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When hypomania turns harmful, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter

Artists, entrepreneurs, and other creative people tend to be energetic and inventive, bursting with new ideas, and more than ready to talk about them. These are also some of the characteristics of hypomania, reports the Harvard Mental Health Letter. Hypomania is a mood state or energy level that is markedly higher than "normal" but not as extreme as the mania that accompanies bipolar disorder.

The hallmarks of hypomania include exaggerated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, increased talkativeness, racing thoughts or ideas, marked distractibility, agitation, and excessive participation in pleasurable activities that tend to invite personal or financial harm, such as sexual indiscretions or impulsive business investments.

In moderation, the characteristics of hypomania can contribute to creativity or make someone the life of a party. But when they harm an individual's quality of life by interfering with relationships or jeopardizing finances, it's time to seek help, advises Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. For mild or moderate episodes of hypomania, a person can often remain on an even keel by concentrating on basic healthy lifestyle habits—eating regular meals, doing physical activity every day (a great way to burn off some extra energy), and trying to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep per night. Severe hypomanic episodes, in contrast, may require a mood-stabilizing medication.

Read the full-length article: "Ask the doctor: What is hypomania?"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter

  • References for "Augmentation strategies for depression"
  • References for "Reconsidering the placebo response"
  • References for "Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sleep"
  • Augmentation strategies for depression
  • Reconsidering the placebo response
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sleep
  • The Quirky Brain: Theories about what causes chemobrain
  • Ask the doctor: What is hypomania?

More Harvard Health News »

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Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.