What is the difference between mania and hypomania?

What is the difference between mania and hypomania? What are the different symptoms? How can you tell the difference?


Before I started this site and began researching bipolar disorder, I had no idea what hypomania was. I mean pretty much everyone has heard the word “manic”. So what the heck are they referring to when they say, “hypomanic”?

I decided the best way to begin explaining it is to start by dissecting the word “hypomania”.

hypo– or hyp-
1. Below; beneath; under: hypodermic.
2. Less than normal; deficient: hypoesthesia.
3. In the lowest state of oxidation: hypoxanthine.
[Greek hupo-, from hupo, under, beneath; see upo in Indo-European roots.]

So if we take these definitions and add the word “Mania” to the end it would look like …

hypomania(per Marybeth)
1. Below mania; beneath mania; under mania
2. Mania less than normal
3. In the lowest state of mania

If I were to have seen this definition the first time I heard of hypomania, I would’ve been like,

“So they are saying there are too sorts of mania then? Super manic and Barely manic?”

And yeah, it’s kinda like that.

*pictures everyone shaking head in confusion*

Ok, hold on there little buddies. We aren’t done dissecting the word yet!!!

ma·ni·a (mn-, mny)
1. An excessively intense enthusiasm, interest, or desire; a craze: a mania for neatness.
2. Psychiatry A manifestation of bipolar disorder, characterized by profuse and rapidly changing ideas, exaggerated sexuality, gaiety, or irritability, and decreased sleep.
3. Violent abnormal behavior.

So one word means “Below, Beneath, Less than.” and the other means “Excessive, Profuse, Exaggerated”

Well hello there oxymoron!!! I mean seriously, can this get anymore confusing!

So I guess, keeping those two conflicting definitions in mind … Oh screw it! Who needs generic definitions? I mean, are they really helping us understand mania and hypomania any better? Ok so I know a few of you are like, “Oh My Bob! This all makes sense now!” and you totally deserve gold stars, but I know there are a few of you looking at me (and/or my post) with blank stares and drool dripping down your chin. So for my fellow droolers, let’s see if we can simplify this a bit.

Simple (Absolutely NOT formal) Definitions

1. A little of something

1. A lot of acting out in a certain (usually inappropriate) way

(Dude watch out there Webster’s, you ain’t got nothing on these defining skillz!)

1. A little of a lot of acting out in a certain (usually inappropriate) way.

And this is the part of the show where I share certain examples via story time!!! (I think I might even include pictures!)

MANIA by Marybeth Smith

Once upon a time there was a boy named Joe.

Joe had cool shoes … just saying …

One day Joe started hearing voices. The voices told him that if drank all the liquor he could find it would be like drinking from the fountain of youth, he would be immortal. Joe liked the idea of being immortal, I mean after all, he was the coolest, hottest sex machine alive. He would be doing the world a favor!

So Joe rummaged through his girlfriend’s purse and stole 3 of her credit cards, he maxed the first one out at the liquor store. But on his way back from the liquor store he passed a farm. There was a big fat sign in front of the farm that read,

Joe instantly thought of his girlfriend. Hadn’t she once told him that her uncle’s sister’s daughter had always wanted a pony? Surely that meant she wanted one too! So Joe maxed out her second credit card buying her ponies.

He was so proud of himself. He was the most thoughtful boyfriend ever and after he drank all the booze in his trunk he was going to live forever. He smiled at the thought of all the girlfriends he could buy ponies for until the end of the world.

As Joe bathed himself in his glorious visions, a pink elephant wearing a patch over one eye appeared before him and said,

“Oh my Joe!” Joe said. “I’ve always wanted to be a pirate!”

Joe and the pink elephant began flying toward the ocean and over the sea until they stopped on a giant pirate ship. The pirates welcomed Joe and told him to partake in drinking “a bit O’ rum” with them. He skipped and hopped and jumped and said, “I just bought out a liquor store and if we drink this all together we can be immortal!”

The pirates and pink elephant cheered and drank and drank and drank …

They drank and partied till all the elixir of life ran dry. Joe knew he was born for this life. He was so pleased with himself that he sat down on the couch (how did the couch get there? meh … who cares …) and rested his head.

Five days later his girlfriend barged into his apartment and found …


So here is example one … which unfortunately (due to my own possible slight hypomania) I just spend 2 hours working on! But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s go over the points in the story at which we KNOW Joe was experience full on Mania.

