Self-Diagnosing Hypomania

Also known as, How Do You Know if You’re Hypomanic?

These are my hypomania signs seen throughout an average hypomanic day, and honestly, the symptoms vary by individual, time and medication, but I suspect many bipolars are similar. The secret to self-diagnosing hypomania is paying attention to these little differences seen throughout the day.

Hypomania and Sleep Disturbance

My brain’s neurons light up in syncopation to the throbbing beats of Nine Inch Nails or some such.

The first thing I usually notice in hypomania is a sleep disruption. I’ll go to bed and become so awash in fantasy I cannot sleep. And this fantasy comes with its own soundtrack. A collection of sounds that become the tone of my mind. I lay naked in bed trying to calm my mind down. But my brain and my mind will have none of it. Even if terribly tranqued, my hypomanic consciousness will spend its time with sloppy fantasies instead of snappy ones. Or sleepy ones.

Hypomania and SleepHypomania and Sleeping Pills

A good little crazy girl would go and find a sleeping pill (or possibly an extra sleeping pill) to take. Allowing sleep to be disrupted by fantasy, soundtracks or sexual desire is not in the ‘get-well’ handbook. This is because any alteration of the sleep rhythm tends to induce cycling, or other mood issues. My sleep, hypomanic or otherwise, tends to foreshadow the next day. To make the cycle less drastic getting sleep, even by sleeping pill, is important for me.

(I know, you’re thinking why stave off hypomania? It’s fun. Well, because, the higher you go, the further there is to fall. Trust me.)

Hypomania and Dreams

Once I do find sleep, if I’ve done so without medication I will usually wake, toss and turn, and spend an inordinate amount of the night dreaming. The one thing I will say about crazy is that amazing dreams are part of the package. They are convincingly real the next day. I’ve lived a couple of weeks by the time I wake up in the morning. And of course, because I’m hypomanic, I will wake up before the alarm and I won’t be tired.

Hypomania and Waking Up

Not being tired is a sliding scale. Sometimes due to psych medications, not being tired consists of not being made of lead, unable to pry myself from the floor. On better days, it means more normal things. Spring in the step. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. That sort of thing. What’s noticeable is suddenly having energy to make breakfast, do yoga and other things not typical upon waking.

Hypomania and Work

I’ve often been either training on software or in a meeting about software during gales of giggles. Uncontrollable laughter does tend to stick out in that environment.

At work though, hypomania has more effect. I get into giggling, hyper laughing fits. Sometimes in front of a room full of people, I actually can’t stop laughing. Everything seems downright hilarious. Hypomanic hilarity.

Then there is the fast talking and fast thinking of hypomania. This is no big thing but it can leave me unfocused, or overly focused. Oddly it has both characteristics. I might be so focused that my phone ringing will make me jump and scream a little, or I might be so unfocused I’m literally doing ten or more things at once.

Everyone is so Slow Compared to Hypomania, I Get Annoyed

And then there’s the vague annoyance with everyone else’s (perceived) slowness. Normally, I’m a pretty patient person. I don’t mind having to explain things to people and I understand people don’t pick things up in the manner I do. But hypomanic Natasha gets so annoyed it’s challenging not to yell or be snippy. And when I raise my voice it’s noticeable. It’s so rare for normal Natasha when I do it I seem almost possessed.

Hyper Hypomania

Hypomania and Hunger. Hypomania and Sex.

Hypomania might make me hungry and I’ll decide to eat everything. Or I might decide eating is unnecessary and eat nothing. Again, it’s one of those odd things that manifest in opposites. You just never know what you’re going to get.

And then there is the sex and hypomania. Naturally at this point sex must be had. My breath turns into moans. Exhalation isn’t breathing out carbon dioxide; it’s emission of sexual energy. My skin is more like silk stretched over raw nerves than an organ designed to keep my blood inside my body. My movements become seductive. Or perhaps you might say, more seductive.[pull]Hypomania pretty much equals sex. Hypomanic hunger.[/pull]

I have been told the way I eat is fairly arousing. Lips and tongue are some of the more sensitive areas of my body, and are entirely capable of playing with the sensitive areas of other’s bodies. Somehow my tongue seems to think the rim of my glass is your bottom lip.

