How is cyclothymia diagnosed?

Diagnosis begins with a general medical history and physical exam, blood work to screen for substance abuse and to rule out other illnesses with similar symptoms, and mental status and psychiatric exam.

An adult is diagnosed with cyclothymia when:

  • symptoms (alternating “highs” and “lows”) have been present for at least 50 percent of the time for at least 2 years, and
  • there has not been more than a 2-month period of being symptom-free, and
  • symptoms are not due to substance abuse or a medical condition

In addition, symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in daily functioning, but cannot be severe enough to meet criteria for either major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder.

For children and adolescents, symptoms must be present for 1 year.

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