Are you Hyperthymic?


By David Joel Miller.

Recently I read an article in a peer journal about Hyperthymia. Here is an interesting point of view on the question of whether the mental ill are really different from “normal” people. Maybe people with a diagnosed illness are on a continuum and just have more or less of the characteristics the rest of us take for granted.

I am inclined towards the idea of continuums not discreet illnesses despite the fact that I need to give people a diagnosis to get insurance to pay for treatment. That says to me, some people’s problems keep them from having jobs, friends or being happy and they need help. Other people get along fine as they are and don’t need help. For example 70% of people report having at least once in their life heard a voice calling their name but when they looked there was no one there. Does this say that hearing “voices” is normal or that the other 30% are lying? 

Bipolar disorder is especially troublesome. There are degrees of symptoms and as we have talked about in past blogs lots of people get another diagnosis first and then it gets changed later on, often when the antidepressants make it worse not better. What if parts of Bipolar disorder are just normal personality characteristics? Could there be milder forms of bipolar disorder that are not getting recognized or does that start to pathologize everyone?  Some authors have suggested we need a Bipolar 3 and Bipolar 4 to capture milder forms of the disorder.

Hyperthymic temperament is a description given to people with 7 specific characteristics.  Sometimes the list is longer or shorter. It is currently seen as a personality characteristic which means it is not generally recognized as an illness. Most mental health professions avoid working with and diagnosing personality disorders as these are often seen as just the way a person is and not likely to change or as needing lots of treatment to change. Dialectic Behavioral Therapy is used to treat some personality disorders and long-term psychotherapy is used for treating aspects of personality that might be considered neurotic or psychotic personality features. Most of the time professionals leave this one alone. 

 People with this personality style do develop problems of living everyday life that result in them coming to counselors for treatment. Maybe it should be a disorder? 

Here are the 7 characteristics of Hyperthymic Personality described by Glick. With MY explanations of how they might be recognized.

1. Cheerfulness

Hyperthymic people are annoyingly cheerful, cheerful to a fault. Hard to understand how someone could be too cheerful but I have learned to be suspicious of overly cheerful people. What are they up too?  

2. Exuberance

This is clearly pathological, especially before I have had my coffee in the morning. These people are often described as needing a “chill pill.”

3. Meddlesomeness

To my detractors I will say I am not meddlesome. I am just helpful even when you don’t realize you need my help. If this does not explain things try the “chill pill” described in 2 above.

4. Lack of inhibitions

Why can’t people just let last year’s New Year’s Eve part go? Occasionally letting your hair down is a good thing. However if this has resulted in more than one arrest, we are thinking you are beyond uninhibited.

5. Overconfidence

What I shouldn’t run for president? Have you seen who else is running? Now that is overconfidence.

6. Grandiosity

Genius is never recognized in its own time.

7. High energy levels.

Not sure about this one. I can be as energetic as almost anyone right after my nap. So there are people with high energy all morning? 

So are there people who meet most or all of these characteristics? Sure. Do they sometimes get in trouble and have problems, yes again. Should this be another condition we diagnose and treat? The jury is still out on that one.

What do you think? Is Hyperthymia a legitimate issue? Does it need treatment? Are we making too many things disorders and trying to treat people just for being who they are?

This post was featured in “Best of Blog – May 2012” 

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Thanks to all who read this blog.

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25 thoughts on “Are you Hyperthymic?

    • Thanks for that nice comment. Hope you will keep reading. The posts here are close to the way I might teach things at the community college so as my on line class, feel free to ask questions. David

    • Yes I do believe it is an issue. My husband is cyclothymic with personality disorder complex. He is near mania all the time and becomes argumentative and his god like grandiosity attitude has hurt many people. Call it whatever you want, its destructive unless controlled.

      • It must be difficult for you dealing with that sort of situation. Living with someone who has a mental illness can be difficult and painful. We know that people who have mental illness and live with a significant other do better. What does not get noticed is the impact on the family of living with the mentally ill. There is a lot more help available for the “identified patient” than for the family members. I would encourage you to look for help for him if he will go and for you to learn ways to cope and to influence his behavior.

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  6. hi, i like your article, i noticed a problem with my fiancee over the past two years i noticed she is how the lady in your story is. but she becomes very angry if she is not right or people disagre she becomes very bored and irratable. shes generally always happy but always looking to do something and an overactive mind our relationship is in bits bcoz of her behaviour and when she drinks it seems to make it more aparent its like she has bi polar with even as much as one glass of wine or until shes intoxicated. i put it down to being an alcoholic but i realy dont think it is. please if you have any info on this condittion please help its ruining my life i love her and want to help but i get pushed away if i suggest she see a therapist to see her she wont seek any help fir drink therapy anything please help. yours sincerly luke

    • There is a large connection between bipolar disorder and alcoholism.From your description there may be other problems going on also. I can’t give you specific advice over the internet, never having seen either of you. I would suggest you see a counselor for yourself to help you work through what you should do.I wrote a general post about what to do if a loved one refuses to go for help and will post that tonight. From your comment I can tell that this is a really distressing situation for you.

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  8. Thanks for a nice article; clearly written with the right touch of humor.

    I was diagnosed as hyperthymic four years ago. According to my psychiatrist, a “triggering event” about twelve years ago sent my symptoms into overdrive and i caused myself a lot of problems until he helped me figure out the problem. With good treatment, I’m quite stable, although as my brain continues to change, we make occasional adjustments in meds — it took us awhile to find the right dosages and combinations initially.