1. Joe heard voices – Auditory Hallucinations

2. Joe seemed to think he was the coolest, hottest, sex machine/boyfriend ever – Extreme Egocentric Behavior

3. Joe stole his girlfriends credit cards to buy booze and ponies, thus maxing them out – Extreme reckless spending and irrational thinking

4. Buying girlfriend ponies –Extreme generousity (especially since it wasn’t even the girlfriend that was interested in ponies AND it was her money he was using to purchase them with!)

5. Pink elephants and Pirates – Visual Hallucinations

Most likely, if Joe was still manic when his girlfriend found him, he probably wasn’t very nice to and/or showed her the awesome ponies and introduced her to the pink elephant and pirates. All very Extreme behavior! AKA – Mania

Make sense?

So now let’s tell a little story about Hypomania (which may or may not be based upon real life events). I regret to inform you, due to time restraints, this story shall be (mostly) picture free. (Oh stop booing!!!)

HYPOMANIC by Marybeth Smith

There once lived a girl named Barymeth. She had a dazzling personality and charismatic mannerisms (82.4% of the time).

She even had a sparkle in her smile! (See it…it’s there! I swear! … What? … No! I didn’t photo shop it much!!!) Sometimes Barymeth had rough days where she preferred to hide her sparkly smile with sleep. But OTHER days, Barymeth was on top of the world.

On these days she’d get so much done and/or take on so many new activities it seemed that the world might explode due to her sheer awesomeness! When Barymeth had one of these days, it would go something like this …

7:00 am – Barymeth springs out of bed with a smile on her face and ready to face the world

8:00 am – Barymeth makes breakfast for everyone, pancakes, sausage, corned beef hash, eggs, cinnamon rolls … nobody leaves hungry!

9:00 am – As the kitchen is a mess, Barymeth spends the next hour cleaning the ENTIRE thing. Sure, she didn’t actually use the microwave, but it really needed to be cleaned!

10:00 am – Feeling little to no exhaustion from all this activity, she heads over to her computer where she feels the need to write the next four days blog posts so she can “get ahead of the game”. One in particular needs some extra work (aka pictures) so Barymeth spends the next two hours researching and perfecting every tiny bit. Meanwhile she makes sure to check her email every two minutes as well as takes on three phone calls, all while somewhat stressing about the messy state of her home. But that can wait.

12:00 pm – CRAP!!!!! The kids are hungry!!! But that would mean breaking her focus. And if she breaks her intense focus she might not do a perfect job and if she doesn’t do a perfect job people won’t be impressed and if people aren’t impressed they might not keep reading her blog, and if nobody reads her blog then she has no purpose in life and not to mention how is she ever going to finish so she can find time to clean the house and and and … the kids can wait another half hour, right?

12:45 pm – Barymeth’s children are begging for food. As if she didn’t make them the worlds largest breakfast or something. Geez! I mean she’s not hungry. How can they be. She heaves a heavy sigh and whips them up something quick. PB & J is perfect! She licks the peanut butter off the knife and heads back to the computer.

1:00 pm – Husband keeps calling, probably to check in, but that would break her focus. She’ll call him back …





3:35 pm – CRAP! Only an hour and a half to shower, clean, cook dinner and appear to be the perfect wife. Because if she’s not the perfect wife her husband will be disappointed and if her husband is disappointed then her marriage will fall apart and then if her marriage falls apart then she’ll have to be a single mom and get a job and find a sitter and THEN she won’t have enough time for her blog.

3:45 pm – 5:30 pm – Completes train of thought. Frantically cleans the ENTIRE house, starts dinner, showers whilst dinner is cooking, pulls dinner out of the oven, puts on a nice outfit, make up and curls hair as food is cooling down. Then she heads to the dining room and dishes out her 3 course masterpiece while taking the time to garnish each plate so it looks PERFECT!

5:30 pm – Husband arrives. Barymeth has concurred all obstacles for the day have been impressingly overcome, so she sits down to eat dinner. Phone rings. MUST ANSWER IT! Can’t leave the phone to just ring. Notices emails and comments in inbox. Husband is talking. Kids are fighting. Kitchen is dirty.  KITCHEN IS DIRTY!?!?! But she just cleaned.

6:00 pm – Barymeth let’s out a large ear curdling scream at which point her entire family looks over and stares at her. This won’t do. Barymeth rushes to the fridge. Time for wine.