Dampened Hypomania is Still Pretty Easy to Self-Diagnose

And yes, my mood is pretty good too. Hypomanic I feel confident and intelligent and kind of better than you. (Sorry.)

These are all “minor” symptoms as I’m medicated to prevent “real” mood swings. But they are hard to miss. You can tell it is mostly enjoyable, depending on the degree of all those mentioned. It’s like a little vacation from myself. And no one needs a vacation more than I do.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

  1. Thank you so much for this. I don’t suffer from the crippling depression that most of us do, thankfully – I just need to sleep for about three days after a hypomaniacal period of time, which lasts quite long. The constant bouncing off the walls, speaking so quickly that no one can understand what I’m saying, while my brain is going even faster than I can speak. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!! Jeeze, why are you all so slow?! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!! Lashing out, laughing like a loon, binge drinking, everything’s wonderful, let’s party! Starting a project, but oh wait, this needs to be done so start on that, but shoot, I need to do this and on and on and on until I have a mess of 20 different things that are undone.

    And no one understand, which is so frustrating, but then when I’m not in this state and I have an argument or something with my husband, like a “normal” person would, I hear, “Ah, this is your bipolar”. No this ISN’T my bipolar, I think you’re being a jerk and I should be able to voice it without you thinking it’s because of my illness. So now, when I am hypomanic, I’m not understood and he’s not being patient with me and when I’m NOT hypomanic, everything I do or say is suspect.

    Argh! Thank you so much for letting me get that out and I’m sorry for the rant.

  2. This is spot-on! It could be describing my own experience, especially with sleep disturbances (I haven’t slept through the night even once in 20 years). The only difference is my hypomania – particularly at night-time – isn’t at all energetic or enjoyable. It’s just a crushing irritability and a buzzing of every molecule in my body. And an overwhelming sense of illness and impending doom. It’s a waking hell. And as you say, the hypomania stops me from being ‘sleepy’ the next day even though I’m totally exhausted at a fundamental level.

  3. Thank you so much! I have been in and out of denial for MANY years. When I was younger , his used to feel yummy…especially since I do not suffer from any real major depressive episodes ( other than only a few days of crying) My hypo mania is making my life unmanageable and does not feel “good” anymore. I feel my heart and nervous system being wrecked after a 5 month high. I am exhausted but my mind is racing crazy marathons…thank you so much for this info….I will use this as a diagnostic tool. I do not takes meds and have never been hospitalized. I would like to keep it that way…..but I am open to getting help.

  4. The issue I have is in telling if what I am doing or how I am behaving is due to “normal” high spirits or hypomania. Indeed, it is that very uncertainty in knowing what is “normal” and what is not that I find so destructive. The difficulty arising is that I struggle to trust my own judgement, from little things to big ones, such that I can be frozen into indecision, e.g. into sticking with an uncomfortable situation because I an uncertain if how I am feeling (about, say, a relationship) is a true understanding of the situation or one that is coloured by a hypomania (or depression). Taking the relationship example further, the question to be faced can be “should I stay or should I go?” when the instinct is “go” but previous experience of the same showed, in that case, the situation had been misread because the BP misdirected how I perceived the issue. I have not found an adequate way of dealing with these issues especially since I found post rationalising feelings can, and does, lead one in the wrong direction!

    • Hi Graham,

      Ah, you’ve posed a very sane question that crazy people often ask themselves – is my behaviour right now a product of _me_ or my _mental_illness_. It is very difficult to know the answer to that question. I’m sure I don’t get it right all the time myself and I know others around me might disagree with some of the conclusions I reach. But honestly, I’m the only one that knows the true answer, as are you, no matter how clouded it may be.

      If I may make one suggestion – ask yourself if you behaviour / choice will cause harm. If it does, then it pays to reevaluate that situation. In your example, should I stay or go, if you “go” there will be harm so it pays to think about it again. And, I feel, for a big decision like that, it pays to think about it over time because moods are episodic and so if your feelings are being colored by a mood, that should become evident as the episode passes.

