What Are the Signs of an Expansive Mood in Bipolar Disorder?

Friends talking and having drinks at dinner party
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

One of the criteria for diagnosing a manic or hypomanic episode of bipolar disorder is an expansive mood.

Someone who is in an expansive mood may be behaving grandly or lavishly, assuming a superior or grandiose attitude, dressing and behaving flamboyantly — in other words, acting in a larger-than-life manner.

Expansive Behavior in Bipolar Disorder

An expansive mood in bipolar disorder can cause a variety of problems, ranging from interpersonal to monetary.

For example, the person with bipolar may become excessively friendly, both with strangers and with people he knows, to the point where the behavior seems strange. The bipolar person may treat distant acquaintances or even strangers on the street as close friends.

The bipolar person's speech may become inappropriate. For example, she might make crude jokes in a solemn setting (such as a church service) or in a business meeting. In these cases, the person most likely won't understand that the behavior is wrong, and why it is wrong.

It's common for the person with bipolar to spend too much money when in the grip of an expansive mood. She may overspend her credit cards buying things for herself, for friends and relatives, or even for people she's just met or barely knows.

She may dress in a way that's designed to garner attention, even in inappropriate circumstances — such as in bright, colorful clothes at a funeral.

Expansive Mood and Other Symptoms

Expansive mood in bipolar disorder often is coupled with other signs of a manic episode as part of the condition.

If the person with bipolar believes she is being ignored or disregarded, the person's expansive sense of importance may result in anger or an outburst. This is a sign of irritability, another symptom of mania in bipolar disorder.

Ultimately, irritability may replace the expansive mood in the bipolar person as the manic episode progresses and evolves.

The bipolar person may have a decreased need for sleep — perhaps sleeping only three hours per night or less — in addition to the expansive mood. She may have racing thoughts, or be far more talkative than usual. She may exhibit an increase in goal-related activity (i.e., activity that propels her toward a desired goal), or she may seem much more easily distracted than usual.

Finally, she may seem impulsive and take too many risks. Studies show that people with bipolar disorder are at particular risk of behaving impulsively when they're experiencing strong emotions. This tendency can lead to potentially negative or even dangerous situations.

Other Words to Describe Expansive Behavior

Some synonyms for expansive (when used to describe the mood in mania or hypomania) include:

  • grandiose
  • extravagant
  • flamboyant
  • ostentatious (showy, flashy and/or stuck-up attitude)
  • outgoing (unusually so)
  • over the top
  • grand

Finally, this description sums up the concept of expansive mood in bipolar disorder:

Phoebe was in an expansive mood, showering gifts on her friends, wearing her most brightly colored clothing even when it wasn't appropriate, engaging strangers in animated conversations, and generally acting as if her presence was the most important thing in the life of everyone she met.


Edge MD et al. People with bipolar I disorder report avoiding rewarding activities and dampening positive emotion. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2013 Apr 25;146(3):407-13.

Marvel CL et al. Cognitive and neurological impairment in mood disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 2004 Mar;27(1):19-36, vii-viii.

Muhtadie L et al. A profile approach to impulsivity in bipolar disorder: the key role of strong emotions. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 2014 Feb;129(2):100-8.

Continue Reading