Bipolar disorder is the name given to a group of mood disorders. The main characteristic is that an afflicted person swings between high moods and low moods. Generally there is a predictable pattern for each afflicted person. Each pattern leads to a specific diagnosis. There are two levels of highs. These are hypomanic episodes and manic episodes.
A hypomanic episode is an elevation of mood above what is considered normal. For many people this is a state they enjoy being in. This is because many consider that the plus factors outweigh the minus factors. It is not uncommon for a person experiencing a hypomanic episode to ignore it or to refuse to seek treatment for it. For a person with bipolar, type 1 this can lead to mania. Hypomania is far easier to treat than a mania. Also, a manic episode can be very frightening for the afflicted person.
Symptoms of a Hypomanic Episode
There are a number of physical symptoms associated with a hypomanic episode. These include the following:
- Feelings of happiness, excitement and joy-fulness
- Talking more, faster and often louder
- Increased energy, more activity and an inability to sit still
- Increased sexual drive
- Irritability and
- Recklessness and poor decision-making.
This recklessness can lead to major problems. Stable relationships can be destroyed by inappropriate sexual activity or entering into financial contracts which cannot be honored.
Personal Early Warning Signs of an oncoming Hypomanic Episode
Many people with bipolar disorder have their own personal signs of an oncoming episode of hypomania. Generally these are "strange behaviors" which are different from the afflicted person's normal behavior. Also, they often occur at the start of an episode.
As an example, I am generally an untidy and disorganized person. However, as I enter a hypomanic episode I tend to meticulously plan, organize and write lists of "things" I need to do. If this starts to happen I do a mental check for the physical symptoms of hypomania. If there are enough present, I immediately rush of to my health professional. This is an important key to the successful treatment of bipolar disorder. Recognizing a problem is only half the battle. Seeking immediate assistance is vital if the treatment is to succeed.
Symptoms of a Manic Episode
A manic episode is a very bad experience. For a person with bipolar type 1 the natural progression from hypomania is mania. My own personal experience is that you have lost control of your mind during such an episode. Added to the symptoms of hypomania are others including:
- Euphoria, feeling extremely high, happy, excited and joyful
- Racing thoughts, unable to concentrate
- Even less need to sleep, if any at all
- Increased self-esteem, feelings of grandeur and poor judgment
- Delusions and/or hallucinations
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
- Aggressive behavior and
- Failure to accept you have a mental problem.
Where do These Episodes Lead To
If a hypomanic episode does not lead to mania it will often lead to an episode of depression. This is generally the case in respect of bipolar type 2 and cyclothymiac's disorder. The depression might be mild or it might be deep. It can last for months or even longer.