      You may decide you do, indeed, wish to cause that harm, but a second thought and a bit of time isn’t such a bad idea.

      – Natasha Tracy

    • Something that helps me is to decide that I have to be sure about a decision for a specific amount of time.That’s my suggestion for relationships, business deals, large financial purchases (house, car). If you have a spurt of hypo-mania that find you with an extra armchair and tv. It’s okay. Yeah it costed some money, but you can sell it and you’ll be okay. A car, value will drop a ton. If your hypo-manic driving isn’t a wise choice.

      I wait 30 days before acting on a decision. Mind you, my hypo-manic fits tend to be rather short.

      • Nice idea. I’ll try that, although I don’t know I’ll try it over 30 days with relationships … too much to lose (or gain?) Thanks.

      • I bought a house while hypomanic. Totally stuffed up all the paperwork for the finance and could have potential been sued. Not very smart. But I was so excited!!

        • “But I was so excited!!”

          That could be our battle cry.

          And then so depressed I can barely move.

  5. Pingback: Mania « blue chip

  6. I haven’t exactly had that kind of experience with telling what is real and what is a dream, but I have experienced talking to someone about something…something we have talked about in the past or done together in the past…and them looking at me like I am crazy because they have no idea what I am talking about.

    I have come to realize I have dreamt sharing these experiences with these people and that they never actually happened. My dreams seem so real at times that I really struggle with distinguishing between what is real and what is a dream.


    • Hi Jessica,

      Yes, I get that too. Hyper-real dreams that seem like they really could have happened but really they didn’t. It’s really not that surprising that the brain gets confused. What’s the difference between thinking it happened and knowing it did? Somewhere in the memory par of the brain, I bet it looks similar. I think though, anyone who _really_ remembers their dreams has that issue. Most people just don’t remember them clearly enough for them to mistake them as real.

      But really, who wants to dream about reality. Screw that, I already live here. I want to dream about things that could never happen. There are enough beige conversations already during the day.

      – Natasha

  7. “The one thing I will say about crazy is that amazing dreams are part of the package. They are convincingly real the next day. I’ve lived a couple of weeks by the time I wake up in the morning. ”

    I didn’t realize anyone else experienced this. There are dreams that are so real and so vivid I wake up totally disoriented for several hours. I experience confusion trying to determine where I am and what was dreamed vs real.

    Anyone else experience lucid dreams when hypomaic? These are awesome to experience.

    • Hi Matthew,

      I’m not normally lucky enough to lucid dream, but on occasion, yes, I have.

      Last night I dreamed that I was married to Spike from Buffy the Vampire slayer, and some nondescript “good guy.” I loved them both and had excellent sex with them both and they knew about each other but I constantly had to prevent one from interrupting sex with the other one.

      One might suggest there are heavy psychological overtones to that dream, but as I’m not in any sort of triangle, my assessment would be an overdose of Buffy reruns.

      When I woke up though, there was the pleasant feeling of really being loved by these two guys. Sides of my personality, I suppose. I’m never crazy in my dreams. Always happy. And so sometimes, when I’m lucky, I wake up in that lull of living in that state for a moment. Best time of day.

      – Natasha

  8. I do think its an interesting thread, I guess its one of the problems of communication via the written word, so much nuance is lost in translation.

    We all have our individual experience of bipolar disorder and how we each manage to cope with it, and I think the kind of communication we have had in this thread can only help to further illuminate overall experience.

    Sharing the ways and means we each find to deal with the same disorder can only be a good thing I suspect, with reasonable debate surely its a valid way forward.

    I’m personally not sure we can ‘fix’ this disorder, perhaps its part of the human condition, a continuum of experience that is shared by everyone to one degree or another.

    As I said in my first reply here I now believe that Trauma underlies my bipolar symptoms and perhaps the acceptance of this has allowed me to sustain a depression free period of 5 months and counting, since six weeks of un-medicated mania last sept/oct, amongst other things of coarse. Or perhaps I’m just in remission, an easy on the mind understanding.

