Is everyone Bipolar?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

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Just how common is Bipolar Disorder?

There are people out there with Bipolar Disorder as we currently understand Bipolar. Some people who really have this issue never get diagnosed and miss out on the treatment they need. From some of the things on the web today it is hard to see how anyone could escape getting this diagnosis. For more on this dilemma see the post, Bipolar – Misdiagnosed or missing diagnosis?

If professionals give out a diagnosis too freely then it stops having any meaning. So just how common is Bipolar Disorder and what should we think about people who sort of have it?

Some perspective

Humans are not the only creatures on earth who act “bipolar.”

Think about some of the symptoms. Elevated expansive mood, reduced need for sleep, increased impulsivity and heightened sexuality. Hum—

It is hot here now, but only a few weeks ago it was spring. From the window in my office, I watch the birds in the trees and on the lawn. There are a lot of native doves in my immediate area. For a while, just after Valentine’s Day, those doves woke me up in the morning. They were cooing constantly and then mating – can’t describe that and stay P. G. rated. When pursuing and being pursued by mates their temperament can best be described as irritable. Are doves Bipolar? Are they only Bipolar in the spring time?

Every spring the days start getting longer, the creatures on planet earth respond by becoming more active, they and we humans with them, think about reproduction. If birds breed in February they have babies by Easter. Humans seem to breed just as fast but we take longer to get the babies done.

Then in the fall time, the doves seem to disappear. So do the humans on my block. All those exercise freaks stay indoors. As the days get shorter the mood among humans gets gloomier. This may be one reason we have so many holidays in the fall and winter, Halloween, American Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years all in a couple of months. We do this to cheer ourselves up. We also see extra depression during those months of less light.

If birds are affected by the changes in weather, humans are affected, and other animals also, it is difficult to go on describing these mood fluctuations as a mental illness.

We know that some people are affected by the seasons more than others. The degree and magnitude of mania and depression vary from one person to another. When have we crossed the line and turned normal human emotions and feeling into a pathological disorder?

There are also milder variations in human behavior we call “personality.” Talking about personality types, wondering why we are the way we are, is an interesting study. One needs to be careful in learning about personality to not make the first year student mistake and start seeing pathology where none exists. Not everyone who is moody, sleepless, irritable, or extra sexual needs to be diagnosed and put on medication.

As a therapist, I know there are lots of folks who would benefit from talking to a counselor about their problems. We also know that insurance wants us to be sure they are mentally ill and meet the criteria for “medical necessity” before insurance pays for the treatment. The challenge is to stick to the criteria and make sure only people with a real mental illness get treated using insurance money, while still trying to help all the people we can. Professionals continue to debate exactly where the lines of a disorder should be drawn.

At this point, we have three for sure reasons why someone’s symptoms get severe enough that they get the diagnosis.

1. Your issue interferes with “occupational functioning,” which includes school, for children and volunteer work if you are disabled.

2. It interferes with “social functioning” which mainly means you have poor or no relationship with family and friends.

3. Your issue causes you “subjective distress,” meaning a whole lot of emotional pain.

Having a personality that is not as you would like it may be painful but I hesitate to throw that in with mental illness. So if you are too introverted, impulsive or have some such personality trait, you can work on that, but you are not likely to be severely enough impaired to be diagnosed with a mental illness.

Some people may have “bipolar trait” or a “bipolar temperament” these are things you may or may not choose to work on in yourself improvement projects. “Hyperthymic Temperament” and Hyperthymic Personality Disorder” is just such a condition. Hyperthymic Personality Disorder is a common name NOT a specific diagnosis. DSM Personality Disorders are far more severe than Hyperthymia.

My thinking is that if you have characteristics like this you may want to consider being screened by a profession and keep an eye out for the possible development of Bipolar Disorder.

One thing we professionals should avoid doing is turning everyone who is different, into a pathological condition.

So is everyone Bipolar? The DSM-4 reports that the prevalence of Bipolar I and Bipolar II combined is more or less 2%.  Irritable, moody, impulsive and sexual people – that is just about all of us.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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Hyperthymia, Hyperthymic Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

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Does you temperament predispose you to mental illness?

Hyperthymia person

Hyperthymia, hyperthymia personality disorder, and bipolar. Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Personality characteristics may be a risk factor for certain mental illnesses but the exact connection continues to be far from clear. Psychologists have long been interested in various personalities. Are you outgoing – let’s call that extroverted. Psychopharmacologists look for connections between meds, drugs of abuse, and temperaments or personalities.

For the mental health community, the connection becomes more problematic. We are reluctant to diagnose someone as “mentally ill” because they are introverted, extroverted or have some other “personality type.” We really want to know that your personality issue or temperament is somehow interfering with your life, job, and friendships or making you miserable before we start saying that the way you are and were born, is somehow a disorder.

We know, or think we know, that some personality characteristics might increase your risk for certain disorders. To the extent that genetics plays a role in mental illness your temperament just might be a factor in developing mental illness.

Hyperthymia is one of those possible risk factors.

Hyperthymic people are those people who have so much energy, do so many things, and get so much done they annoy others. Goel, Terman, and Terman (2002) defined Hyperthymia as equivalent to Hypomania but without the impairment. So if you lose control it is hypomania and you get diagnosed with a mental illness (Bipolar.) But Hyperthymia by this definition means you are able to hold it together.

