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Woman who has the signs and symptoms of cyclothymia

Understanding Cyclothymia

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Cyclothymia is a complex, oft-misunderstood mental health condition that affects millions of people in the United States and throughout the rest of the world. Some people refer to cyclothymia as a “mild” form of bipolar disorder, but this description fails to acknowledge the significant distress that its symptoms can cause. 

What is Cyclothymia?

Cyclothymic disorder (or cyclothymia) is a form of bipolar disorder. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describes this condition as “a chronic, fluctuating mood disturbance involving numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms that are distinct from each other.”

All forms of bipolar disorder are characterized by dramatic swings in mood, motivation, and energy. As we’ll discuss in greater detail later in this post, the primary differentiator between cyclothymia and either bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder is the length of time that symptoms persist.

The DSM-5 estimates that cyclothymia affects 0.4%-1% of the general population. Among patients who receive professional treatment for mood disorders, the DSM-5 reports that rate of cyclothymia may be as high as 3%-5%. 

Signs & Symptoms of Cyclothymia

Someone who exhibits the following signs and symptoms may have developed cyclothymia:

  • Periods of deep sadness, poor self-esteem, and low motivation that last less than two weeks
  • Times of elevated energy, excessive self-confidence, and impulsive behaviors that last no longer than three days
  • Severe changes in appetite, sleep patterns, energy levels, and other biological characteristics.
  • Dramatic and unpredictable shifts between the symptoms listed in the previous three bullet points
  • Spans during which they experience none of the extremes that we’ve listed above

As established in the DSM-5, a person must experience symptoms for at least two years to be accurately diagnosed with cyclothymia.

Do I Have Cyclothymia Test 

The only way to know for certain if you have cyclothymia (or any other mental health disorder, for that matter) is to be assessed by a qualified professional. If you’re not sure if you should schedule a cyclothymia assessment, the quiz below may help you decide.

Please take a moment to read each of the following questions carefully, then honestly answer “yes” or “no.”

  1. Do you often have mood swings that seem to occur for no apparent reason (i.e. with no obvious external trigger)?
  2. Have your frequent mood swings caused problems in your relationships with friends, family members, or romantic partners?
  3. Do you have moments when you feel supremely confident and moments when you don’t think you’re capable of accomplishing any of your goals?
  4. During periods of heightened confidence, do you ever act impulsively, such as making purchases that you can’t afford, or launching projects that you later realize you can’t complete?
  5. Do you sometimes become angry, irritated, or even enraged over relatively minor setbacks or inconveniences?
  6. Do you struggle with shifting sleep patterns, such as sometimes being unable to get to sleep (insomnia) and at other times sleeping way too much (hypersomnia)?
  7. Does your appetite often change to the extent that sometimes you have little or no desire for food while at other times you develop strong cravings that lead to overeating?
  8. Do you sometimes feel jumpy or restless, as though you can barely contain your energy, then at other times struggle with overwhelming fatigue?
  9. Are you sometimes extremely talkative, and at other times find it difficult to summon the energy and desire to participate in conversations?
  10. Have you been experiencing these types of shifts in mood, energy, and behaviors for at least two years?

Again, please understand that this quiz is provided here for general informational purposes. It is not a replacement for a mental health assessment by a qualified professional.

Having established that, if you answered “yes” to multiple questions, you should strongly consider scheduling an assessment. Whether you have cyclothymia or another mental health concern, completing an evaluation and receiving an accurate diagnosis can be essential steps toward getting the right type of treatment.

Difference Between Cyclothymia and Bipolar Disorder

Cyclothymia is a type of bipolar disorder, but it is distinct from bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder in terms of how long symptoms last:

  • People who have bipolar I disorder will have manic episodes. These are periods of at least a week when they will experience significant increases in mood, confidence, motivation, energy, and related characteristics.
  • People who have bipolar II disorder will have hypomanic episodes, which are similar to manic episodes, but only last for four days. They will also have major depressive episodes, which are periods of at least two weeks when they struggle with deep sadness, diminished energy, recurrent thoughts of death and dying, and similar symptoms.
  • Individuals with cyclothymic disorder will have hypomanic and depressive symptoms, but neither type will last long enough to qualify as an episode. However, these symptoms will occur on and off (with brief times during which no symptoms are present) for at least two years.

Treatment Options for Cyclothymia

The right treatment for someone who has cyclothymia can vary according to a host of individual factors. In general, though, comprehensive care for this condition often involves both medication and therapy.

Depending on the severity of a person’s symptoms, they may benefit from antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and/or antipsychotics. Given the range of symptoms that cyclothymia can cause, it can sometimes take a while to identify which medications and which dosage levels are optimal for each person.

The therapeutic component of treatment for cyclothymia can help people process their experiences and learn how to manage their symptoms more effectively. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) have both proved to be beneficial for people who have cyclothymia. Family therapy sessions can also be valuable, as they can help loved ones process their experiences and learn how to better support the individual who is receiving care.

Of course, these are by no means the only types of treatment that can help people who have been living with cyclothymia. To determine which medications and therapies are right for any specific person, their team should conduct a thorough assessment, review their treatment history, discuss the patient’s needs and goals with them, and work together to develop a truly customized plan.

Contact Our Mental Health Treatment Center in Los Angeles, California

If you have been experiencing the symptoms of cyclothymia or another form of bipolar disorder, Montare Behavioral Health is here to help. We offer comprehensive cyclothymia services and close personal support at several convenient locations in the Los Angeles area. 

At each facility within the Montare network, you can expect to benefit from a variety of therapies and related services, all provided by a team of highly skilled and experienced treatment professionals. We understand how cyclothymia can disrupt a person’s life, and we’re prepared to provide the personalized care that will put you on the path to a healthier and more hopeful future.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.