Lab Results - Cyanide & Happiness Shorts
How Can Happiness Be The Symptom of a Disease?
Bipolar illness has a 'good' phase called hypomania, characterized by euphoria, increased energy and decreased need for sleep. The problem is, it doesn't last.
By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
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Sanjay Gupta, MD, Everyday Health:You have depression, you have mania, and then there’s hypomania. How do you define hypomania?
Katherine Burdick, PhD, Associate Professor, Psychiatry, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai:So the symptoms that we see typically in hypomania include euphoria, so very high, heightened, a lot of happiness, increased levels of energy, typically that’s also associated with increased productivity. So people who are creative might do a lot of writing during that period or painting during that period. They tend not to need as much sleep. And you’ll typically see patients very pressured, so they speak very quickly, and thoughts will come to them very quickly.
Dr. Gupta:Increased productivity, increased energy, decreased need for sleep, I mean these all seem like good things.
Dr. Burdick:Absolutely. Hypomania is a state that most of us would like to achieve and remain in. The problem, of course, is the flipside of the hypomania. Hypomania often precedes full mania. This means that they’ve reached a disabling component of the illness where they’re either hospitalized or they’re fired from their job or they’ve behaved in some way that might disrupt relationships.
Dr. Gupta:Claire Danes’ character on Homeland. I think it’s one of the first times we’ve seen such a detailed portrayal of someone with bipolar illness. What do you think of that portrayal, how accurate is it?
Dr. Burdick:I think they actually did a very, very nice job. They presented the illness in a way that I think was quite realistic. Patients talk nonstop and can go for hours without literally sounding like they’re taking a moment to just take a breath. The flow of language and the way in which some of these words will connect, it’s quite different. So you see the way the person’s brain is just functioning in a different way – in some ways quite interesting and quite impressive, but at the same time, you can see the sort of disconnect with reality.
Dr. Gupta:How do you describe this to someone who’s never experienced any of these symptoms, what it's like to be in these different phases?
Dr. Burdick:So I think that the depressive phase of the illness is probably one that is the easiest for most people to understand. The severity of it is the thing that I think is very difficult for people who have never experienced these episodes to understand. People suggesting, “Just get up out of bed and just go do something, you'll feel better.” The just getting up out of bed is really a different problem for a patient with clinical depression. Mania, I think, is probably a little bit more difficult. If something very, very good happens to you, you win the lottery or you have some really great news that comes in and you just feel elated and very happy, very energetic. One of the important things that differentiates those very good moments in life from mania is the durability of it. Eventually, that elation, the sort of intensity of that feeling, wears off. In individuals with mania, it doesn’t.
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