7:00 pm – Wine kicks in. Barymeth tells husband all about her day and her perfect post and her perfect cleaning and the five new projects she took on for the Cause she volunteers for and oh his mom called and she thinks they should all visit but Barymeth thinks it would be too much after such a long week and and and … all the while checking her email every two minutes and starting to get anxious for her favorite shows to come on. Husband gets in about 3 words and Barymeth has about 2 more glasses of wine.

8:00 pm – Shows are on! Feeling Floofy! Can’t just sit and watch tv though. That would be counterproductive! Barymeth pulls out the laundry and forces husband to sit down and fold with her. As he does so she takes about every fourth item away from him and refolds it. It Must Be Perfect!

11:00 pm – Shows done, laundry folded, wine gone, NOT TIRED. Keeps husband up another two hours talking his ear off and other such time consuming things (like I’d share details! ok ok, they played Parcheesi!)

1:00 am – Husband falls asleep. Barymeth tosses and turns half asleep/awake for three hours before getting up and starting another load of laundry and picking out the children’s clothing for that day and and and

With all this work and and and, you’d think Barymeth would be tired. But she actually goes on like this for a good week before ultimately crashing and going back to sleeping for 12 hours straight.


And you’d think that Barymeth, Um I mean I, would be tired of writing by now, but chances are, doubtful. Because I’ve gotta point out all the Hypomanic moments in the story.

1. Wakes up ready to start the day/hyper/energetic – Excessive (but not extreme) Energy Levels

2. Cooks a big, unnecessary, breakfast that is perfect in every way – Elevated (but not extreme) Mood, Needs to be on the Move, Must do everything Perfectly or life will end aka Phsychomotor Agitation

3. And and and – Racing Thoughts

4. Focuses on one project without being able to deviate from the task, to the point where she ignores her childrens’ basic needs. – Disconnected from the rest of the world, focus is on self, self worth, self, self self …

5. Screams when everything becomes too much – Overreacting to Excessive (but not extreme – extreme would deviate into throwing things and violent behavior) Irritability and Excessive (but not extreme) sensitivity

6. Must keep busy even while trying to relax – Restlessness and the Need/Wish to multitask

7. Tanks an entire bottle of wine – Increased (But not extreme … because extreme would totally be two bottles!) alcohol consumption

7. Staying up late and not being able to stay asleep – Insomnia (but not extreme, some sleep was had)

All this being said, I’m sure you can see where there were some similarities, however, full on Mania was much more intense and preposterous. Also, Hypomania does not involve hallucinations or psychosis of any sort.

BUT, do not be mislead, although Hypomania may not be as grandiose as Mania, it can still be just as harmful, especially to those around you. If at anytime you think you may be experiencing  these symptoms, make sure to consult your physician/psychiatrist. If you are experiencing hallucinations or psychosis, it is best to seek prompt medical attention before you or someone close to you is harmed.

I hope I was able to clear things up!

6 thoughts on “What is the difference between mania and hypomania?

  1. This is good information and very well written! I have experienced mania and hypomania but not at the same time. Right now, I have hypomania quite a bit along with mixed state. I prefer hypomania versus real mania because psychosis sucks.

  2. I really found some similarities in your story to how I used to be and my husband even pointed out some things that I didn’t even realize that I had done as recently as last Fall. Thank you for infusing humor into a very serious subject, it made it a little easier to take. It was a very interesting way to put everything especially the definitions in the beginning.

  3. Thanks 🙂 I always get really nervous when I see there is a new comment on this post. I know it was a bit out there, but I wanted to make it easier to understand, plus I can’t do anything without at least throwing a LITTLE something humorous into it. I’m glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful!

  4. Uh, no, you were not too helpful. I was searching for a clear distinction/definition of the difference between mania & hypo mania and what I got instead is a person deeply in love with their (rather poor) writing talent. Oh, and your scholarly (?) attempt at breaking down the words into the Greek roots? Adjust your medications.
    Ah, the long, rambling tale of Joe’s Woes, then the epic tale of Our Hero Barymeth: you might want to change the name of the woman; that second syllable hints at a darkness I doubt you noticed. Or drop all pretense and just call her Crystalmeth. Hey, it’s your story.
    Point is, if I wanted to read a long-winded, nonsensical ego trip I would look at what Donald Trump’s latest press release.
    I have Bipolar 2. You did not help me at all. As far as the other commenters go, I sure do hope they went to other mental health sites after visiting this one; you know – to get a second, or third, accurate definition.
    “Ask a Bipolar.” Thanks to you, I’d rather ask a compass manufacturer.

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