Genetic Basis of Hypomania and Bipolar Disorder

Following up on yesterday’s post on the genetics of bipolar disorder, I learned about hypomania in the June 2005 issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine.

Similar to the mania phase of bipolar illness, a person experiencing hypomania is overflowing with energy, ebullience, and excitement. Hypomanic people often accomplish great things and are persuasive leaders. Dr. John Gartner, assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, claims in The Hypomanic Edge that a higher than expected number of Americans are hypomanic, which may be explained by genetics.

America is the land of immigrants and studies have shown that the prevalence of bipolar disorder is higher among this population. In turn, the descendents of these immigrants have a higher risk of hypomania. People affected by bipolar disorder or hypomania may be more willing to risk leaving their home country for a strange, foreign land because they feel invincibile while in their heightened state. A higher number of Americans appear to have the D4-7 risk-taking gene variant. (The Sunday Boston Globe, February 27, 2005)

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison (see yesterday’s post) agrees in her book, Exuberance,

Individuals who sought the new, who took risks that others would not, or who rebelled against repressive social systems may have been more likely to immigrate to America and, once there, to succeed.

Claiming that one country, race, or ethnicity has a distinct genetic advantage, such as genes for intelligence, makes some people uncomfortable. Jon McClellan, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington in Seattle said,

I’m really bothered by this notion that we’re genetically superior to people from other countries. That’s an argument that’s been used for all sorts of bad things, and we should be very careful about making it.

Regardless, Gartner didn’t shy away from diagnosing some of American’s great leaders as hypomanic – Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, David O. Selznick, and Craig Venter.

The United States has more hypomanics than other countries, Gartner claims, and these people are largely responsible for the nation’s power and prosperity.

If you think you might be hypomanic or are interested in learning more about hypomania, visit Fast Forward, The Official Website for Hypomanics International.

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    • Krissy

      This looks familiar to me. I’m going to visit the website.

    • Lei

      Krissy – I had you in mind when I wrote this. J/K!!! I only wonder what I could have accomplished had I a touch of hypomania.

    • Krissy

      Well you could have developed panic disorder, for starters.

      Honestly, I think I was hypomanic before I was medicated. I got a shitload of stuff done, but I’ll tell you what, I’d rather be the way that I am today.

      Hypomania will take it the hell out of you.

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