    Systems theory seems to be helping elucidate a newer picture of the human condition that is more holistic than a brain alone perspective, although holding such a complex view in mind gives me a headache, I wrote a few thoughts on it today in respect to my own experience with Bipolar Disorder.

    I like your writing Natasha, you have a gift and an important voice in the ongoing struggle to find better solutions to a disorder that causes so much pain and wrecks so many lives.

    Keep up the good work :))


  9. Hi Natasha,

    Interesting comments thread?

    “There’s really no equivalent in hypervigilance to the fast-think, fast-talking and just general speediness of hypomania. They seem distinctly different to me. Anxiety is like hypervigilance but anxiety isn’t like hypomania.”

    I like your sense of certainty, I find it hard to be so certain about the exact nature of my own brain/body; the distinctions between my instincts and my intellect.

    “Of this I have no doubt. And science always starts in theories and ultimately philosophies until someone proves something one way or the other.”

    This ones interesting in light of your previous reaction to Porge’s Polyvagal Theory?

    I was speechless at the fendersen link, stunned that one with your obvious intelligence consider it critique and not self serving criticism, after you pointed us to it while saying that Porge’s theory is hardly science, it made me wonder if you thought that fendersen’s remarks were scientific?

    As a lifelong intellectual, who could give a half dozen different answers of the way I was feeling during group psychotherapy, I came to realize I may have taken refuge in my head for much of my life. These days I try to feel more and think less.

    Sometimes I even get to feel my internal needs as I think and occasionally as I speak, very occasionally. Its something like the Buddhist saying “try to catch the gap between the spark and the flame.” although I often despair at stilling the mind of a classic manic depressive.

    In trauma counseling some ask why we have moved to descriptions of war trauma, like “shell shock” after the 1st world war, with its visceral impact, to PTSD these days, and what exactly underly’s our urge for intellectualizing.

    In search for answers to the “affective disorders” is there too much emphasis on the chemistry alone brain alone, can we isolate the brain from the autonomic nervous system and feedback loops therein?

    Have you read Allan Schore’s “Affect Dysregulation & Disorders of the Self” it makes me wonder what is the ‘affect’ in affective disorder?

    Food for thought?

    A link to my own silly thoughts on feedback:

    Take care.


    • Hi,

      You don’t think it’s interesting? I do.

      “I like your sense of certainty, I find it hard to be so certain about the exact nature of my own brain/body; the distinctions between my instincts and my intellect.”

      This is something I’ve been working at for a long time. Brain vs. mind. What’s the disease, what’s me? What’s the disease, what’s my own little neurosis? I’ve spent a long time studying this and yes, in me I have much certainty. But everyone’s experience is unique.

      (FYI, the chemicals/processes released in PTSD (anxiety) are quite different than those in hypomania.)

      “This ones interesting in light of your previous reaction to Porge’s Polyvagal Theory?”

      Yes, everything starts in theory, polyvagal and the idea that the Earth is round (once upon a time).

      As for the link, I didn’t mean to upset or offend you, it was just someone with a lot to say, taking a completely different view, on the issue. This person is remarking on Porge’s theory with that of his own. I never suggested either was science, just interesting. (I don’t have strong feelings either way. It’s just thought.)

      “In search for answers to the “affective disorders” is there too much emphasis on the chemistry alone brain alone, can we isolate the brain from the autonomic nervous system and feedback loops therein? ”

      Well, depends on your perspective. If you look at psychiatry in a vacuum then probably yes.

      But, as we all know (I hope):

      1. Some people’s disorders are due to environment and neuroses, and these can normally be fixed with therapy. These people do well off medication.
      2. Even people who biologically have disorders, statistically, do better on therapy + meds, rather than each alone.

      Therapy is, essentially, that integration. Therapy attempts to right the mind. And yes, the mind and brain are together on this one. Righting the mind, does in some respect, right the brain. And CBT does some “affect modification” (which personally I think is flaky and ridiculous, but whatever works).

      It’s a pretty long explanation biochemically, but it’s like this (for depression):

      – Something bad happens in your life and you develop neuroses (maladaptive habits)
      – Perhaps, later on, something else bad happens.
      – Each time “something bad” happens, a “groove” of depression is created in your brain. Each sadness makes the groove a little deeper and easier to fall into.
      – Eventually, person with neuroses who’s sister is dead and is in a bad relationship has a pretty big groove and is pretty depressed all the time.

