Cyclothymia, or Cyclothymic Disorder, is a type of mood disorder with symptoms like those of bipolar disorder. It is characterized by fluctuating low-level depressive symptoms along with periods of hypomania (mild mania). The main difference between the two disorders is intensity. The mood swings associated with Cyclothymia are not as intense as those with bipolar disorder.
The condition usually occurs during adolescence. People having Cyclothymic Disorder often function normally, although they may seem “short-tempered” or “complex” to others. People will often not seek treatment because the mood swings do not appear to be severe. People with cyclothymia may sometimes even be hyper-productive.
According to the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – V, cyclothymia is different from bipolar disorder because it lacks the complete criteria of mania, major depression, or a mixed episode. If left untreated, cyclothymia can increase your risk of developing bipolar disorder. Although it is not curable, treatment can help with the symptoms.
Symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder:
People having Cyclothymic Disorder typically experience several weeks of low-level depression followed by an episode of hypomania lasting for several days.
Depressive symptoms of cyclothymia might include:
- insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping disorders)
- appetite changes
- weight gain or sudden weight loss
- fatigue or lethargy
- low sexual desire and function
- feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- negligence, lack of concentration, or forgetfulness
- unexplained physical issues
Manic symptoms of cyclothymia might include:
- exceptionally high self-esteem
- excessive talking or speaking quickly
- racing and chaotic thoughts (seemingly disorganized)
- lack of focus
- periods of restlessness and hyperactivity
- excessive anxiety
- being active for days with little or no sleep
- irresponsible or impulsive behavior
Causes of Cyclothymic Disorder:
It’s not known exactly what causes cyclothymia. As with many mental health disorders, research has shown that it may result from a combination of the following:
- Genetics, cyclothymia also tends to run in families
- Differences in the way the brain functions, just like changes in the brain’s neurobiology
- Environmental issues, such as traumatic experiences or longer periods of stress
Risk factors of Cyclothymic Disorder:
Cyclothymic Disorder is thought to be a rare disorder. Accurate evaluations are hard to make because people might be misdiagnosed or undiagnosed as having other mood disorders, such as depression.
Cyclothymic Disorder typically starts during the young adulthood or teenage years. It affects about the same number of males and females.
Complications of Cyclothymic Disorder:
If you have cyclothymia:
- Not treating it timely can result in noteworthy emotional issues that affect every area of your life
- There is a high risk of developing bipolar I or II disorder consequently
- Substance misuse is a common complication of cyclothymic disorder
- You may go through an anxiety disorder
- You might be at an increased risk of suicide or having suicidal thoughts
Diagnosis of Cyclothymic Disorder:
For the diagnosis of cyclothymia, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists the following points:
- One must have had many periods of elevated moods and periods of depressive symptoms for at least two years.
- Periods of stable moods mostly last for less than two months.
- The symptoms significantly are distressing for the affected individual at work, at school, or in other important areas of social life.
- The symptoms do not meet the criteria for bipolar disorder, major depression, or another mental disorder.
- The symptoms are not a consequence of substance use or a medical condition.
Treatment of Cyclothymic Disorder:
The main treatments for cyclothymia are medication and psychotherapy.
Medications for cyclothymic disorder:
- Mood stabilizers
- Anti-seizure medications/anticonvulsants such as Depakote
- Atypical antipsychotic medications such as olanzapine (Zyprexa) and risperidone (Risperdal) might help the patients who are not responding to anti-seizure medications.
- Anti-anxiety medicines such as benzodiazepine
- Anti-depressants should only be used in combination with a mood stabilizer as they may cause potentially harmful manic episodes when taken on their own.
Psychotherapy for Cyclothymic Disorder:
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy or psychological counseling is an important part of the treatment of cyclothymia and can be provided in individual, family, or group settings. Several types of therapy might be helpful, such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It is a common treatment for the Cyclothymic Disorder. It focuses on finding unhealthy, negative behaviors and beliefs and replacing them with positive ones. CBT can help in identifying that what triggers your symptoms. You also learn effective strategies to manage stress and cope with upsetting situations.
- Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT). It focuses on the stabilization of daily rhythms, such as sleeping, waking, and mealtimes. A daily routine always helps in better mood management. People having mood disorders might get benefit from following a good daily routine for sleep, meals, and exercise.
- Other therapies. Other therapies have also been studied with some good evidence of success. Ask your doctor if any other options are appropriate for you or not
Lifestyle modifications for Cyclothymic Disorder:
There are several coping strategies and lifestyle modifications to balance the moods and to help with the symptoms of the cyclothymic disorder, some of them are given below:
- Taking your medications on time as directed
- Paying attention to warning signs
- Giving up the use of recreational drugs or alcohol
- Checking first before using any other medications
- Always keep a record of things that are the triggering factors of cyclothymic disorder
- Getting regular physical activity and exercise
- Getting enough sleep
- Learning about the disorder
- Joining a support group
- Staying focused on your goals
- Finding healthy outlets
- Learning and practicing relaxation and stress management techniques.