By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Recently I read an article in a peer journal about Hyperthymia. Here is an interesting point of view on the question of whether the mentally 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.
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?
This is clearly pathological, especially before I have had my coffee in the morning. These people are often described as needing a “chill pill.”
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 party 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.
What I shouldn’t run for president? Have you seen who else is running? Now that is overconfidence.
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”
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