Decreasing the minimum length criterion for an episode of hypomania: evaluation using self-reported data from patients with bipolar disorder

Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2011 Aug;261(5):341-7. doi: 10.1007/s00406-010-0187-x. Epub 2011 Jan 26.


Brief hypomania lasting less than 4 days may impair functioning and help to detect bipolarity. This study analyzed brief hypomania that occurred in patients with bipolar disorder who were diagnosed according to the DSM-IV criteria. Daily self-reported mood ratings were obtained from 393 patients (247 bipolar I and 146 bipolar II) for 6 months (75,284 days of data, mean 191.6 days). Episodes of hypomania were calculated using a 4, 3, 2, and single day length criterion. Brief hypomania occurred frequently. With a decrease in the minimum criterion from 4 days to 2 days, there were almost twice as many patients with an episode of hypomania (102 vs. 190), and more than twice as many episodes (305 vs. 863). Single days of hypomania were experienced by 271 (69%) of the sample. With a 2-day episode length, 33% of all hypomania remained outside of an episode. There was no significant difference in the percent of hypomanic days outside of an episode between patients with bipolar I and II disorders. There were no significant differences in the demographic characteristics of patients who met the 4-day minimum as compared with those who only experienced episodes of hypomania using a shortened length criterion. Decreasing the minimum length criterion for an episode of hypomania will cause a large increase in the number of patients who experience an episode and in the aggregate number of episodes, but will not distinguish subgroups within a sample who meet the DSM-IV criteria for bipolar disorder. Frequency may be an important dimensional aspect of brief hypomania. Clinicians should regularly probe for brief hypomania.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / classification
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Report*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult