Is Cyclothymia A Mental Illness?

Cyclothymia is a mental illness and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders has classified it as a mental disorder. Various criteria are provided for the diagnosis of this condition. This condition is considered a mild form of bipolar disorder.

Is Cyclothymia A Mental Illness?

Cyclothymia is a mental illness with the symptoms similar to bipolar disorder, but with less severity. However, it significantly increases the risk of developing into a full-blown bipolar disorder I or II.

Cyclothymia is the condition characterized by the presence of symptoms almost similar to bipolar disorder, but the severity is not enough to classify it as a bipolar disorder. It is a mental disorder, in which there is a swing between the elevated mood and a depressed mood, but the mood elevation is not severe to classify it as mania and the mood is not severely depressed to put it in the category of major depressive disorder. To qualify a condition as cyclothymia, such swinging of mood should be present for at least one year. Although this may sometimes be classified as a sub-type of bipolar disorder, the apt characterization of this disorder should be mood exaggeration coupled with emotional stability. Some researchers also conclude it as a neurodevelopmental disorder. Diagnostics and Statistical manual of mental disorders state that to qualify for the condition of cyclothymia, the patient should have some symptoms of manic and depression.

Symptoms Of Cyclothymia

Following are the symptoms experienced by the patent suffering from cyclothymia:

  1. Fatigue. The patient experiences low energy, fatigue, lethargy and weakness, and movement is severely restricted.
  2. Feeling Of Sadness. The patient has a feeling of guilt and hopelessness. The person also feels that there is no worth of his life.
  3. Change In Sleep Pattern. There is a change in the sleeping pattern of the patient. Either the patient sleeps more or may suffer from insomnia.
  4. Reduced Thought Process. The ability of the patient to focus and concentrate is reduced, and the person may not take quick decisions.
  5. Loss Of Interest. The person has lost interest or has no pleasure in doing things that were once his favorite.
  6. Miscellaneous. Other symptoms related to cyclothymia include restlessness, irritability, loneliness, social isolation, pessimism, poor conflict management and lack of motivation.

Diagnosis Of Cyclothymia

Diagnosis of cyclothymia is difficult due to its low severity. The condition is diagnosed through exclusionary diagnosis. Further, the condition also overlaps with various other disorders such as personality disorder.

  • DSM-5 has stated various parameters or symptoms which are present in the patient suffering from cyclothymia disorder. Following are the symptoms of cyclothymia.
  • The patient should suffer for at least 2 years (1 year in case of children and adolescents) with the manic disorder, which does not qualify hypomania, and with depression, which does not qualify for a major depressive disorder.
  • During the above period of 2 years, the patient should be suffering from the symptom for half of the time and there should not be more than 2 months gaps between the two episodes.
  • The patient should never qualify for mania, hypomania or major depressive disorder throughout the symptomatic period. If such symptoms are found, the condition of the patient should be reclassified as bipolar disorder I or bipolar disorder II.
  • The symptoms should not be better explained by any other mental disorder and also do not exactly overlap the other mental illness.
  • The symptoms of the patient should purely be due to natural circumstances and should not be due to either medication or substance abuse.
  • The symptoms severely impact the routine life of the patient, cause distress and impair social and occupational functioning.

It should be noted that most people diagnosed with cyclothymia are diagnosed with full-blown bipolar disorder I or II in the future. Studies indicate that there is a genetic component associated with the development of cyclothymia. When the patient suffers from severe anxiety, the diagnosis should mention a specifier “with anxiety distress.”

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