Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Diagnosis

Cyclothymia, also known as Cyclothymic disorder, is a mild form of manic depression or Bipolar disorder. Most individuals have mild symptoms with this disorder and may not seek mental health treatment, and thus Cyclothymia goes mostly undiagnosed. Usually, the patients will have a history of mood swings that may range from mild depression to emotional highs. This can surely cause more difficulties, especially at work or in personal relationships. In case you want to know more about the condition then do read below to know the symptoms, causes and treatments of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder.

Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder

An Overview on Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder:

Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder is actually a rare mood disorder having similar characteristics of Bipolar disorder, just in a milder and in more chronic form. In case you have Cyclothymia, you may experience cyclic highs and lows that are persistent for at least two years or even more. With such a disorder, your lows are a mild depression, not characteristics of complete major depression; and your highs are classified as symptomatic of hypomania, or a less severe form of mania. During your highs in Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder, your mood elevates for a time before returning to its baseline. You feel mildly depressed during your lows in Cyclothymia. In between your elevated and depressed level of moods, you may likely to feel like yourself.

It is estimated that the rate of occurrence of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder in the general population lies between 0.4% to 1% and the disorder affects men and women in an equal rate. Symptoms of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder generally begin in adolescence or young adulthood. The onset of cyclothymia is consistently hard to identify. Risk of suffering from substance abuse, sleep disorders, ADHD (Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder), are elevated among individuals suffering from Cyclothymia.

Symptoms of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder:

As per the standard diagnostic criteria from the American Psychiatric Association, below are some of the symptoms experienced by individuals with Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder.

  • Multiple periods of hypomanic symptoms that usually do not meet criteria for a hypomanic episode and multiple periods of depressive symptoms that do not meet criteria for a severe or a major depression, for at least two years in adults and one year for children and adolescents.
  • Throughout the first two years of time frame, symptoms of hypomania and depression have been present for at least half the time, with no more than 2 consecutive months of the symptoms.
  • Criteria for a major depressive episode, manic episode or hypomanic episode have never been met in case of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder.
  • Other mental disorders such as schizophrenia, delusional disorders etc, have been ruled as the contributing factor to depressive and hypomanic symptoms.
  • Hypomanic and depressive symptoms cause significant disruption in occupational, social and other functional areas.
  • Hypomanic and depressive symptoms are not linked to medications, substance abuse or other medical conditions.

In case you or any of your known ones is suffering from Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder, following may be the depressive signs and symptoms that might be experienced.

  • Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness and sadness.
  • Irritation and feeling tearful.
  • Sleep problems; like sleeping more or less than usual.
  • Restlessness and fatigue.
  • Problems with concentration.
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Weight gain or weight loss in a significant manner.
  • Lack of motivation and loss of interest in activities, once considered pleasurable.
  • Loneliness, pessimism, submissiveness, social withdrawal, low self esteem etc.
  • Impaired judgments, planning as well as impaired problem-solving abilities.
  • Lacking purpose and real meaning in life.
  • Difficulty handling conflicts.

The hypomanic signs and symptoms in Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder may include the following:

  • Euphoric state or exaggerated sense of well being and happiness.
  • Inflated self-esteem and optimism.
  • Irritability and agitation.
  • Reduced sleep.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Risky behaviors and poor judgments.
  • Easily gets distracted.
  • Excessive physical activity.
  • Talking more than usual.
  • Problems with concentration.
  • Hyperactivity or inability to sit still.
  • Instability in emotion.
  • Increased drive to reach goals.
  • Impulsivity and irresponsibility.
  • Reckless thrill seeking, such as gambling, sports etc.

Causes of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder:

Just like most other mental disorders, the exact cause of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder is not very much known. However, there is probably a genetic link. For cyclothymia, major depression and bipolar disorders, a family history indicates a greater risk of development.

Environmental factors are also known to be contributing factors for the development of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder in an individual. Specific life events may increase your chances of developing this disorder. Such incidence may include physical or sexual abuse, other traumatic experiences, severe illnesses and prolonged stress periods etc.

Diagnosis of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder:

In case you feel you or any of your loved ones is suffering from Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder, do seek the help of your mental health provider who would likely perform a series of tests so as to make sure the causes of your symptoms and do the right diagnosis

Your mental health provider will perform a series of assessments so as to diagnose the occurrence of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder, with the ultimate diagnosis being made on your mood history. During the evaluation, the mental health provider will ask you about your family history of mood disorders and also might ask you to complete a daily diary of your moods so as to indicate mood swings that occurring during a typical day.

Treatments of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder:

The most common treatment options for patients living with Cyclothymia include medications and psychotherapy. These treatments are generally chronic and life-long processes which aim at decreasing the depressive and hypomanic symptoms and risk of developing bipolar disorders in Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder.

At present, there are no known medications that can treat Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder in particular effectively. Your mental health doctor might prescribe you medications to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder so as to ease the symptoms and reduce their frequency. Commonly prescribed medications for such cases include the use of anticonvulsants and atypical antipsychotics like lithium and quetiapine.

Some of the common methods of psychotherapy, talk therapy etc, used to treat bipolar disorder and also cyclothymia include the following

  1. CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

    Here there is a focus on changing negative thought and beliefs in to positive ones, identification of trigger points and stress management techniques.

  2. DBT or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy:

    This therapy teaches awareness, emotional regulation and distress tolerance

  3. IPSRT or Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy:

    There is a focus on the stabilization of daily rhythms, especially related to sleep, wake up and meal times etc.

Conclusion:

Less than half of individuals living with Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder do develop bipolar disorder at some point of the time. In most cases, cyclothymia is a chronic disorder that remains prevalent throughout their lifetime. In other cases, it seems to dissipate and resolve itself over time.

In order to reduce the negative effects of Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder on your daily life, do talk to your nearest mental health provider and take the prescribed medications as directed, avoid alcohol, keep a track on your moods and get plenty of sleep and exercise on a regular basis. It is also important for you to join a support group where you can talk to others and share your experiences and problems in a free and open manner.

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