What is Cyclothymia ?: Symptoms, causes and treatment

What is Cyclothymia ?: Symptoms, causes and treatment

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Most people have heard of Bipolar disorder (or Manic Depressive Disorder), where individuals experience cycles of sudden mood swings with states of full euphoria and others of tremendous sadness (mania and depression). But here we are going to talk about other types of disorders that although it seems, is not exactly the same: Cyclothymia.


  • 1 What is Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder?
  • 2 Prevalence of the disorder in the population
  • 3 What are the symptoms of Cyclothymia?
  • 4 What are the causes and risk factors of cyclothymia?
  • 5 Cyclothymia treatment
  • 6 Living with Cyclothymia

What is Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder?

The Cyclothymia is a mood disorder that has similar characteristics to Bipolar Disorder, but in a more "soft" way of symptomatology, although it tends to be more chronic.

People with Cyclothymic Disorder when they are in their “lowest” moments, they have symptoms such as those of a mild depression, but they do not become as severe as those of a major depression. When they change their mood from sadness to euphoria, it does not become as intense as those observed in the manic phase of Bipolar Disorders, so they are classified as "hypomania", a less severe form of mania . Between both moods, it is likely that people who suffer from it will feel emotionally stable, they even feel that it is the only time they "are themselves."

Prevalence of the disorder in the population

The prevalence rate of Cyclothymia in the general population is between 0.4% to 1%, and affects both men and women equally. However, women are more likely to seek treatment. While the onset of the disease usually occurs during adolescence, its appearance can be difficult to identify. The risk of suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, substance abuse and sleep disorders is high among people suffering from Cyclothymic Disorder.

On the other hand, it seems that suffering from Cyclothymia may increase the probability of developing Bipolar Disorder (estimates vary but it is believed that the probability is between 15% and 50%).

What are the symptoms of cyclothymia?

The standard diagnostic criteria according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) establish that to be diagnosed with Cyclothymia, they must meet the following characteristics:

  • Present several periods with hypomanic symptoms that do not meet the criteria for a single episode of hypomania, and multiple periods with depressive symptoms that do not meet the criteria for a major depressive episode, for at least two years (one year for children and adolescents)
  • Over two years (one for children and adolescents) the symptoms of hypomania and depression must be present for at least half of the time, with no more than two consecutive months without showing such symptoms.
  • The criteria for a major depressive episode, manic or hypomanic episode have never been met.
  • Other mental disorders (for example, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, delusional disorder) have been ruled out as a trigger for hypomanic and depressive symptoms.
  • Hypomanic and depressive symptoms are not related to medications, substance abuse or other medical conditions
  • Hypomanic and depressive symptoms cause disturbances in social, work or other functional areas.

The usual depressive signs and symptoms are:

  • The feelings of sadness, emptiness and hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Want to cry for no reason
  • Sleep disorders: sleep much more or much less than usual
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously considered pleasurable
  • Weight changes due to eating much more or much less than usual
  • Lack of motivation
  • Impaired judgment, planning, or problem solving skills
  • Low self-esteem
  • Pessimism
  • Loneliness
  • Submission
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty in conflict management
  • Feelings that life lacks meaning and purpose

The hypomanic signs and symptoms usual are:

  • Euphoric state with exaggerated feeling of well-being and happiness
  • Increase of self-esteem
  • Exaggerated optimism
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Less need to sleep
  • Accelerated thinking
  • Lack of judgment resulting in risky behaviors
  • Talk more than usual
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Easy distraction
  • Concentration problems
  • Increased desire to achieve or achieve objectives
  • Hyperactivity, inability to remain seated
  • Emotional instability, overreacting to events
  • Search for strong emotions (for example in sports, gambling, etc.)
  • Impulsiveness
  • Irresponsibility

What are the causes and risk factors of cyclothymia?

Like most mental health disorders, the exact cause of Cyclothymia is unknown. However, the genetic component of Cyclothymia seems to be an important predisposing factor. For both Cyclothymia, such as Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder, a family history with a history indicates an increased risk of suffering from these diseases. Studies of identical twins suggest when one of the siblings suffers from Cyclothymia, the probability the other also suffers is up to 80%, which points to a strong genetic component in this type of disorders.

Environmental factors are also very important when developing Cyclothymia. As with Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression, certain life events may increase the chances of developing Cyclothymia. These factors include events such as physical or sexual abuse or other traumatic experiences and prolonged periods of stress.

Cyclothymia treatment

A combination of medication and psychotherapy seems to be the treatment option with the best results. The treatment is generally a chronic process, which can last a lifetime, with the aim of reducing depressive symptoms and hypomania, and whose purpose is also to minimize the risk of developing Bipolar Disorder.

At present, there are no known medications that can effectively treat cyclothymia, however, the doctor can prescribe those commonly used to treat Bipolar Disorder, whose function is focused on relieving symptoms and reducing the frequency of their occurrence. Prescription drugs include atypical anticonvulsants and antipsychotics, such as lithium and quetiapine. Antidepressants have not been proven effective in the treatment of cyclothymia.

More research is needed to successfully conclude the benefits of cyclothymia treatment. However, some of the common methods used to treat Bipolar Disorder are also used in the treatment of Cyclothymia, including among others:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  • Customer Centered Therapy
  • Rational Emotional Therapy (TRE)

Live with Cyclothymia

Less than half of the people living with Cyclothymia develop Bipolar Disorder throughout their lives. In most cases, Cyclothymia is a chronic disorder that is usually maintained throughout life. In others, Cyclothymia seems to dissipate and disappears by itself over time.

The effects of Cyclothymia can be very harmful for social, family, work and couple life. In addition, the impulsivity associated with hypomanic symptoms can lead to poor life decisions, both in legal and financial matters. Research has also shown that when someone is suffering from Cyclothymic Disorder, they are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

To reduce these negative effects of Cyclothymia, it is important to take the medication prescribed by a professional as directed, not to drink alcohol or drugs, and to monitor the mood to provide useful information to the therapist about the effectiveness of the treatment, in addition from get enough sleep and exercise regularly.

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