      In order to fix this problem, the person needs to fix their environment and get therapy. Both of these things will help fill in the groove. In fact, antidepressants can fill the groove while they do all that other work. Once they’re done their work, they can taper off the antidepressants. (Really. It does happen.)

      This is distinctly from a serious, major disorder.

      – Person has neuroses like your average person, bad things happen like they do to an average person.
      – For some biological reason, their groove gets deeper, much faster.
      – This person doesn’t have a bad life, in fact, it might be very good, but yet, the groove is still there and possibly growing with even trivial things.

      This is a person with major depression. Essentially, they take an “average” life, and react to it in an unusual way, biochemically speaking.

      Now, quite frankly, who is in each group is up for debate, and even if you are type two, you would still benefit from some therapy. Everyone does.

      So, particularly in case one, we see, a possibly very, depressed person, use their mind to learn to retrain their brain into being “happier”. This works because there is so much to fix in the first place.

      But the things of it is, the type II people’s groove is just too big to be helped by therapy. The mind can thrash at it all day long but it’s a drop in the bucket. So the brain needs the meds to try to fill up that hole that the mind can’t.

      I often use a scale when referring to mood:
      1-on ledge
      5-moderate depression, includes thoughts of suicide
      10-no depression

      Most of your folks with depression are above a 5. And there are lots of techniques that work for those folks that just don’t work if you’re at a 2.

      So, is the mind important? Yes, it most definitely is. It has kept me alive all these years. But even though I am very smart, very education, very therapied, very self-aware, very insightful, I still can’t “fix” my disorder. The grooves in my brain are too deep, the chemicals too messy.

      “Have you read Allan Schore’s “Affect Dysregulation & Disorders of the Self” it makes me wonder what is the ‘affect’ in affective disorder?”

      Nope, can’t say as I have.

      – Natasha

  10. Hi Natasha,

    Is the excessive energy, ‘hyper-arousal’ in both states, one negative, one positive?

    Is the linkage between the nervous system & the brain with its electro-neuronal-chemical activity stimulating the organism, describe-able by object oriented logic.

    Some neurologists say that brain research is still so new that we don’t really have an applicable language for its activity yet, and what there is, is decades away from seeping into common awareness.

    Can we really speak about separation in the same way our eyes see separation? Is this what drives us to label symptoms separately? As Freud noted, the unconscious is weird.

    Who knows?

    Great food for thought though…

    Keep up the good work.

    P.S. I checked out the fendersen link & I’m speachless :))

    Take care,


    • Hi Batesy,

      Sorry, didn’t mean to drop the conversational ball. For some reason Gmail has been sticking a bunch of my mail in spam so I’m not alerted to new comments.

      “Is the excessive energy, ‘hyper-arousal’ in both states, one negative, one positive?”

      It feels to me like it’s arousing different systems in the brain, not so much “negative” and “positive”.

      There’s really no equivalent in hypervigilance to the fast-think, fast-talking and just general speediness of hypomania. They seem distinctly different to me. Anxiety is like hypervigilance but anxiety isn’t like hypomania.

      “Some neurologists say that brain research is still so new that we don’t really have an applicable language for its activity ”

      Of this I have no doubt. And science always starts in theories and ultimately philosophies until someone proves something one way or the other.

      As for labeling – humans are categorizers and labelers by nature. It’s actually a biological instinct. Humans are presented with such a huge array of stimuli every moment of every day that without categories essentially of “safe”, “unsafe” or “have-to-pay-attention”, “don’t-have-to-pay-attention” we would be lost.

      It’s one of the reasons for such rampant prejudice in society. We biologically want to put people in a box and it takes our higher-order reasoning to understand that people do not belong in boxes.

      We are all guilty of this in some way or another. “I don’t like guys name Joe because a guy named Joe raped me.” Well, that would be a box. And illogical. But something commonly seen among humans.

      You’re right, it is good food for thought.