    I’ve found hyperthymia to be very much a double-edged sword. In fact, I refer to it (privately; mostly to my wife, who sort of nods in agreement as she rolls her eyes) as my “superpower,” because there are times when it makes me extremely effective and contributes greatly to my success. However, like all superpowers, it comes with a great burden as well and I have a few “kryptonite-like” threats I have to avoid.

    Your summary (by its nature) oversimplifies things quite a bit. My psychiatrist uses the term “revved,” which I think is more accurate than “cheerful” because it’s broader. Hyperthymics assess risk poorly and can have a hard time controlling their impulses. They are often quite charming and this combination, along with what you described, often gets them into trouble.

    Thank you for your interesting post. I searched the term “hyperthymic” over the last 12 months of Google News and this was the only item that came up. So there is not much out there about this rare disorder (although in my case, I think it was serious enough to deem it an “illness.”)

    If you are interested in discussing this, please feel free to email me. Thank you.

    • Thanks for that comment. Yes I would be interested in talking more with you about your experiences. Frankly I am quite surprised that your doctor would prescribe meds and still give the diagnosis of hypothermia. Most doctors I am aware of would have upgraded your diagnosis to Cyclothymia and probably even to Bipolar II disorders. The shorthand way of understanding this is that Hypothermic people are “annoyingly cheerful and full of energy.” Meaning that they can keep going until they wear mere mortals out. Once you progressed to “revved up” most doctors would say you are going too fast and give you some meds to slow you down. To justify insurance paying for any meds, at least here in my area, we would need to give you a diagnosis that is covered such as Bipolar Disorder.
      People with Bipolar, Cyclothymic and Hyperthymic are so very different that no two seem to be exactly the same. One drawback is that once we see people as being on a continuum rather than having a discrete specific illness all generalizations loses their meaning. What is true for one person is not true for another.
      Can’t help wondering how your superpowers have affected your wife, family and relationships. It must be hard for others to keep up with you. Consider commenting again or possible writing a guest post on how you have learned to cope with your condition and still maintain work and relationships.

      • I think you’re assigning a precision to what “hyperthymia” means that isn’t universally or even broadly accepted. In other words, to you, the term means “annoyingly cheerful and full of energy,” while other diagnosticians define it as a form of bipolar disorder.

        To be more precise myself, my psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and said the closest term for what I have is “hyperthymia.” I think hyperthymia is a reasonably accurate diagnosis in that my condition is chronic while hypomania is episodic.

        In the end, it doesn’t really matter: my symptoms were correctly diagnosed and treated. However, this disorder wreaked havoc on my life and the lives of my friends and family for quite awhile before I was treated. Being “revved” all the time brings chronic insomnia, a spendthrift nature, serious risk-taking behavior, a relentless libido and alcohol cravings that can’t be slaked with traditional treatments. The other side of the “double-edged sword” that I referred to earlier, however, is that many hyperthymics (including me) are quick-thinking, creative and charming visionaries, all of which enabled me great career success despite the difficulties.

        I realize I am an “‘n’ of one” and your experience may include many more hyperthymics than me. However, I am also part of a very small group of people with this disorder that are correctly diagnosed and treated. As I’m sure you’re aware, most hyperthymics never seek treatment because they can’t imagine anything is wrong with them. I actually sought treatment for alcohol abuse and this led to a psychiatrist identifying hyperthymia as the underlying cause.

        Correct treatment has rescued my marriage, allowed me to sleep at last, hugely improved my quality of life, enabled even more success at work and, possibly, saved my life as I no longer drink, which has led to better eating habits and more regular exercise. Five years ago, I had pretty much lost hope that I could “regain my life” and the transformation since then has been miraculous, at least to me.

        It’s a rare treat to communicate with someone knowledgeable about all of this as there are few resources on hyperthymia. Thanks for the blog entry and the exchange of thoughts.

      • Thanks so much for adding that information. The key take away is that treatment has helped you have a happy and productive life.

        In the settings I have worked I have seen a lot of people that are sort of like you. Though as you point out most all people we might consider to be “Hyperthymic” are an “n” of one.
        Most of them end up in treatment because of alcohol abuse, a depressive episode that made them think of suicide or a lot of financial and emotional wreckage in their life.

        It is not till much later, after a lot of suffering that they get recognized and treated. We need to find a way to help people with this condition a lot sooner. Professionals know that there are a lot of people who “sort of” have a mental illness but we far too often wait for the illness to get severe before we are able to offer help.

        Thanks again for your contribution and keep working your recovery. Best wishes.

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  14. My father was definitely an undiagnosed bipolar (as all 3 of us siblings agree) and I am now 59 and supporting my daughter who has been diagnosed with cyclothymia. It’s taken 6 years to get the GP to refer her for help because all they wanted to do was dish out antidepressants. But recently she had a bad episode of self harm after being made redundant from a job she was working successfully in but in a manic state ( long hours , high pressure). Whilst researching bipolar I had a light bulb moment when I realised I have hypothymia as I had always believed I had not inherited my father’s extreme moods. I had a very successful career as an inner city headteacher who turned around a very poor school and worked there for 12 years. I was an eternally optimistic person, boundless energy, highly effective with people, staff called me “inspiring” and I had amazing vision and a Midas touch when it came to solving problems. Then one day, after 30 years teaching and with no warning, I collapsed with exhaustion and had a ” nervous breakdown” at 50. Over the past 9 years I have experienced a long periods of reflection trying to make sense of “me” and what makes me tick. Today I realised, after going on the beatingbipolar website to research my daughter’s diagnosis , that I am hypothymic and I have finally joined up the dots. But reading your website has helped me think through who I am . Many Thanks Helen

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