Hypomania and the Hedonistic Imperative

New article over on IEET - Hypomania and the Hedonistic Imperative. Go check it out if you so wish: http://goo.gl/0Z5hVX

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Thanks for pointing to your IEET article here. May I ask in what mood you were when you have written that article?

Random connected thoughts:

  • Shouldn’t positive psychology be interested in hypomania?
  • Why do we even have “normal” moods, when we could be hypomanic almost all the time? Do we need to preserve energy or valuable resources by being “dulled to normality”?
  • There’s some research pointing to the gut flora being connected with mood. Could augmentation of the gut flora increase our happiness set point?
  • I wonder what Anders Sandberg – as very knowledgeable and “hyperthymic person” thinks about this topic
  • There seem to be many physical factors that are correlated with depression, for example
  • oxidative stress
  • nitrosative stress
  • inflammation
  • Could the absence of those factors lead to some kind of “natural” and “benign” hypomania or hyperthymia?
  • What are the exact effects of meditation on mood?
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Brilliant questions. I’m out today, but will look to see if I can answer any of them when back tomorrow.

Thanks for the response :smile

I have been hyper for the past few weeks and that is one reason why I have been taking the opportunity to write articles and engage more with the transhumanist community. I think I feel myself slipping, but hopefully not, and was certainly ‘high’ when I write the piece. Now to your thoughts:

  1. There does appear to be interest in hypomanic states and ‘happiness’ but again the studies appear to be concerned with controlling (hypo) mania as opposed to seeking to view it as a stepping stone in line with Pearce’s manifesto. This is perhaps understandable considering of current knowledge of hypomania. See, for example, ‘Comparing Happiness and Hypomania Risk: A Study of Extraversion and Neuroticism Aspects’: http://goo.gl/OKEjAv and ‘Appraisal of hypomania-relevant experiences: Development of a questionnaire to assess positive self-dispositional appraisals in bipolar and behavioural high risk …’ http://goo.gl/nNXq0N or for a simplified version: https://www.psychologytoday.com/node/40640.
  2. I don’t have an answer to this, but I guess it’s the big question. Is there a price to be paid for experiencing constant wellbeing? Do we ‘need’ to experience negative states of mind in order to function fully as a human being? Or will ‘paradise engineering’ answer this question for us? Like many transhumanist projects, we might just have to wait and see.
  3. Extremely interesting studies in this area, although I believe the jury remains out. In a paper written in 2012, Dr. Siri Carpenter encapsulates much of the work being done in this area in a paper entitled ‘That gut feeling.’: http://goo.gl/d53RTJ. To quote: ‘Recognizing that communication between the brain and the gut is bidirectional also points toward new ways of treating both the physical symptoms of intestinal disease and the psychological disorders that are so often present. Keeping anxiety and depression under control, Bercik suggests, may improve inflammation in the gut; and treating inflammation in the gut may improve mood by altering brain biochemistry.’ She does end by stating that: ‘the days of analyzing a patient’s gut bacteria to treat her depression or anxiety are probably far away. Still, scientists following this line of research have become increasingly convinced that to fully understand our emotions and behaviors, we need to study the gut as much as the brain.’ Again, however, the direction is to control the condition, not to prioritise it in terms of a ‘happiness set point.’
  4. Maybe he’ll read it and let us know :smiley: In searching around re: his high hedonistic set point, I did come across the following paper (not written by him): ‘The catechol-O-methyl transferase Val158Met polymorphism and experience of reward in the flow of daily life.’ http://goo.gl/j0od4T Sadly, I am not qualified to understand the details, but it does appear to be relevant: ‘Genetic variation with functional impact on cortical dopamine tone has a strong influence on reward experience in the flow of daily life. Genetic moderation of ecological measures of reward experience is hypothesized to be of major relevance to the development of various behavioral disorders, including depression and addiction.’: http://goo.gl/VbzTPV
  5. Well, it certainly seems to be the case that he physical factors you mention do have an effect of mood - particularly Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (see, for example: http://goo.gl/VwzJwg) - and as someone with a relatively high marker for inflammation due to ankylosing spondylitis, I have often considered the connection between the two. I’ve not come to any solid conclusions, and I do wonder whether they may be a chicken and egg scenario at play, i.e. does someone experience low mode/depression due to there experience of chronic physical pain out is it in fact the other way around (correlation does not equal causation). Thus once again, to answer you question, whether or not the absence of these factors could lead to an optimal hedonistic set point remains moot IMO. More longitudinal research required I think.
  6. The research seems to be quite clear here: meditation (or mindfulness as the hip term for it at present) does seem to result in happier, more positive and stable people. However, as I have written on IEET - and as a former Buddhist priest - I’m concerned that it has become an all-encompassing fad where it is claimed to be helpful for any and all situations and conditions and here I would promote caution: you need to be extremely careful in using mindfulness meditation as ‘therapy’ with people with severe mental health problems (e.g. depression, bipolar, schizophrenia). For more on this, feel free to check out my article (in three parts ) here: http://goo.gl/jBhI3p

Hope these help, at least in part, in answering some of your queries. It appears that researching hypomania as an opportunity for raising one’s hedonistic set point still has a long way to go. Until then, control and management seem to be the order of the day. If only.