      “Keep up the good work.”

      I’ll do what I can ;)

      (And yes, that link’ll leave anyone speechless ;)

      – Natasha

  11. Hi Natasha, in reply to:

    “And some people may find Porges’s nomenclature and concepts useful. Which is also fine. But it’s just a theory, a philosophy, and it’s miles away from science.”

    From Wikipedia:

    Stephen Porges is currently a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Director of the Brain-Body Center in the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago and holds appointments in the Departments of Psychology, BioEngineering, and Anatomy and Cell Biology. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Porges served as Chair of the Department of Human Development and Director of the Institute for Child Study. He is a former President of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been President of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, a consortium of societies representing approximately 20,000 biobehavioral scientists. He was a recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. He has chaired the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Maternal and Child Health Research Committee and was a visiting scientist in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Laboratory of Comparative Ethology. He was awarded a patent on a methodology to describe neural regulation of the heart. He is a neuroscientist with particular interests in understanding the neurobiology of social behavior

    “(Interesting critique on poly-vagal:” This link doesn’t seem to work?

    Sorry I did mean hypomania has similarities to hyper-vigilance of PTSD symptom expression, can you say more on how you do easily tell the difference.

    Take care


    • Hi Batesy,

      Yes, I did look him up. I never said he didn’t have a job, I said it’s just a theory. Which it is.

      Porges has a PhD in something that I can’t unearth for the life of me, but I highly suspect it has nothing to do with his job, otherwise he would list it. He writes theoretical papers. You can find some here:

      Some are interesting. There are two papers on heart rate and emotion in humans suggestive of heart rate and emotion connect in a way suggested by polyvagal theory, but that’s about it. There is nothing that has _tested_ this theory one way or another. Some psychologists are trying to use it in psychology, but again, just theory, no science.

      It’s OK to believe in theory. This guy might be onto something, I don’t know.

      From what I can tell it’s similar to biofeedback which seems to have fallen out of favor for the treatment of mood disorders although seems to work for other disorders: Biofeedback has some evidence associated with it but is inconclusive where depressive disorders are concerned.

      Regarding hypervigalence and hypomania. In my opinion hypervigalence is essentially a high degree of anxiety, which is not necessarily typical of hypomania.

      A hypervigilant person (using myself as an example) might walk down the road, very concerned at the dangers around her, looking back over her shoulder every second, constantly surveying the area for dangers, might jump at an unexpected noise, might clutch pepper spray in her pocket for perceived protection.

      A hypomania person, on the other hand, probably does none of that. In my experience hypomania produces less anxiety, not more. I feel bullet-proof. I could run down the road and cross the road without even looking because my mind is so taken up with the flights of hypomanic thought.

      There is an excessive of “energy” in both these states, but the energy manifests differently. I would say fear is the last thing associated with hypomania while it’s perhaps the first thing associated with hypervigilance.

      (FYI, the link in the previous comment accidentally contains a parenthesis from the text around it. This should do it: )

      – Natasha

  12. I like that idea. Not that I would ever wish this on anyone, but maybe just for a couple hours. Even though I have an amazing family and an amazing husband, and they’ve always given me my space and their understanding and support, I still feel…..ashamed? I’m not sure if that’s the right word. I still feel as though, maybe…..other people think I’m full of shit. I don’t know what word I’m looking for. And it’s my weakness alone. No one who is currently in my life has ever given me cause to feel that way. So, I think, in that respect, I’d love to be able to push a button or give them a pill, just so I can say, “SEE! This is what it feels like!” I’ve said to my husband before, it’s like putting Vodka and fire crackers in the gas tank of your Suburban and jamming the gas pedal to the floor, notwithstanding the brick wall 100 feet ahead of you.

    • Hi Machina,

      A couple hours? Oh, no, it doesn’t really sink in for, I don’t know, a month maybe. Congratulations on your holiday, enjoy your bipolar August.

      Yes, I think people with a mental illness often feel shame. I do. I know I shouldn’t, I know it isn’t reasonable or logical, but it’s so hard not to. Plus, the whole depression thing kills self-esteem which tends to increase the shame and it’s a whole big thing.

