expresses their concern about your own mental health, listen and check it out.

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