A Hypomanic Episode is defined as a distinct period during which there is an abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood that lasts at least 4 days (Criterion A). This period of abnormal mood must be accompanied by at least three additional symptoms from a list that includes inflated self-esteem or grandiosity (nondelusional), decreased need for sleep, pressure of speech, flight of ideas, distractibility, increased involvement in goal-directed activities or psychomotor agitation, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (Criterion B). If the mood is irritable rather than elevated or expansive, at least four of the above symptoms must be present. This list of additional symptoms is identical to those that define a Manic Episode except that delusions or hallucinations cannot be present. The mood during a Hypomanic Episode must be clearly different from the individual’s usual nondepressed mood, and there must be a clear change in functioning that is not characteristic of the individual’s usual functioning (Criterion C). Because the changes in mood and functioning must be observable by others (Criterion D), the evaluation of this criterion will often require interviewing other informants (e.g., family members). History from other informants is particularly important in the evaluation of adolescents. In contrast to a Manic Episode, a Hypomanic Episode is not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning or to require hospitalization, and there are no psychotic features (Criterion E). The change in functioning for some individuals may take the form of a marked increase in efficiency, accomplishments, or creativity. However, for others, hypomania can cause some social or occupational impairment.
The mood disturbance and other symptoms must not be due to the direct physiological effects of a drug of abuse, a medication, other treatment for depression (electroconvulsive therapy or light therapy), or toxin exposure. The episode must also not be due to the direct physiological effects of a general medical condition (e.g., multiple sclerosis, brain tumor) (Criterion F). Symptoms like those seen in a Hypomanic Episode may be due to the direct effects of antidepressant medication, electroconvulsive therapy, light therapy, or medication prescribed for other general medical conditions (e.g., corticosteroids). Such presentations are not considered Hypomanic Episodes and do not count toward the diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder. For example, if a person with recurrent Major Depressive Disorder develops symptoms of a hypomanic-like episode during a course of antidepressant medication, the episode is diagnosed as a Substance-Induced Mood Disorder, With Manic Features, and there is no switch from a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder to Bipolar II Disorder. Some evidence suggests that there may be a bipolar “diathesis” in individuals who develop manic- or hypomanic-like episodes following somatic treatment for depression. Such individuals may have an increased likelihood of future Manic or Hypomanic Episodes that are not related to substances or somatic treatments for depression.
The elevated mood in a Hypomanic Episode is described as euphoric, unusually good, cheerful, or high. Although the person’s mood may have an infectious quality for the uninvolved observer, it is recognized as a distinct change from the usual self by those who know the person well. The expansive quality of the mood disturbance is characterized by enthusiasm for social, interpersonal, or occupational interactions. Although elevated mood is considered prototypical, the mood disturbance may be irritable or may alternate between euphoria and irritability. Characteristically, inflated self-esteem, usually at the level of uncritical self-confidence rather than marked grandiosity, is present (Criterion B1). There is very often a decreased need for sleep (Criterion B2); the person awakens before the usual time with increased energy. The speech of a person with a Hypomanic Episode is often somewhat louder and more rapid than usual, but is not typically difficult to interrupt. It may be full of jokes, puns, plays on words, and irrelevancies (Criterion B3). Flight of ideas is uncommon and, if present, lasts for very brief periods (Criterion B4).
Distractibility is often present, as evidenced by rapid changes in speech or activity as a result of responding to various irrelevant external stimuli (Criterion B5). The increase in goal-directed activity may involve planning of, and participation in, multiple activities (Criterion B6). These activities are often creative and productive (e.g., writing a letter to the editor, clearing up paperwork). Sociability is usually increased, and there may be an increase in sexual activity. There may be impulsive activity such as buying sprees, reckless driving, or foolish business investments (Criterion B7). However, such activities are usually organized, are not bizarre, and do not result in the level of impairment that is characteristic of a Manic Episode.