      But of course, even if everyone else in world does think you’re full of shit, it doesn’t really matter. You’re not. It’s just the illness wriggling around in your brain making you doubt yourself. It’s the same thing that does it to me.

      – Natasha

  13. It’s strange reading things like this. For me, at least. I guess I was an anomaly, having been diagnosed with “manic depression” at a tender 6 years old. So, all of these things that wiki articles and webMD articles and DSM V list as “symptoms,” I’ve always seen as me just being my regular neurotic self. It really wasn’t until I found my *jackpot* of med combos that I’ve really had a chance to realize how regular people feel. Since then, I’ve definitely been able to “feel” the manic coming on. My disorder is Bipolar I with intermittent explosive disorder, so I really only have depression in reaction to the stupid shit I do when I’m… a mood. It’s definitely manic predominant. The first thing I notice is the libido. It’s unquenchable. Almost to the point where it hurts. Then comes the taking things apart, putting them back together, chewing my lips until they bleed, coooking massive amounts of food and eating none of it….not eating for days at a time…..Blurgh. When I was a little girl, I used to pull my hair out and bang my head against the wall, so I guess anything is better than that.

    • Hello Machina,

      Yes, it’s odd feeling how normal people live. And it’s odd knowing that normal people don’t know how I live.

      Hey, what about this for an idea, we search for the perfect med combo to _give_ someone bipolar. Force them to live like us for a while. We can have “bipolar” Wednesdays, and bring your own bipolar. It’ll be fab.

      It sounds like it’s a good thing you’ve found meds that work for you, those symptoms sounds brutal. Keep on with the normal. Your head will appreciate it.

      – Natasha

  14. Hi Natasha,

    Great article as usual, such a courageous description of your own experience refusing to be ashamed of it. I can relate to the sleeping pill self medication, how to cope with work in the morning and the raging energies of hypomania tonight? Sleeping pills were my trusted allay in the years when a demanding job and bipolar disorder had to co-exist.

    Through a low tolerance for the side effects though I became one those who do the gig mostly unmedicated and these days never medicated, your description of the heightened states and my own experience of them lead me to wonder how close hypomania is to the ‘hyper-vigilance’ described in the PTSD observations and I can’t help but wonder if trauma is the common denominator in all the “disorders.”

    Peter Levine has a great new book called “in an Unspoken Voice,” and his and other body therapy expert advice has helped me to manage my “disorder” better, without such knowledge I couldn’t do the gig without med’s as I do now.

    Keep up the good work :))


    • Hi Batesy,

      I try to think of bipolar and its symptoms, and my life really, as something not to be ashamed of. I don’t like shame. Don’t really believe in it.

      I find that whether I have work the next morning or not, it’s important to get sleep because if I don’t the spiral will just get worse, and I can’t afford that work or no.

      I’ve experienced hypervigilance from PTSD and in my opinion, they aren’t alike and you can easily tell the difference.

      I don’t believe for a second that trauma causes bipolar disorder. You can traumatize people all you want, they won’t necessarily develop bipolar disorder. Many other factors have to also be there for someone to actually get the disease. And some people with bipolar disorder have never experienced any real trauma.

      Why do you keep putting “disorder” in quotes. Do you not think it exists?

      – Natasha

      • Hi Natasha,

        I do believe its a disorder, although I no longer believe its a disease in the form of the current medical model, when I speak of trauma and PTSD I’m not talking about trauma symptoms that arise from a traumatic event or events, or situations like being trapped underground in a coalmine.

        I’m talking about conditioned trauma symptoms that arise from habitual muscular postures caused by conditions like Asthma, combined with emotional and physical abuse etc, and obviously one must have a certain sensitivity that allows vulnerability to emotional disorders.

        I believe the sensitivity is in the brain/nervous system, I agree with a chemical imbalance within the brain but wonder about what effects the imbalance and how the autonomic (animal) nervous system plays a part in the triggers into states like hypomania.

        Its obviously very complex and observing symptoms does not describe what stimulates them, we can only be aware of the response side of what actually happens in those neural networks inside our brain, only aware of the stimulated sensations-symptoms.

