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Are My Bipolar Symptoms Manic or Hypomanic?

Last Updated on February 19, 2021 by

At its most basic, Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition associated with periods of elevated mood, known as mania or hypomania and, on the other end of the spectrum, periods of depression.

Bipolar Manic Depression

A complex and difficult condition to deal with, it takes an experienced mental health practitioner to distinguish and diagnose either Bipolar I or Bipolar II, based on an individual’s varied symptoms.

Bipolar I is characterized by at least one manic episode, possibly followed by a period of depression.

Bipolar II, on the other hand, only requires a hypomanic episode, which may or may not be followed with a period of depression.

Qualified physicians must be able to discern the differences between mania and hypomania.

The Difference Between Manic and Hypomanic Episodes:

Mania is a defining characteristic of Type I Bipolar Disorder. The symptoms of a manic episode can include the following:

  • Unusually elevated mood or feelings of extreme grandeur
  • Overly irritable mood and behavior
  • Racing thoughts and fast, stream-of-consciousness episodes of communication
  • Distracted or obsessed with large ideas, expansive ideas
  • Decreased desire to sleep or rest
  • Pleasure seeking activities, such as drinking alcohol, doing drugs or having unprotected sexual encounters

Type II Bipolar Disorder involves hypomania, a form of mania in which a person is noticeably experiencing manic symptoms, but not presenting as psychotic or in need of hospitalization.

An individual with untreated Type II Bipolar Disorder, during a hypomanic episode, is higher functioning even though they’re experiencing many of the same symptoms. These may include the following:

  • Noticeably elevated mood or feelings of grandeur
  • Overly irritable
  • Unusually talkative, racing thoughts and distracted with new or grand ideas
  • Decreased desire to sleep or rest
  • Pleasure seeking activities, such as drinking alcohol, doing drugs or having unprotected sexual encounters

While Bipolar II sounds like “bipolar-lite,” the truth is that it might take individuals on this spectrum longer to realize some of the damaging effects of their hypomanic behavior.

Unfortunately, this may mean a string of failed relationships, lost jobs and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, which can lead to dependence or addiction. Treatment is essential for both types of bipolar disorder.

Treatment for Bipolar I & II

For extreme episodes of mania, temporary hospitalization is sometimes necessary to bring symptoms under control with antipsychotic medication. Managing and treating bipolar symptoms on a day-to-day basis is most often a process of psychiatrist-led talk therapy mixed with medications, like lithium.

Counseling is very useful in helping patients recognize the onset of manic or depressive episodes and what actions to take to cope with them.

An estimated 2.6 percent of adults in the U.S. experience bipolar disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The average age of onset is 25-years-old. Taking medication regularly can decrease the number of relapses an individual has. The challenge, much of the time is access to treatment and proper diagnosis.

May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. The social stigma surrounding bipolar disorder is potentially debilitating for those suffering from this painful condition.

During May, take the opportunity to learn about bipolar disorder, participate in any local functions for the cause or volunteer in shelters that need a helping hand. Education is the key to improving the lives of those living with mental health issues.


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