Wednesday, March 30, 2005

 

Hypomanic Chic


Before I published The Hypomanic Edge, virtually no one outside of the mental health professions had ever heard of hypomania. Now everyone wants to be hypomanic! My thesis was that the advantageous aspects of hypomania propelled America to its success. It was always my mission to both educate the public (and my colleagues) about hypomania, and to inject some identity and pride among my fellow hypomanics.
Mission accomplished?

It seems to be a pattern that movements advocating for the rights and dignity of minorities eventually result in the idealization of a group that was previously despised. Though African-Americans have had a long and bloody struggle for civil rights, the eventual outcome has been a running cultural joke about how slow, physically awkward and unsexy white people are. Now, suburban teenagers want to dress and sound like rappers, while inner city youth are hardly breaking down the door of Abercrombie to look like preppies. Gays have made breathtaking strides in recent years. Now, us shlumpy straight guys suddenly discover we urgently need the help of queer eyes. My teenage daughters, who adore "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," have officially declared me a fab five fashion emergency (For God sake, is there a gay man in the house? This poor man needs help). And metrosexuals--hip urban straight guys who appear chic by looking gay--have been born.

Now, it may be our turn.

Cornell University psychologist Harry Segal wrote in his blurb that my book would "incite hypomania envy among the normal people of the world." How prescient he was. It amazes me: suddenly, every day now, people tell me they wish they were hypomanic. None other than Robert Spitzer wrote to me in an email, "I wish I could be hypomanic more often." Spitzer, in case you don't recognize the name, is creator of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV)--what psychiatrists simply call "the Bible." But you won't find that sentiment expressed in DSM-IV. In the recent New York Times article, "Hypomanic? Absolutely. But oh so productive," Harvard psychiatrist Ronald Kessler, is quoted as saying: "The goal in life is constant hypomania." Really, since when? We never learned that in graduate school. "This psychiatric syndrome is hot, hot, hot" wrote blogger Steve Sailer in a recent blog entitled "hypomania mania!" (to read his article click here: http://isteve.blogspot.com/2005/03/hypomania-mania.html)

How could this have happened so fast? My book--the first ever written about hypomania, even though the term was first used by Kraepelin almost a century ago--was published only 17 days ago! Well, hypomanics are nothing if not fast. I could make a fortune if my next book were entitled "10 steps to becoming hypomanic." But, as my grandfather the doctor used to say when people asked him how to live to a 100: "first you have to pick your parents." Not much self-help potential there.

Of course, do any of these people really know what they are asking for? If you want to accomplish the impossible, talk to a hypomanic. But if you want to pursue happiness, talk to the Dalai Lama. Hypomania is no easy road, as I'm sure I don't need to tell you.

Comments:
Interesting!
 
Thanks John for coming aboard our show today. We had the tape machine running and are one competent person and a cooperative computor program from burning you a CD of your appearance. Rave reviews from our regulars. Thanks again for a fascinating show.
Scott
PS: my blog...http://www.tituobategrof.blogspot.com/
 
John--

I cried when I read your remark that everyone wants to be hypomanic.

If they only knew the price we have to pay.

Dr. Kessler's remarks are crass and insensitive; I would never want to be in the hypomanic state constantly. The sleep deprivation alone would probably kill him.

TNSTAFL

--Henry
 
Hypomanic envy? The words of an ill informed, pseudo intellectual snot. I am certain that I speak with a great deal more authority on this subject than almost anyone - my hypomania, and its ebbs and flows, contributed to 15 years of hellish peaks and valleys for my family, promises earnestly made, and then winked at by me to reform, to take the prescribed medications, to simply be a regular decent person. I could never seem to do it, and that was my great, dark failing. Catastrophic financial consequences for my family, embarrassment for those who had stood along side me, a loss of both a 20 year legal career and vast measures of self respect....hypomania is a curse.
 
There is a book that talks about taking "hypomanic behavior" from your early career and turning it into success later in life. Sort of showing you how to be a "Legend without the Fall". While it never discusses "hypomanic behavior" per se I have recently used the book's theory to take the behaviors of my youth and structure them for long term success. The book is by Barbara E. Kovach and was published in 1988. The title is "Survival on the Fast Track: An eye-opening report on today's fast trackers, and what their experiences mean for the future leaders of corporate America". It really helped me sort out the "good" hypomanic ideas and actions from the "bad". I look forward to reading your book also to really hone in on the concept of keeping my biological "Edge" but at the same time not letting it cycle me into failures as well.
 
Yes, John...the "others" want to experience our successes, or the positive side of the 2 edged sword. They love listening to us and find our energy contagious, but, let them talk to our family members about the other side.
 
John, I loved your book but really, isn't it a little grandiose to assume that it's your book that has fueled this talk of hypomania. :-)

You aren't the first to talk about hypomania in this context. For example, John Ratey, M.D., discussed the link between hypomania and the American success story in his book, "Shadow Syndromes," and there are others.

Great job on Venter.

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