What is cyclothymia?

Cyclothymia, or cyclothymic disorder, is often considered a milder and chronic form of bipolar disorder (previously known as manic-depressive disorder). People with cyclothymia experience cyclic “high” and “lows” as portrayed by large swings in mood and energy levels that negatively affect their ability to function. These changes in mood can occur quickly and at any time. A person with cyclothymia generally experiences only short periods of normal mood.

How common is cyclothymia?

Cyclothymia has been reported to occur at rates ranging from 0.4-percent to 1-percent in the general population. Because many of the symptoms of cyclothymia overlap with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, the lack of clear-cut cyclothymic episodes and co-appearance of other conditions such as anxiety, irritability, or depression, many researchers think cyclothymia is considerably underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed.

Who is affected by cyclothymia?

Cyclothymia often appears in adolescence or early adulthood. Women and men are equally affected; however, it is thought that more women may seek treatment for the symptoms than men.

What are the causes of cyclothymia?

There is no known cause of cyclothymia. There is a possible genetic link since cyclothymia, depression, and bipolar disorder all have a tendency to run in families.

What are the symptoms of cyclothymia?

Symptoms of cyclothymia include mood swings that alternate between mild to moderate “highs” and “lows.” A “high” is defined as a distinct period of time in which a person experiences abnormal and persistently elevated or irritable mood along with an abnormal increase in activity or energy. Additional symptoms include:

  • Having a high level of self-esteem
  • Being very talkative
  • Having racing thoughts
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Having an increased focus on goals – work, school, social and sexual goals.
  • Having a feeling of being rested after as few as 3 hours of sleep
  • Having increased agitation
  • Getting overly involved in risky activities or activities that lack good judgment, such as spending sprees, sexual encounters, or unwise business decisions

A “low” is defined as a distinct period of time in which a person experiences depressed or hopeless mood and/or a decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities. Other symptoms that may be experienced during a “low” include:

  • Feelings of social isolation, low self-worth and guilt
  • Loss of appetite with weight loss
  • Difficulty falling asleep (insomnia) or trouble staying awake (hypersomnia) nearly every day
  • Fatigue or significant loss of energy
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Recurrent thoughts of self injury and suicide

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