What Is Cyclothymic Disorder?
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Cyclothymic Disorder - Causes, Signs, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Intervention

Published on Nov 14, 2022   -  4 min read


Cyclothymia is a mild mood disorder where a person experiences mild depression and mood swings for a shorter duration. For information, read the article below.

What Is Cyclothymic Disorder?

Cyclothymic disorder, also called cyclothymia, was previously known as manic-depressive disorder. Cyclothymia is a rare mood disorder with relatively fewer mood swings and mild, less frequent episodes. The mood swings in patients with cyclothymia never reach the extremity or are severe enough to cause significant depression or complete maniac episodes.

Thus, it is considered a chronic and milder form of bipolar disorder. During the attacks of the condition, a person experiences noticeable mood shifts from baseline to euphoria. However, an individual is completely fine and stable between the episodes. Although the highs and lows are not extreme in cases with cyclothymic disorders, they can prove to be a risk factor for the onset of bipolar disorder.

What Are the Causes of Cyclothymic Disorder?

The exact cause of the disorder remains unknown.

Still, some of the probable causes are:

  • The genetic link is considered the most probable etiology of the condition, as cyclothymia, depression, and bipolar disorders are deemed to have a hereditary tendency. In addition, reports have proved that mental illnesses run in families.

  • Twin studies have suggested the probability of developing cyclothymic disorders is higher in identical twins if one of the twins has a condition.

  • Environmental factors also play a role in aggravating the chances of developing the disorder.

  • Life events like sexual abuse and a prolonged period of stress.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder?

Hypomanic symptoms or major depressive episodes characterize cyclothymia; these do not meet the criteria for major depressive disorders. The most significant symptom of cyclothymia includes mood swings ranging from highs to lows; a high is a period when an individual experiences abnormally elevated mood and is persistently irritated. During the episodes, the person has an abnormally increased energy level and increased activity.

Other symptoms include:

An individual's low is a distinct period during which he feels depressed, helpless, and hopeless. During these episodes, a person loses interest in the activities they previously enjoyed.

Other symptoms presented during the episodes of low include:

  • Feeling socially isolated.

  • Low self-esteem, underconfidence.

  • Self-doubt, guilt.

  • Loss of appetite, weight loss.

  • Frequent insomnia or hypersomnia.

  • Feeling drained and tired.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

  • Emotional instability.

  • Impulsive behaviors.

  • Being irresponsible.

  • Recurrent thoughts of self-infliction or suicide.

What Aggravates the Condition?

The periods of stress or being physically or emotionally exhausted have been reported to elevate the frequency and duration of the symptoms. If a person is not supported or does not receive mental help at the right time, it can aggravate self dought, and the tendency to have suicidal thoughts is more as an individual feels lonely.

What Are the Diagnostic Criteria for Cyclothymic Disorders?

Cyclothymic disorders can affect males and females; they do not have a preference for any gender. The onset of the disorder is usually during adolescence or early adulthood. As the symptoms are mild, diagnosis becomes a challenge.

  • An individual with a cyclothymic disorder is thoroughly examined for the signs and symptoms of the disorder.

  • Blood tests are done to rule out the symptoms due to substance abuse.

  • Ruling out other disorders with similar symptoms like bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.

  • The diagnosis is concluded when a person meets the following criteria:

  • Symptoms of alternating highs and lows have been present for at least two years, the frequency such that the symptoms are present for around 50 % of the total duration.

  • An individual has not been free of symptoms for more than two months.

  • Symptoms are not due to other underlying causes like substance abuse or Bipolar Disorder.

How Is the Prognosis in Patients With Cyclothymic Disorders?

Diagnosis, treatment, and management of cyclothymia present complications as the symptoms of the disorder being mild are often unnoticed or ignored. As a result, frequent symptoms can be misdiagnosed as other psychological disorders like bipolar disorder. But whenever the condition is appropriately diagnosed, and timely attention is received to have results in the longer run, as the symptoms are mild, controlling or overcoming them becomes more manageable.

How Is Cyclothymic Disorder Treated?

As the symptoms of cyclothymia are not very severe, most cases go undiagnosed or do not feel the need to seek help or treatment. For those who present with cyclothymia, treatment mainly aims at stabilizing the mood and learning to cope with the highs and lows. No medicinal treatment is available for the disorder, but physicians might prescribe mood stabilizers to control the symptoms. Psychotherapy is another treatment option where a psychotherapist guides and teaches a person to recognize, analyze, and deal with the symptoms. As a result, an individual's thought process is altered to change the response and improve social interactions and relations.

What Are the Complications of Cyclothymic Disorders?

Though cyclothymia presents with fewer complications when compared to bipolar disorder. Still, the disorder interferes with the normal functioning of the individual.

Some common complications include:

  • Difficulty in building and maintaining good social relations.

  • Unstable personal relationships.

  • Days away from work.

  • Hospitalization.

  • Insomnia.


Cyclothymic disorders are rare psychological disorders where a person experiences mild mood swings, which consist of highs and lows. Still, these are never extreme, as seen in patients with mood or bipolar disorders. The person can be extremely happy for a while or feel hopeless or unworthy at another moment. These individuals can also have suicidal thoughts. These individuals have a difficult time socializing or maintaining personal or professional relationships. The diagnosis is confirmed when the episodes have been consistent for the past two years. Cyclothymia can sometimes be misdiagnosed due to substance abuse or bipolar disorder. Treatments become more manageable with a good prognosis if diagnosed in time. Treatment aims at overcoming the symptoms or learning to cope with them.

Last reviewed at:
14 Nov 2022  -  4 min read




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