        There is a shift taking place in psychiatry towards a more systemic view of the brain/body/mind , which is bringing chaos theory into our understanding of behavior and how it is affected by the internal and external environments through feedback signals.

        Our autonomic nervous system is a conditioned system, below the level of conscious awareness and only recently has the triune nature of this system been linked to the triune nature of the brain.

        It turns out that although we think we are directed by conscious perception, we my be more motivated by ‘nueroception,’ a term coined by the brilliant Stephen Porges and leading to new success in alleviating symptom expression in Autism, with its flat affect problems.

        A systemic understanding is difficult to hold in the mind without triggering distress, much more comfortable to think in simpler terms of a chemical imbalance in the brain, as sufferers of conditions like Bipolar Disorder we all get the feeling that its more complicated than the current medical model implies, yet at this stage of the learning curve its where we are at, for now.

        Can you say more about how you easily tell the difference between PTSD and hyper-vigilance please.

        Take care,


        • Hi Batesy,

          Well, I’m not sure I buy that.

          “It turns out that although we think we are directed by conscious perception, we my be more motivated by ‘nueroception,’ a term coined by the brilliant Stephen Porges and leading to new success in alleviating symptom expression in Autism, with its flat affect problems.”

          I don’t know about Porges, but I did take a look at your link and it’s an almost completely undocumented piece where he just sites himself. That’s not altogether convincing. It’s pretty much just opinion, if perhaps an interesting one. (Interesting critique on poly-vagal:

          I actually wrote about depression not being a chemical imbalance:

          Because yes, it pretty obviously isn’t.

          I agree, there is more to everyone than just a brain. I have written about it although not completely or recently. I call it the mind-brain separation. (Although Porges makes yet another distinction, brain – sensory separation)

          But that’s a philosophical point, not a medical one.

          I think people use different psychological nomenclature when talking philosophy over the mind. Which is fine. It’s an attempt to answer why some people like chocolate ice cream and some people like vanilla.

          And some people may find Porges’s nomenclature and concepts useful. Which is also fine. But it’s just a theory, a philosophy, and it’s miles away from science.

          If it’s a philosophy that speaks to you and you find helpful, then that’s what matters.

          Regarding hyper-vigilance, I was actually comparing it to hypomania, from which I find it easily discernible (to which I thought was your original comment referred, but I may have misunderstood).

          – Natasha

  15. “I will wake up before the alarm and I won’t be tired.”

    I hate hate hate that. I love my sleep and hypomanic lack of annoys me to no end, though possibly because of the hypomania annoyance you talked about. Though not being so tired I get ready with my eyes closed is nice, I do at least want to sleep until the alarm rings.

    I think it’s interesting you have vivid dreams when hypomanic. That used to happen to me when I was a kid but hasn’t happened in forever. I thought it was part of EOBP not regular bipolar. Shows how much I know about other people’s symptoms.

    • Kia,

      I do love my sleep, but I’m also extremely grateful when I wake up un-exhausted because that almost never happens outside of hypomania.

      The vivid-dreaming I do think it’s really variable depending on the meds. I do adore them though. In my dreams I’m never depressed.

      (FYI, vivid dreams aren’t a symptom of anything that I’m aware of.)

      – Natasha

      • I like the lack of exhaustion too (like you I’m always tired except when hypomanic/manic) but the before the alarm clock thing just sets me off. I never know if the exhaustion is from the bipolar or the medication for it. Perhaps a combination.

        My vivid dreams were always more like nightmares so I’m glad they’re gone. Night terrors are (or were) listed as a symptom of EOBP though I’ve not read anything that says they’re a symptom of adult bipolar. If they link only to the hypomania perhaps they are and just haven’t been listed yet.

        • Hi Kira,

          Yes, night terrors are completely different from vivid dreams (as I’m sure you know). Night terrors, I believe, are considered a REM-sleep disorder. They have very specific characteristics and are not “dreams” per se. And considering a bipolar (or depression) person’s sleep tends to be disordered it’s reasonable to think they could manifest that type of sleep disorder.

          – Natasha