An expansive affect or mood is a often a symptom of bipolar disorder. Knowing what it looks like and how to cope may be helpful.

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An expansive affect is a symptom of bipolar disorder that features extreme or elevated moods that may last for extended periods of time.

In some cases, an expansive mood may also co-occur with other mental health conditions.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR), an expansive mood in bipolar I disorder may lead to reckless behaviors “unusual for the individual, even though these activities are likely to have catastrophic consequences.”

Understanding an expansive affect as a symptom of bipolar disorder may help you manage manic episodes that arise. For those with other mental health conditions, it can be helpful to know the signs of an expansive mood.

Full range affect or broad affect refers to a person’s ability to express emotions in healthy, typical, or expected ways.

With expansive moods, an individual will usually display the classic archetype of emotions with respect to happiness, joy, or sadness, according to Veronica Carey, PhD, a faculty member at Walden University’s Human Services program.

Carey lists the following signs of an expansive mood:

  • extreme friendliness
  • heightened joy or glee
  • expressions of grandeur
  • exaggerated behaviors
  • financial loftiness
  • considering yourself to be a deity or god

“The key feature of [an] expansive mood is that it’s subject to reducing the ability for the individual to function in the community,” Carey says.

For instance, if a person experiences delusions of grandeur, they may decide to impulsively quit a job or end a relationship.

Other symptoms of bipolar disorder during manic or depressive episodes may include:

  • feeling hopeless or sad
  • losing interest in activities that typically bring you joy
  • sleep-related issues
  • feeling exhausted or fatigued
  • feeling guilty or worthless
  • issues with focusing
  • negative thoughts when thinking about the future
  • suicidal thoughts or tendencies

If you’re considering self-harm or suicide, you’re not alone

You can access free support right away with these resources:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for English or 888-628-9454 for Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The Crisis Text Line. Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
  • Veterans Crisis Line. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
  • Deaf Crisis Line. Call 321-800-3323, text “HAND” to 839863, or visit their website.
  • Befrienders Worldwide. This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.

An expansive mood is a key characteristic of a bipolar disorder manic episode.

Research from 2021 suggests some of the hallmarks of bipolar mania may include:

  • elevated or expansive mood
  • mood lability
  • impulsivity
  • irritability
  • grandiosity

A 2004 study notes that an expansive mood (within bipolar disorder) is typically accompanied or replaced by feelings of irritability.

Expansive moods are most commonly associated with bipolar disorder, but they may also be present in other mental health conditions.

In addition to bipolar disorder, Carey says that expansive affect can also impact people who live with:

Whether you live with bipolar disorder or experience an expansive mood as a symptom of another mental health condition, there are a few strategies that may help you cope.

“The best strategy for coping with expansive mood symptoms is to function from a prodromal perspective,” Carey says.

Carey likens the “prodromal perspective” to coming down with a common cold.

If you get a runny nose or scratchy throat, you might start taking vitamin C, drink more water, and prioritize sleep to help fend off a cold. According to Carey, a similar strategy can be applied to your mental health.

“When an individual is more aware of the symptoms that mitigate the ability to function, they can seek to lessen the full-blown impact,” Carey adds.

To reduce the severity of an expansive mood, Carey says a person must:

  • know their diagnosis
  • understand how an expansive mood manifests in themselves
  • seek to manage symptoms before a full manic episode occurs

Symptoms of both expansive mood and bipolar disorder are manageable.

Carey adds that the following therapy and treatment practices may be helpful, particularly when combined in conjunction:

If you think you may need help in coping with an expansive mood or other bipolar disorder symptoms, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for more guidance.

An expansive affect or expansive mood is a key main symptom of bipolar disorder, though it may show up in other mental health conditions.

Here are a few signs you can be on the lookout for, especially during manic episodes:

  • extreme joy
  • lenient financial spending
  • exaggerated behaviors

Remember, it’s possible to cope with expansive moods. You may wish to consider medication options or starting therapy to help manage your symptoms and find relief.