Hypomania vs. Mania: What Are the Differences?

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Mania is a mood episode characterized by elevated energy and mood. While hypomania is similar, it’s a less severe form of mania and lasts a shorter period of time.

Hypomania and mania are associated with different types of bipolar disorder. Mania is a feature of bipolar I disorder, and hypomania is a part of bipolar II disorder.

This article discusses the similarities and differences between hypomania and mania.

How to Cope With Hypomania and Mania

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

Symptoms

Symptoms of mania and hypomania are similar, but the intensity of the symptoms and how long they last vary between the two. Mania causes more severe symptoms that last a week or more, while hypomania presents with milder symptoms that last a few days or more.

Symptoms of mania and hypomania can include:

  • Feeling elated or irritable
  • Feeling unusually important, powerful, or talented
  • Feeling jumpy or wired
  • Talking faster than usual about many different things
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Feeling like your mind is racing
  • Needing less sleep
  • Feeling like you want to eat less

When mania is severe, it can also be accompanied by psychotic symptoms such as:

Severe mania affects your day-to-day life and makes completing daily activities extremely difficult. In some cases, it may lead to hospitalization.

After experiencing a manic or hypomanic episode, you may experience:

  • Unhappiness or shame because of your behavior
  • A distorted memory of what you did while in your episode
  • A depressive episode

How Can I Tell If I’m Having a Manic or Hypomanic Episode?

It can be difficult to recognize if you’re having a manic or hypomanic episode, especially if you haven’t been diagnosed with a mental disorder associated with it. If you suspect that you may be experiencing either hypomania or mania, start a mood journal to keep track of your moods, and talk to your loved ones.

Causes

Hypomania and mania are associated with different types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I disorder: People with this type of bipolar disorder have manic episodes that last at least seven days or manic symptoms that are so severe that they need immediate hospital care. Depressive episodes (low mood) usually occur as well, typically lasting at least two weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depressive symptoms and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
  • Bipolar II disorder: This type is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes that are typical of bipolar I.
  • Cyclothymic disorder (also called cyclothymia): This type is defined by periods of hypomanic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years. However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

Researchers are unsure what causes bipolar disorder to occur. It’s thought that factors such as family history, genetics, and chemical imbalances or structural changes in the brain could contribute to someone developing the condition.

Potential triggers of hypomania and mania include:

  • High levels of stress
  • Lack of sleep or a shift in your sleep patterns
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Significant life events such as moving or getting a divorce
  • Pregnancy and giving birth
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Traumatic experiences or abuse
  • Certain medications
  • Certain health conditions, such as a brain tumor or injury, dementia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), lupus, and stroke

Diagnosis

The initial step in diagnosing your manic or hypomanic episode may be getting a medical evaluation to rule out potential medical or neurologic contributions to your symptoms. Your primary care doctor will go over your symptoms and other health issues or medications you are taking and may perform a physical exam.

If your doctor suspects that your hypomania or mania is caused by a mental disorder, they will use the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to determine which mental disorder it is.

Treatment

Treatment may vary depending on the underlying condition leading to your hypomania and mania. Mania may require different treatment than hypomania.

To treat your hypomania, you may have to take:

  • Antipsychotic medications: Research shows that antipsychotics such as aripiprazole, asenapine, or olanzapine can be effective treatments for mania and hypomania. Antipsychotics work by altering the levels and effects of certain chemicals in the brain related to mood, emotions, and behavior.
  • Anticonvulsant medications: Mood-stabilizing anticonvulsant medications such as carbamazepine and valproic acid have been shown to be effective for treating mania and hypomania in bipolar disorder. They work by calming the heightened activity in the brain that leads to a decrease in symptoms.
  • A combination of medications: In some cases, you will be prescribed more than one medication. Certain antipsychotics can be used with mood stabilizers. Lithium is one of the most commonly used mood stabilizers.

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe benzodiazepines, which are used for anxiety disorders and have been shown to help with certain symptoms of mania. These drugs act as a sedative to slow down the brain’s functions, which helps to reduce the overactivity that comes with mania. These are generally used short term.

When to Call Your Doctor

Hypomania and mania both require treatment, so if you suspect that you have any of the above symptoms or someone has expressed concerns about your mood changes, you should see your doctor.

Prevention

There may not be a way to prevent mania and hypomania completely, but you can avoid certain triggers that can increase your chances of having more frequent manic or hypomanic episodes, such as:

  • Caffeine
  • High levels of stress
  • Alcohol and drug use

You should also eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep. Sleep, especially, is vital because a lack of sleep can trigger a manic episode.

Coping

There are some coping strategies that can help you manage manic or hypomanic episodes more effectively. They include:

  • Take your mood-stabilizing agents as prescribed: Managing your bipolar illness under the supervision of your doctor is most important in trying to prevent these episodes.
  • Keep up with a good sleep routine: If you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, it can help balance the altered chemicals in your brain.
  • Live predictably: If you set a schedule for your days such as when you eat your meals, when you exercise, and what hours you work, it can help you cope and manage an episode. Be sure to add time to relax every day, as well to manage your stress levels.
  • Be realistic: You can do all the right things and still have a manic episode. This doesn’t mean that your efforts failed, it just means that you have an illness that can sometimes have setbacks. If you’re realistic about managing your goals surrounding your illness, when a setback or episode does occur, it won’t be as disappointing or frustrating.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs: During a manic episode, you may want to partake in alcohol or drug use, but it can increase the severity of your symptoms.
  • Manage stress: Practice stress-relieving techniques to keep your stress levels down. You can do this by doing yoga or practicing meditation. If you notice stress is building up because of work, school, or home, be sure to address it. This can be done with open communication, taking a day off for yourself, or seeking help from a counselor or therapist.
  • Keep a mood journal: Writing down and keeping a record of your daily mood can help you identify certain triggers and early warning signs that a manic episode is coming.

Summary

Hypomania and mania can both cause elevated energy and mood, as well as irritability, but hypomania symptoms are less severe. They are associated with different types of bipolar disorder. Hypomania symptoms are part of bipolar II disorder, while mania symptoms are characteristics of bipolar I disorder. Hypomania and mania can also be caused by certain physical conditions.

A Word From Verywell

Living with mania or hypomania can be challenging. Often mania and hypomania are symptoms of an underlying bipolar disorder. It is important to establish a relationship with a psychiatrist to help you cope with and manage hypomanic and manic episodes.

Hypomania and mania present similarly, but mania is more serious. Both of these types of mood episodes can be associated with serious episodes of depression. It’s therefore vital that you get proper medical treatment so that you can avoid any unwanted or dangerous repercussions of these conditions with the right tools and treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How different are the symptoms of hypomania and mania?

The symptoms of hypomania and mania are similar except that mania symptoms are more severe and potentially longer lasting than hypomania symptoms. Mania symptoms may be so severe that you require hospitalization. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to seek treatment early if you think you have episodes of hypomania or mania.

Is bipolar disorder the same thing as manic disorder?

Manic depression is the name formerly used for what is now known as bipolar disorder.

What can trigger a manic episode?

Many things can trigger a manic episode. High levels of stress can play a role in the onset of mania. A manic episode can also be triggered by changes in your sleep patterns or the use of alcohol and recreational drugs.

How do you cope during a hypomanic episode?

If you are having symptoms of a hypomanic or manic episode and are aware of it, it is important to contact your doctor. In addition, continue to follow your routine as closely as possible, and practice calming techniques that can help reduce your heightened levels of energy and activity. Some techniques include meditation, breathing exercises, and listening to calming music.

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11 Sources
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