What Is Cyclothymia Hypomania?
Hypomania is an abnormally elevated mood state. People who suffer from cyclothymic disorder swing back and forth between an abnormally low mood (or a depressed state) and an abnormally high mood (presenting symptoms of hypomania). Describing what symptoms of hypomania look like in someone who suffers from cyclothymia, however, is tricky.
Firstly, symptoms manifest differently in different people. For example, not everybody who suffers from cyclothymia has the pleasure of experiencing the more "euphoric" symptoms that come with a hypomanic state. Some people get the rough end of the stick instead - like the overwhelming racing thoughts, the irritability, and let us not forget the dreaded rages.
Secondly, many of the symptoms go unnoticed because they get attributed to a person's personality or passed off as character flaws.
And thirdly, symptoms can be very subtle, appearing to be similar to what people experience through normal emotions that may be linked to stressful events, difficult interactions with people, or the influence of alcohol and caffeine.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypomania In Cyclothymia?
The Cyclothymia Workbook by Prentiss Price provides a good list of the symptoms of hypomania:
- Elevated, overly gregarious, or irritable mood
- Increased self-esteem, grandiosity
- Reduced need for sleep, feeling rested with only a few hours of sleep
- Increased talkativeness, feeling pressure to keep talking
- Racing thoughts, a continuous stream of ideas that may be fragmentary
- Being easily distracted
- Increase in activity that is goal-directed
- Being overly involved in pleasurable activities that are potentially risky or could have painful consequences
You might find yourself thinking - but these are things that everybody experiences, aren't they? Well, you are quite right! You don't have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to find yourself up working passionately on a project into the early hours of the morning, or feel like your head is going to burst because you have so much to think about.
One of the main differences is that people who suffer from cyclothymia experience many of these symptoms simultaneously, and often not in context with what is happening in their life. This can make their responses or behaviour appear irrational, dramatic, or strange.
There is also the cycling nature of these symptoms and the fact that they do not truly represent that person's "norm". This means that the mood is likely to interfere with their lives and their interactions with people in a negative way.
For example, you may be a naturally confident and sociable person who loves the sound of your own voice and enjoys showing off, spending money, indulging in risky activities like gambling, and generally living life to the full. This doesn't mean that you are hypomanic or that you are suffering from a mental illness like cyclothymia. This is because these are all characteristics that are consistent with your personality or temperament. They are your "norm"...
...A person with cyclothymia, on the other hand, may turn into this type of person periodically according to which way their mood is swinging, but it is not who they naturally are. This may make their behaviour seem out of the ordinary to the people closest to them, whilst causing problems in different areas of their life.
Don't forget that at some point this person is going to come off their "high" and experience the opposite end of the mood spectrum, with symptoms of depression.
Swinging back and forth between different mood states without warning or reason can be disorientating and destructive. If left unmanaged or untreated it can have a serious effect on a person's life, affecting their sense of self-identity, self-esteem, and other people's willingness to trust or rely on them.
My Experiences Of Cyclothymia Hypomania
It can be interesting to learn about how hypomania affects people differently, so I thought I would share some of my own experiences.
For me, hypomania tends to be more destructive than depression. Depression can feel like hell, but hypomania is what causes me to lose control of my life so regularly. I have lost jobs, feuded with family, destroyed my romantic relationships, and lost my sense of self-identity over and over and over again because of hypomania.
It can feel positively amazing, don't get me wrong, sometimes I feel invincible and super happy. But it can also be an excruciating experiencing, causing me to behave very badly and hurt the people I love or care about, often without meaning or wanting to.
The problem for me is that my moods swing back and forth so frequently. My mood swings also tend to speed up and intensify when I am exposed to stressful situations, which can make me feel like I am going crazy.
When my mood lifts after a particularly difficult depressed state it can feel like such a relief, but that is rarely a good thing for very long. Such a sense of relief is often so strong that it can lead to me spiraling off out of control into hypomania territory before I have had the chance to realise it is happening and take precautions.
This is when I can end up experiencing such intense emotions that I become irrational and reactive very quickly. People have described it as me going straight from zero to ten out of nowhere. It is very easy for me to fall out with people when I have so little control over these intense emotions. I behave unfairly, make poor decisions, and generally end up in the realm of total self-sabotage.
