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Cyclothymic disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is cyclothymic disorder?

Cyclothymic disorder, also called as cyclothymia is a type of mood disorder, marked with mild symptoms of depression and mania. This fluctuation in the mood is marked with cyclic changes between emotional highs and lows. It is considered a mild form of bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) due to the similarity of the symptoms.

cyclothymic disorder, mood disorder

Although the symptoms are not severe, still it can affect the normalcy of a routine life. People often avoid getting treated, attributing the mood swings to life situations.

It is equally reported in males and females, and approximately 1% of the global population is believed to be suffering from the cyclothymic disorder.

Causes

Like bipolar disorder, mood disorders and other psychological disorders, the definite cause of the cyclothymic disorder is not known. Other likely causes are neurological problems and unpleasant past experiences.

Some studies conclude that bipolar disorder and cyclothymic disorder appear alternatively between family generations.

Risk factors

Factors that contribute to the risk of getting cyclothymic disorder are:

  • Family history of psychological disorders especially bipolar disorder, mood disorder, depression
  • Chronic stress
  • Prolonged illness
  • Experience of trauma

Symptoms and signs

People experience mood swings ranging from happiness (medically termed as hypomania) to depression. The episodes are persistent and frequent, affecting your life and work. The pattern is unpredictable and irregular, and one may or may not experience normal mood in between. The symptoms are never strong enough to be categorised in mania or depression.

Some of the signs of hypomania in cyclothymia are:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Being more talkative than usual
  • Changed outlook towards life
  • Optimistic approach
  • Feeling on top of the world
  • Poor sense of judgment leading to unwise decisions
  • Poor concentration
  • Hyperactive, impulsivity
  • Increased irritability
  • Easily distracted
  • Increased performance drive
  • Inflated self-esteem

Symptoms of depression are:

  • Increased irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Feeling lost
  • Inability to sleep
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Chronic tiredness
  • Poor concentration
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Lethargic attitude
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling extremely sad, helpless and hopeless

Diagnosis

psychiatrist

Your doctor will examine your medical history, conduct a physical examination and inquire about your family history to understand the issues.

Your doctor will:

  • Rule out other medical condition, substance abuse responsible for the emotional upheaval.
  • Observe your behaviour and assess your mental condition, by conducting various psychological tests.
  • Want you to log in your mood, sleep and wake patterns and feelings over a period.
  • Confirm the diagnosis of the cyclothymic disorder based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria as the presence of the symptoms for more than two years.

Treatment

The symptoms of cyclothymia are managed with the combination of medications and psychotherapy. The goal of the treatment is to control and manage the symptoms and help you lead a normal life:

  • Psychotherapy: Counselling or talk therapies are the first-line of treatment. Personalised therapy with a trained mental health professional is recommended. Few other additional therapies might be suggested depending on the severity of the symptoms:
  1. Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT): People with this disorder are advised to follow a set pattern of daily activities. Fixed timetables of everyday chores help them with mood management.
  2. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): People are trained to manage and channelize their thoughts and energy into positive things, rather than mulling over negativity, which leads to mood swings. It also helps one to learn and develop coping skills to overcome stressful and emotionally challenging situations.
  • Medications: Your doctor can prescribe mood-stabilizing drugs, antidepressants, antiepileptic, or antipsychotic drugs to help manage the cyclothymic symptoms.

You will also be treated for substance abuse, addiction and other overlapping psychological issues, as these concerns if present can complicate your symptoms further.

Studies suggest that more than half of the people with this disorder continue to struggle with the symptoms and need lifelong treatment. In some people, the symptoms disappear with time. In rest of the individuals with cyclothymia, it progresses into full-fledged bipolar disorder.

Prevention

One cannot avoid inheriting cyclothymia; therefore prevention of the disorder is questionable. Systematic treatment can reduce the chances of further complications and prevent it from turning into bipolar disorder.

Complications

Ignored symptoms of the cyclothymic disorder can develop into a full-blown bipolar disorder. Individual may give into substance abuse and alcohol addiction. People become an easy target for other psychological issues. The mood swings eventually affect the personal and professional life leading to separation, divorce, unemployment, etc.

Next steps

If you have been facing complications related to your mood swings, the cyclothymic disorder could be the reason behind it. Seek help from a clinical psychologist for your symptoms.

Support and help someone you know who might be suffering from this disorder.

Red flags

Worsening of the symptoms and suicidal thoughts require immediate medical attention.

Consult a top Psychiatrist

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References

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  • Cyclothymic disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed May 7, 2015.
  • Cyclothymic disorder—Medline Plus—accessed on 21 February 2017– https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001550.htm
  • Cyclothymia—NHS choices- accessed on 21 February 2017– http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cyclothymia/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  • Cyclothymic disorder—dual diagnosis—accessed on 21 February 2017– http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/bipolar-disorder-and-addiction/cyclothymic-disorder/
  • Cyclothymia—moxod disorders association of Manitoba—accessed on 21 February 2017– http://www.mooddisordersmanitoba.ca/wp-content/uploads/164.pdf
  • American Psychiatric Association.Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders. 4th edition, text revised. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association,2000.

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