Self-awareness

How to Handle Bipolar Hypomania

→ March 12, 2012 - 51 Comments

How to Handle Bipolar Hypomania

After my recent post about stress leading to hypomania in bipolar, I’ve had a couple of questions about what tools I use to handle hypomania. I’m happy to share my experience with hypomania but I can’t promise it will agree with your own. (Remember, hypomania is not the same as mania. In bipolar I, mania can easily be life-threatening.)

Are You Hypomanic?

I know it’s tough to admit you’re hypomanic, which is a mood, which is a symptom of bipolar, because many of us enjoy parts of hypomania and we don’t want it to go away, especially considering some of the alternatives. We just want to believe we’re feeling “good.” Really good. Which would be nice.

Nevertheless, the first step in dealing with bipolar hypomania is realizing that you’re hypomanic. And, of course, there are various degrees of hypomania – the more hypomanic you are the more worried you probably should become. The more hypomanic you are the more you need to focus on dealing with it properly because the chances are greater are there’s a nasty depression waiting for you at the end. (See, Self-Diagnosing Hypomania.)

How to Handle Bipolar Hypomania – Self-Talk

Hyper HypomaniaSo, once you know you’re hypomanic, what’s next?

The first step in dealing with hypomania is self-talk. If you know you are hypomanic then hopefully you can create the presence of mind to not make decisions based on your mood. Yes, I understand you feel like you’re the most brilliant person on Earth but the President probably doesn’t want to hear about it, k?

Self-talk is about your own awareness. Yes, I’m hypomanic, that’s why I’m feeling this way. Yes, I’m hypomanic, that’s why I want to act this way.

If you know that, and you can (probably) repeatedly tell yourself that, then you can start to correct some of the problems that are likely to happen when you’re hypomanic.

Dealing with Bipolar Hypomania

So to deal with bipolar hypomania:

  • TAKE YOUR MEDS and see your doctor if the hypomania puts you or your life in jeopardy
  • Don’t make any big decisions; don’t make any major purchases
  • Don’t eat sugar or caffeine; don’t take drugs or drink alcohol
  • Don’t skip meals – force yourself to eat good food
  • Breathe – your hypomania is going to want to speed you up but purposeful, deep breathing will slow you down – but you have to do it for it to work
  • Try meditation or yoga (if that’s your thing)
  • Exercise to wear off the excess energy in a positive way (One commenter mentioned this can be activating for them so be careful about that.)
  • Force yourself to sleep on schedule (I admit to using sleeping pills for this. I believe it’s much better to take pills and sleep than to not take pills and not sleep. I believe it is much better for mood and this one step can often right hypomania immediately.)
  • Check in with yourself on your actions – before you go and sleep with that handsome stranger, check in with yourself and really see if it’s you that wants a one night stand or the illness. Are you really angry with your friend or is it the illness?

In short, whatever the hypomania wants you to do, do the opposite. That’s not a very fun rule but it is a generally true rule of thumb. Hypomania feeds on itself so the more you give into its behavior the stronger it will get (just like depression).

Self-Awareness and Bipolar Hypomania

Dealing with hypomania is like dealing with any other mood – you need to see the mood, analyze the mood and outthink the mood. It’s hard but that’s what self-awareness is about. And self-awareness is what’s going to get you out of the jams that hypomania has a tendency to put you into.

(This is not to suggest you can always do this on your own. Sometimes other people can be your saving grace as they can see your behavior and moods much more clearly than you can. It’s OK to lean on them for their insight too.)

How do you like to handle hypomania?

British Psychology, Irritability, Mental Health Reporting – 3 New Things

→ August 11, 2011 - 6 Comments

3 Things I’ve Learned About Mental Health This Week

In a continuation of the 3 New Things series, this week follows up on the British Psychological Society’s critique of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 5 (DSM-V), talks about irritable mood in bipolar disorder and expresses my general disdain for people who can’t report about mental health accurately.

1. Do bipolars know when they’re irritable?

Do you know when you're irritable?Irritability is a symptom for both depression and mania/hypomania in bipolar disorder. This seems to suggest people with bipolar disorder run around biting the heads off of everyone we meet, but this isn’t the case. While I may feel angry and irritable, I, for one, can cover this up as I know it’s a symptom of the illness and not really me.

The interesting thing is, some patients don’t even consider themselves irritable because they have the ability to hide it. Note the following interesting quote:

Patients may not understand what elevated, or euphoric, mood means, so it may be necessary to define these terms. Similarly, the meaning of “irritable” may be unclear to patients. Many patients do not regard themselves as irritable if they can refrain from expressing their easy propensity to anger. Therefore, it is critical to emphasize that although the anger may not be expressed outwardly, the emotion of simply feeling irritable is significant.

From: Psychiatric Times, Mixed States in Their Manifold Forms: Part I

Which begs the question – do you ever consider yourself in an irritable mood? How do you know?

2. The British Psychological Society’s Critique on the DSM-V

Last week I asked if the British Psychological Society (BPS) was reputable as I questioned the motives behind their critique of the DSM-V revisions. It’s not that they don’t have their points, it’s just the points they’re making are copied-and-pasted to virtually every diagnosis either new to the DSM or not. It turns out my suspicions may have been wrong. The BPS does seem to be a genuine, reputable organization.

I came across an article in Psychiatric Times that explained issues with the BPS’s DSM-V critique beautifully – by blindly applying the same “feedback” to virtually every part of the DSM, their feedback has no weight at all and smacks of an agenda.

Even if they say something people should be listening to, it gets lost in the din of all the noise caused by putting the feedback where it doesn’t belong (article).

3. Reporting on Mental Health Issues is Appalling

Inaccurate Data in Mental Health InformationrTMS does not use magnets to “realign” a person’s brain.

I am not a reporter. I try to be a true, honest, accurate writer of credibility, but a reporter I never claimed to be. For actual reporters though, I rather think they have a higher bar.

Like, to write things that are accurate. Exhibit A:

The treatment [rTMS] hinges on the idea that every cell in the body has an electromagnetic field, and when this field is out of alignment, problems develop. RTMS then uses the highly focused magnets to realign a depressed person’s brain, and get it functioning properly again.

For the record, that is incredibly wrong and rather stupid. rTMS has nothing to do with cells having “electromagnetic fields” and there is no such thing as “realignment.” That all sounds like new age mumbo-jumbo which, in this case, takes actual science and turns it into nonsense. All I can say is that if you read something in the media, you’d better check out the facts yourself because it sure seems like the reporter isn’t going to bother.

rTMS uses a very strong, magnetic field that rapidly changes polarity to create an electrical current. This current activates neurons in a specific part of the brain just like electroconvulsive therapy, but without the cognitive side effects (or likely, effecacy rate).

Perhaps it’s too much to ask that a reporter understand those two sentences. Sheesh. (And for an extra dose of outrage, check out the comments, which can only be inflamed by the misinformation in the article.)

Until next week when I will learn more and try to do better.