Cyclothymic disorder

Cyclothymic disorder, or cyclothymia, is a mental illness that is defined in the spectrum of bipolar, but is a milder version of the condition. People with cyclothymic disorder experience sudden mood swings between what could be considered 'highs' and 'lows'. The elevated mood, called hypomania, is similar to a manic episode seen with bipolar disorder, where the patient has a burst of energy and often feels full of ideas, is very outgoing, lacks the need for sleep and can be overly competitive. During the low swing, symptoms of dysthymia are seen, bringing about a general sadness, lack of interest in daily activities or enjoyment and overall irritability. The more pronounced bipolar disorder causes periods of time where symptoms affect the ability to cope and function normally in society. In the case of cyclothymia, patients may actually feel much more productive during periods of hypomania, especially when contrasted with the opposite state of depression and despair. It is this contrast in mood swing and well-being that often leads a person to seek help for the condition.

Symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder

Symptoms of cyclothymic disorder resemble those of bipolar, just not to the same measurement of extreme. Symptoms range between that of euphoria and depression, randomly and without reason. During the euphoric phase, patients will seem to be overly happy, excited and full of energy. Here are the signs to look for during this phase:

  • Extreme cheerfulness
  • Optimism
  • Rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty focusing or making a decision
  • Aggressiveness or hostility
  • Increase in physical activity
  • Decrease in need for sleep
  • Increased sex drive
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment and tendency to make risky decisions
  • Inflation of self-esteem

During the dysthymic phase, patients will experience a lull in energy and seem depressed. Symptoms may not interfere with daily activities, but the difference in mood will be noticeable. Following are additional signs of this phase of cyclothymic disorder:

  • Poor memory
  • Pessimism
  • Unexplainable feelings of sadness and despair
  • Agitation
  • Quick temper
  • Appetite changes
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Self-neglect or poor hygiene
  • Fatigue and lack of energy

Causes of Cyclothymic Disorder

A true and exact cause for cyclothymic disorder has not been discovered. It is believed that genetics and quality of social environment play a large role in the development. If family history includes this disorder or similar afflictions, a person is more likely to develop symptoms. A chemical imbalance in the brain can lead to this disorder, as can continual stress and worry from a job, relationship or family situation.

Diagnosis of Cyclothymic Disorder

It will likely be necessary to seek a professional opinion for the diagnosis of cyclothymic disorder. Trained physicians, psychologists and psychiatrists will have the proper tools to evaluate a patient to determine a possible mental illness. If drug abuse is present, or if symptoms are extreme, an alternate diagnosis may be made. Patients must experience periods of both hypomania and dysthymia for potential diagnosis of cyclothymic disorder.

Treatment for Cyclothymia

Treatment options for cyclothymic disorder vary, just as they do with all mental illness. Normally, the best option for treatment will be found through trial and error, based upon the preference of the patient and recommendation from the doctor. Following are possible treatment options for this condition:

  • Medication – mood stabilizers, anti-seizure or anti-depressant medication may be recommended
  • Therapy – participation in one or more different types of therapy may benefit greatly by offering new coping skills and opportunities to recognize and change behavior and reactions
  • Dietary changes – poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle may contribute to brain chemical imbalance and overall feelings of melancholy
  • Alternative medicine – holistic therapies, such as meditation, yoga or color therapy can induce wellness on a whole-body level