Hypomania is a persistent state of elevated and energized mood that occurs for four days or more. This term means “below mania,” a reference to the fact that people with hypomania are not in a manic state, but are more elevated and agitated than people in neutral moods. They retain their connections with reality and are usually able to go about daily activities as they usually would. However, this mood can be dangerous because there are certain attitude changes associated with it that can put people at risk.
This type of mood is most commonly seen in people with bipolar disorder, although it can also be observed with people who have schizoaffective disorder or cyclothymia. Sometimes, it is triggered by medications. Drugs used for the management of mood disorders can contribute to the development of hypomania and sometimes other medications may do so as well.
A person with hypomania can experience a variety of symptoms. People may feel like they are flying high, with an inflated sense of self esteem, purpose, and ability. It is not uncommon to make big plans, to engage in ambitious activities, and to participate in reckless behavior. The person might drive at high speeds, fail to observe safety precautions in dangerous situations, and otherwise endanger him or herself.
This mood is not necessarily relentlessly upbeat, although hypomania is often characterized by cheeriness and happiness. People can also experience irritability and mood swings, where their moods change very rapidly with no apparent cause. They also tend to sleep less, to talk more, and to feel flooded or overwhelmed with ideas. For some people, hypomania translates into extreme productivity, and they may finish projects, be more focused at work, and even acquire new skills during a hypomanic episode.
This mood can persist for days, weeks, or even longer. It can progress into mania or slide back into depression, and the outcome of a period of hypomania is not always predictable. Some people may view the mood as a positive, taking advantage of the increased productivity and interest in socialization. Others may see it as a cause for concern because of worries that they may develop a more extreme mania or depression.
Medications can help manage conditions associated with hypomania and blunt the hypomania itself. Some patients also benefit from therapy, support groups with similar people, exercise, and other measures. A mental health professional can evaluate and provide advice and assistance.