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What is mania and hypomania?

Mania and hypomania both involve periods when the individual feels excited or experiences an energized mood. They differ in how severe these mood changes are:

Mania is a severe episode that may last for a week or more. A person may feel uncontrollably elated and very high in energy. These symptoms interfere with daily life, and in severe cases, a person may need to go to the hospital.

Hypomania is an episode that may last for a few days. People may feel very good and function well. Family or friends may notice mood or activity changes, while the person with the hypomania may not. Mania and hypomania are most often related to bipolar disorder. They can also occur as other mood disorders, such as schizoaffective disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder where a person experiences changes in their mood, energy, activity levels, and thought patterns. People who have bipolar I disorder experience mania, while people with bipolar II disorder will experience hypomania.

Symptoms of Mania

Mania goes beyond normal mood and energy changes. The symptoms of mania are so intense that they can affect a person’s relationships, job, or well-being. Having mania does not always mean that the person feels happy. While mania can cause a feeling of euphoria, it can also cause extreme irritability. Symptoms of mania can include:

  • Uncontrollable excitement
  • Feeling very happy or elated
  • Feeling irritable or very agitated
  • High energy levels that the person finds hard to control
  • High activity levels, such as excessive running, fidgeting, or moving around
  • Difficulty paying attention or focusing
  • Unrealistic and very high self-esteem, feeling overconfident
  • A lack of social inhibitions
  • Racing thoughts
  • Less need for sleep or not sleeping at all
  • Taking risks or reckless activities
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

People can experience psychotic symptoms during mania. These may include:

  • Hallucinations, or seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • Grandiose delusions, or believing that they are invincible, very powerful, or famous

Symptoms of Hypomania

Hypomania is a milder form of mania. People who have bipolar disorder II have hypomania. If a full manic episode occurs, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder I is usually more appropriate. Symptoms of hypomania may include:

  • Having a higher, happier mood than usual
  • Higher irritability or rude behavior
  • Feeling overconfident
  • Higher activity or energy levels than usual without a clear cause
  • A powerful feeling of physical and mental well-being
  • Being much more social and talkative than usual
  • Feeling the need to sleep less than usual

Differences

Hypomania and mania share many symptoms. The distinguishing factor is the severity of these symptoms. Both mania and hypomania involve mood and behavior changes beyond normal, everyday changes. Mania is so severe that a person cannot carry on with their usual activities. In more extreme cases, they may need immediate hospital care. A person with hypomania may be able to carry on as usual. Family and friends may notice that the individual is acting differently even if the person does not realize it is happening. However, they should still seek medical help to prevent their symptoms from worsening. Although hypomania is not as severe as mania, it can also be dangerous and have negative effects on a person’s overall well-being. One study found that people were more likely to engage in risk behavior during hypomanic episodes. This includes spending large amounts of money, using alcohol or drugs excessively, dangerous driving, or engaging in risky, sexual behavior. People experiencing mania but not hypomania may also experience delusions, hallucinations, or manic stupor. If a person doesn’t receive effective treatment for hypomania, they may be at risk of it developing into mania, although this is not always the case.

Similarities

The symptoms of both mania and hypomania involve feeling very happy, on an emotional high, and feeling more energetic and creative. In some cases, an episode of mania or hypomania can be mixed with one of depression. Specialists call this a mixed feature episode. When this mix happens, a person may feel energized while also feeling depressed, hopeless, or empty. Certain life events or activities can cause an episode of mania or hypomania. These episodes are called triggers. A small-scale study on a group of young people who had bipolar disorder found that triggers for mania and hypomania included:

  • Falling in love
  • Using recreational drugs, especially stimulant drugs
  • Starting a new creative project
  • Staying out late or partying
  • Going on vacation
  • Listening to loud music

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