Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic Disorder is a type of mood disorder, with symptoms similar to that of Bipolar Disorder, albeit not as extreme. Compared to Bipolar Disorder, Cyclothymic Disorder contains relatively brief low and high episodes with not as frequent cycles. It is estimated that 0.4% to 1% of people suffer from Cyclothymic Disorder at some point in their lives. With Cyclothymic Disorder, individuals may experience mood shifts, going high to low, however some may feel stable and not even notice their mood shifts.

Just like how waves cycle between “high tide” and “low tide”, Cyclothymic Disorder can cause individuals to face rapid fluctuations in their mood. During “high tide”, one might feel extremely happy and superior to others. It may lead to impulsive and sensation-seeking behaviour such as gambling and drug abuse. In contrast, during “low tide”, one might feel sad, hopeless, and even suicidal. Some other warning signs include having low energy and isolating oneself from others. 

 

Symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder 

Interestingly, signs of Cyclothymic Disorder are typically displayed since childhood. Individuals usually have problems regulating their emotions as a child, demonstrating aggressive and hostile tendencies. The early onset of Cyclothymic Disorder also makes it a persistent and pervasive condition. As such, individuals may suffer from long-term interpersonal, occupational, and psychological difficulties. Past studies have found that there are high rates of divorce, job instability, antisocial behaviours, and drug abuse among people with Cyclothymic Disorder. Someone with Cyclothymic Disorder often also faces trouble maintaining stable relationships, leading to feelings of isolation. 

The two states of Cyclothymic Disorder are depression and hypomania. Unlike the manic state of Bipolar Disorder, hypomania is less intense but still can take a toll on mental well being. The same applies to the depressive episodes of Cyclothymic Disorder and the Major Depressive episodes of Bipolar Disorder. It is important to remember that each individual is different and there are no set cycle patterns.

✽ Symptoms of Hypomania

  • Extreme Optimism
  • Inflated Self Esteem
  • Feelings of Euphoria
  • Excessive Physical Activity
  • Irritable or Agitated Behaviour 

✽ Symptoms of Depression

  • Feeling Sad
  • Feeling Fatigued or Low 
  • Problems Concentrating 
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeping Problems 

 

Causes and Risk Factors

Research has yet to establish a clear cause for this disorder. It is thought to be due to genetic factors, environmental factors such as traumatic events as well as differences in neurotransmitter regulation. In particular, genetic factors have emerged as the prime suspect, as the chances of twins having cyclothymia stand at a whopping 57%. 

It is possible that there could be a genetic link to Cyclothymic Disorder. Those who have experienced trauma in their lives are also more likely to develop this disorder. It is most present during one’s teenage and adult years. 

 

Treatment

Due to the somewhat milder intensity of Cyclothymic Disorder, it can be difficult for individuals to realise that they require treatment. Additionally, end they do not wish to get rid of their “high.” Depressive or low periods are usually more unpleasant than hypomania, which is often the catalyst for starting treatment.

The risk of cyclothymic disorder escalating into bipolar disorder is high. However, with appropriate treatment, people with cyclothymic disorder would be able to lead a fulfilling life with minimal distress.

Medications such as mood stabilisers and anti-anxiety medication have been known to be effective in treating Cyclothymic Disorder. Psychotherapy is also pivotal in treatment as well, the main forms being Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Well-Being Therapy. 

Treatment usually also includes psychoeducation which allows them to recognise the problems they may face in regulating their emotions. 

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