Wow, you really seem to like doing this kind of research! :smiley: This remind me of my own enthusiasm when I was trying to find out more about ME/CFS (which I still kinda suffer from, even though I have most symptoms under control) and related health issues. There’s so much information out there and most people aren’t aware of any of it.

Anyway, I have eventually come to the hypothesis that subjective well-being is strongly linked to the quality of the functioning of the immune system. There are many reasons for that assumption:

  1. Bad immune function implies susceptibility to diseases. When sick, patients need to conserve their energy, because the immune system requires a lot of energy when it’s ramped up to full activity. To mediate this necessity to conserve energy, the immune system tells the nervous system to regulate normal activity down in order to focus on recovery. This mechanism is often called sickness behavior. It has been discovered that this is mediated by pro-inflammatory cytokines:
  1. Cytokine inhibiting drugs therefore should have a positive effect on mood. There are many substances that have a cytokine inhibiting effect, but it’s difficult to isolate that from other effects. I definitely have experienced improved mood from bupropion, but that is an antidepressant whose main mechanism is supposed to lie in its effect on the dopamine and norepinephrine systems of the brain. Also, my experiments with different forms of niacin, which is also supposed to have cytokine inhibiting effects rather indicated that that effect was not strong enough.
  2. When I focused on oxidative stress as the source of my symptoms, the result was much clearer. Any supplement I’ve taken that had a very strong antioxidative effect also improved my mood and functioning. That effect was strongest with megadoses of self-made “liposomal” vitamin C. But even rather trivial antioxidant-rich “superfoods” like coffee and cocoa have a clear positive effect on my mood. How is oxidative stress related to immune system functioning? I’m not sure. My suspicion is that oxidative stress inhibits the proper functioning of immune cells.
  3. Moderate exercise supports immune function. And indeed, if I pace myself properly, exercise does seem to support my well-being. But exercise has a whole lot of effects, so it’s hard to isolate its effects on mood that are mediated by immune system regulation.

Anyway, let’s for a second assume that my hypothesis was correct. What consequences would that have?

  • People with naturally strong immune systems should be happier by default. Those with the strongest immune systems may even be naturally hyperthymic or hypomanic.
  • Improving the immune system functioning of humans would be the most reasonable approach for improving their well-being!
  • Efforts to improve human happiness directly via the nervous systems might backfire and make people more prone to diseases by decoupling immune system functioning from mood!
  • Therefore, the superhappiness that @David_Pearce targets might require a super-immune system first.

Interesting. I’ve long made a connection between the immune system and mood as a result of having kidney disease as a child and almost constantly being fed antibiotics. Whether or not this has led to a deficit in my immune function as an adult, I don’t know for sure, but coupled with the inflammation (brought on in my early twenties) of the ankylosing spondylitis, including periodic uveitis - inflammation of the iris - it certainly gives food for thought.

That being said, I still lean towards bipolar as a purely neurological disorder. My reasoning is that there are plenty of fit, healthy people living healthy lifestyles that experience it at some point in their lives - in the UK around 1% of the general population, and that figure has been stable for many years and leads me to question ‘external’ factors such as inflammation or abnormal intestinal flora. Perhaps it is purely faulty wiring.

Lastly, of course, is the genetic component. Bipolar tests evaluating saliva samples for two mutations in a gene called GRK3,have suggested a link with the disorder. But it can’t tell users for sure. And, of course, it could well be that the 1% - even if they have these mutations - could still well be affected by your hypothesis.

I hope in 2016 to be more proactive with regard to ‘self-care’ and to utilise exercise/diet/sleep hygiene/socialising/productivity (hence the articles) along with my meds regime to se whether it can make a difference. Thanks for your input, it certainly highlights a different - and quite possibly more legitimate - viewpoint than my own. Perhaps 2016 will provide a little more direction. And there’s certainly no argument to be made that a super-immune system would be of benefit, whether or not it’s a direct cause!