It is so sad when this happens because you can't explain to people why or how a situation escalated, especially without it sounding like you are trying to avoid taking responsibility for the damage you have caused. Before you know it you have been fired, dumped, or blocked on social media. You feel like a terrible person, having failed at functioning like a normal human being.
You know that you have messed up, made people feel angry or hurt, but there is nothing you can do about it except try to make them believe that you are truly sorry.
Some people are kind and have a higher capacity for understanding, but most people are permanently damaged by the experience, and won't be able to bring themselves to trust you again. It can feel a bit like you gain a reputation for being something that you know deep down just isn't you. Or at least, it isn't who you want to be.
I also get the euphoric side of hypomania, but in my experience, that can also have awful consequences. Sometimes my increased levels of productivity and motivation cause me to focus on entirely irrelevant activities at the expense of things that are more important.
I can passionately develop new interests and become obsessed with new projects. Often I find that my mind is racing with thoughts and new ideas. It can be difficult to keep up with them.
I have been accused many times of being "flakey", having "whims", and not taking life or work seriously. The irony of it is that during a hypomanic state I really am taking things seriously. Like really, really seriously! The problem of course is that I am taking the wrong things seriously - like a new business venture that has materialised out of nowhere, but which feels like I have finally found my calling... only to discover after my mood has dipped that it was a stupid idea, has created a massive dent in my wallet, and distracted me from a looming deadline related to my real job!
I really do want to and aim to take life and work seriously, but my illness seems to sabotage my attempts to get anywhere with anything.
I multitask until my actual productivity becomes completely diluted and I am overwhelmed. Projects end up unfinished and abandoned. New business ideas trail off after I have spent hours working on creating websites or blogs for them. I end up attracting lots of new work or making too many social plans, that I find I can't see things through once my elevated mood changes. I have to cancel the arrangements and extend the deadlines.
Impulse control is also a thing with hypomania. This can reveal itself in spending habits, eating or drinking habits, not sticking to healthy daily routines, and staying up until the early hours of the morning absorbed in some project or activity. Cyclothymic hypomania might generally be described as getting very carried away, with all manner of things, without really knowing it.
Let's not forget the anxiety and feelings of remorse that follow. Coming down from a hypomanic state can sometimes feel like having a hangover. Do you know that feeling of dread where you start to recall all of the drunken things you did? I get the same sense of guilt and when I realise that I have overspent, buying things I didn't need or really even want.
There is anxiety, remorse, and humiliation when I recall being so full of myself or convinced of something that I behaved recklessly, selfishly, or with a sense of self-righteousness or misplaced justice. I am often mortified by things I have said in the aftermath of arguments when at the time I felt that all of my points were valid, and like I had the right to speak my mind and tell it as it is, regardless of who I might be hurting or offending.
Sometimes I just feel a bit stupid, embarrassed, and exposed, because I was excitable, hyperactive, and may have behaved like a child or talked too much. Often people don't think much of it and they just enjoy my company thinking I am extra happy, interested, or just in a really good mood. But after the event, I know better, and I have to try and believe that I didn't make a fool of myself.
When you suffer from cyclothymia and you experience hypomanic symptoms it's like reverting back to being an adolescent or a child. Everything; emotions, feelings, thoughts, and experiences feel heightened. The leaves on the trees have a glow about them, my imagination is soaring, the voices in my head are all talking at once, and I just want to break out into song and dance.
Yet on the flip side, I feel restless, I can't focus on anything, I am irritable and tense and snappy, likely to fly into a rage or have a meltdown and break out in tears.
Bedtime can be the worst because there is no getting to sleep with so many thoughts racing through your head - random snippets of songs, conversations, daydreams, ideas, inner-monologue, mundane reminders, to-do lists, memories, and much, much more.
I may tell you in more detail about some of the things I have done and regretted whilst hypomanic, but they will have to wait for another blog post. If you're interested and want to read more, don't forget to subscribe to the blog for new post updates.
Share Your Experiences Of Cyclothymia Hypomania
I am sure that I probably haven't covered everything about Cyclothymia hypomania, so why not share your own experiences of it in the comments below?
Are you or the people in your life able to recognise when you are getting hypomanic? How are you able to help yourself by managing your moods?
As always, I will look forward to hearing your stories!