Can You Be Hypomanic Without Losing Control?

The holy grail for most people with bipolar disorder is to be hypomanic without losing control.

I have discussed bipolar with thousands of people over the last 10 years. I dare guesstimate that being hypomanic without losing control is the Holy Grail for 75% to 80% of them. Most say their goal is “permanent hypomania and to never be depressed again.” If you ask their parents, though, their response would be “I don’t mind him being a little depressed. But could you make the mania and deep depression go away forever?

There is good reason for the discrepancy between parents and bipolars. Bipolar people may like being manic. Yet their behaviors are often so out-of-control that they become a problem for those around them. Bipolars and non-bipolars alike are justifiably afraid of mania because of past history with manic episodes.

It is commonly believed that it is impossible to even be hypomanic without rapidly escalating to an out-of-control state. The belief is so prevalent that the standard of care for mania according to the National Institute of Mental Health is to make it go away entirely.

On the other hand, there are many people who advocate that bipolar is a dangerous gift. Some take it too far and say we should allow all states no matter the consequences. While I fully agree with the dangerous gift idea, we must learn to take responsibility for our states and keep them from getting to places that we cannot control.

I often hear people talk about the possibility of living well while hypomanic. Yet they refuse to do the hard work necessary to make it a reality. And periodically find themselves back in crisis. Which further reinforces the argument that hypomania is to be avoided. When a hypomanic thinks he/she is under control and everyone else thinks not, this is a pretty clear sign that the hypomanic is delusional about it. Whatever the level of intensity, it is too high for the bipolar to be playing with.

Nonetheless, some of us have already achieved the ability to understand and control our level of hypomania and keep it from getting out-of-control. To ignore our success and not study how we got there is a grave mistake. As long as we continue to only advocate the complete elimination of mania, those who desire to have the hypomanic state will continue to stop following their prescribed recovery plan. Periodically escalating into a crisis situation. It would be much better to teach them how to function instead of trying to convince them that it is not possible.

Is it dangerous to try? Even with the standard elimination-based treatments in use today “at least 25% to 50% of patients with bipolar disorder also attempt suicide at least once.” With that high of a percentage rate of failure it is extremely dangerous to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results, which is the very definition of insanity.

Please share your thoughts in the discussion below. This is an important topic that needs to be talked about instead of kept in the closet.

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Tom Wootton founded Bipolar Advantage with the mission to help people with mental conditions shift their thinking and behavior so that they can lead extraordinary lives. His most recent work focuses on moving beyond recovery in bipolar disorder to what he calls Bipolar In Order.