Handling Hypomania

There’s no denying the allure of hypomania, but there are real risks to leaving it untreated. Self-knowledge plus practical strategies will keep you from crashing.

Those six projects you’ve been meaning to get to for months? You’re on them all—and you have plans for six more. You are cheerful and creative, gregarious and engaging, and a multitasking master of efficiency and organization.

So what’s the problem?

There isn’t one, necessarily. But if you’ve edged into hypomania, there may be unwelcome consequences.

If left unchecked, hypomania frequently bumps from increasingly energized to out-of-control for those with bipolar I. For anyone on the bipolar spectrum, expansive mood often deflates back into depression. And for some people, leaving any mood shift untreated may lead to more frequent and more severe episodes in future.

It can be hard to distinguish whether you’re hypomanic or simply feeling “normal” again after a depressive streak—especially when depression is your predominant mood state. (A 2007 study from the Netherlands found that people with bipolar spend three times as many days in depression as in hypomania or mania.)

Yet it’s an important boundary to pay attention to this time of year. The turning seasons can trigger mood episodes in many people with bipolar disorder, with spring and summer known for shifts towards the elevated end of the spectrum.

There’s no denying hypomania’s allure—it’s wonderful to feel wonderful—and for some, the energy boost creates a fertile opportunity to get things accomplished. (For others, however, the added sizzle shoots out in too many different directions or converts to an uncomfortable edginess.)

The trick to handling hypomania is recognizing your own limits, knowing your danger zones, and staying attuned to your warning signs.

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