What is Cyclothymia?
Cyclothymia is a form of Bipolar Disorder; however, it is distinct in a few specific ways. Bipolar Disorder is a form of depression in which a person experiences a continual cycle of depressive lows and euphoric highs in mood.
- It can become hard to concentrate
- Mood is low
- Low self-esteem
- Changes in sleeping patterns or appetite
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or helpless
- Lack of motivation
Conversely, the euphoric or manic phase of the cycle includes:
- Good mood
- Extreme optimism
- High self-esteem
- Rapid thoughts and speech
- Racing thoughts
- Aggressive behavior
- Increased sex drive
Cyclothymia is a blend of Bipolar Disorder and Dysthymia. The depression phase of the cycle closely mirrors the symptoms, mood, and severity of Dysthymia, and is often less severe than typical Bipolar Disorder. The manic phase is often similar to typical Bipolar Disorder, but may be less extreme.
Causes and Diagnosis Of Cyclothymia:
The exact causes of Cyclothymia is not known; however, Cyclothymia is hereditary and runs in families. Environment and biochemistry also play a role, but it is not clear how or in what way these factors intervene.
Cyclothymia is typically diagnosed in adolescence or young adulthood; however, it is often under-diagnosed because it is more mild and less extreme than Bipolar Disorder. Similarly, it is often misdiagnosed as a different mood disorder like depression or Dysthymia.
Cyclothymia is typically diagnosed using several methods:
- A physical exam checks vital statistics and gives the doctor a good understanding of your physical self.
- Laboratory tests can include blood work and urinalysis tests to rule out drug use or other medical conditions.
- A psychological evaluation is the best indicator, as a psychologist or clinician is able to talk about thoughts, symptoms, feelings, and behaviors. This helps the clinician determine if a diagnosis of Cyclothymia is appropriate, or if another diagnosis is more fitting. Substance abuse may be ruled out, and a thorough history of behaviors will be examined.
To meet the criteria for Cyclothymia according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (TR-IV), the following must be present:
- Numerous periods of elevated mood (hypomania) and numerous periods of depressive symptoms for a period of at least two years
- Periods of stable mood lasting less than two months
- Symptoms are not better explained by another mood disorder, manic episodes, or schizoaffective disorder
- Symptoms are not explained by drug or alcohol use, or a medical condition
- Symptoms affect social, work, school, or other important daily interactions
Treatment Of Cyclothymia:
Cyclothymia, like Bipolar Disorder, is a lifelong condition that requires continual treatment, even when you feel good. Typically a psychiatrist or a psychologist is involved to assist the patient with treatment options and ongoing management of symptoms.
Treatment options may include one or more of the following:
- Mood stabilizers
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Anti-seizure medications (to prevent mood swings)
- Other medications
These medications may be used alone or in tandem with others. Your health care professional can work with you to develop the appropriate treatment plan.
Psychotherapy to examine life balance and behavioral patterns, and to teach coping skills. Additionally, substance abuse or other co-conditions may be treated.
Lifestyle changes may help increase the balance in your life. It is important to take care of your symptoms as they arise, and to manage your treatment when feeling well. Some things to keep in mind for ongoing mental health management:
- Medication should be taken as directed. Stopping can result in unmanageable symptoms of Cyclothymia.
- Look for warning signs about your patterns and behaviors when you are cycling through moods. Contact your health care professional if you observe these symptoms and signs.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol that may trigger mood changes.
- Check with your doctor before taking additional medications, which may trigger mood changes.
- Track your moods, routines, stressors, and other factors that assist or affect your mood.
- Learn relaxation techniques and stress management such as yoga or meditation to manage stress and anxiety.
- Find outlets for stress relief and energy release.
- Stay focused on goals with your recovery.
Additional Cyclothymia Resources:
The Cyclothymia Workbook contains a comprehensive list of organizations and resources to help manage various aspects of Cyclothymia.
The Balanced Mind Foundation - The Balanced Mind Foundation guides families raising children with mood disorders to the answers, support and stability they seek.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance - Provides hope, help, and support to improve the lives of people living with mood disorders. DBSA pursues and accomplishes this mission through peer-based, recovery-oriented, empowering services and resources when people want them, where they want them, and how they want to receive them.
Child and Adolescent Bipolar Disorder Foundation: EXCELLENT site that advocates for youth with depression and bipolar and is highly respected for its scientifically credible information.
Mood Tracker is a great tool for tracking shifts in moods as well as monitoring how much sleep the patient is getting, medications taken, and levels of anxiety and irritability.
National Alliance on Mental Illness -dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.