In their discussion of Bipolar and creativity, Shapiro and Weisberg (1999) define Hyperthymia as those people who have had periods of hypomania but there had not been a period of depression. This inconsistency in definition for Hyperthymia leads to a lot of inconsistencies in our understanding of this personality dimension.

Does that mean people with Hyperthymia are mentally ill?

A Hyperthymic personality has been suggested as a possible precursor for Bipolar Disorder. Currently, the DSM-4 includes diagnoses for Bipolar I, the most severe kind, and the Bipolar II variety with less visible mania, but not necessarily less severe, as the choices. Some theoreticians have suggested that there are also some “soft bipolar disorders.” They have suggested designations of Bipolar III and Bipolar IV for the less obvious forms.

Enter Bipolar III.

Shapiro and Weisberg suggested a diagnosis of Bipolar III for people who have depressive episodes and then when given antidepressants, experience hypomania. For them, the only time Bipolar III’s are manic is when on meds. Other authors suggest or imply that most any person with Bipolar Disorder will react quickly and dramatically to antidepressants.

Could Hyperthymia be Bipolar IV?

One area of research has been the search for connections, precursors, or predictors of future mental illness. These precursors are sometimes called “premorbid” conditions. If we knew that some currently small symptoms meant you were at high risk to develop a mental illness maybe we could begin treatment early and reduce the severity and length of a mental illness. Hyperthymia just might be such a precursor.

Hyperthymia seems to be one of several personality characteristics that increase the likelihood of developing some symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. But an increase in risk does not equal you having or getting the disorder.

People with Hyperthymic personality characteristics who experience depression, even a mild depression may “overreact” to antidepressants. Doctors have been warned to look out for high energy people who have an episode of depression and when given an antidepressant are propelled into mania or hypomania. An excess reaction to antidepressants could be one way of diagnosing Bipolar Disorder. One research study (Hoaki et al. 2011 published in Psychopharmacology) suggests that doctors should consider giving these Hyperthymic type people a mood stabilizer rather than an antidepressant.

Risk factors for Hyperthymia.

These researchers also found some other risk factors for developing Hyperthymic personality and presumably a soft form of Bipolar Disorder. Now, this is my understanding from reading this and other studies but a lot more research is needed in this area. Remember this is my opinion not necessarily the researchers.

When subjects for research were first screened there seemed to be a connection between how much they exercised and how “Hyperthymic” they were. Presumably, if you exercise more you have more energy. This did not end up in the lists of the risk factors for Hyperthymia so at this point it does not seem likely that more exercise will push people with risk factors into a Bipolar Disorder. But frankly, at this point, any connection between exercise and Hyperthymia or Bipolar Disorder seems like a wild guess. If anyone out there with Bipolar Disorder has seen a connection please drop me an email or leave a comment.

More light- More Hyperthymia.

Hoaki and his colleges found the relationship between light and Hyperthymia to be fairly strong. Even people who did not exercise much, when they were in brighter surroundings, had more energy and more Hyperthymic personality traits. So being outside or around more light might improve your energy level. We know that lack of light is one reason some people suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but this makes us wonder, could changes in light level provoke Hyperthymic episodes, and might this be a risk factor for a hypomanic episode?

More variation in sleep – More Hyperthymia.

One diagnostic marker for manic and hypomanic episodes is a decreased need for sleep. What Hoaki’s article seems to suggest is that it is not just that a reduced need for sleep is a problem, but fluctuations in the amount of sleep from night-to-night may be a risk factor to set off Hyperthymic characteristics. Hoaki frames this as changes in bedtime; presumably, his subjects have a constant time to get up for work or school. Studying sleep fluctuations in people who have no set time to get up might clarify this issue.

Could fluctuations in the amounts of sleep be a risk factor for inducing Mania and Hypomania?

Hoaki et al. speculate that a consistent amount of sleep might be a preventative for developing Bipolar Disorder.

People with a Hyperthymic personality or temperament also had a tendency toward Serotonin Dysregulation. So the way in which Serotonin is used in the brain may be an important marker for Hyperthymic Personality as well as for mood disorders. Hoaki notes that other authors have suggested that people with a Hyperthymic personality may also have differences in the way their brains regulate dopamine. The more we learn about the brain the more neurotransmitters seem to be involved in the way our brains work.

The conclusion of Hoaki’s study is that light, sleep, and serotonin activity are all factors in Hyperthymic personality characteristics and in Bipolar disorder, so there is likely a connection between these two conditions. How the two conditions are related we are just not so sure.

Is Hyperthymia a personality disorder?

The lists of Personality Disorders listed in the DSM-4 as diagnosable mental illness is short and specific. Hyperthymic personality is not recognized as a disorder. It would be correct to consider Hyperthymia a personality characteristic or someone’s temperament but not as a disorder.

Those very energetic people may be annoying to some but they are just not considered mentally ill at this point.

More on the recognized personality disorders to come

Hope this helped to clarify Hyperthymia, Hyperthymic Personality characteristics and why there is not a recognized Hyperthymic Personality Disorder.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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