Cyclothymia Disorder: An Overview

PsychologyAbnormal Psychology

Cyclothymia patients may experience symptoms similar to mania but are shorter, less intense, and cause less damage. Researchers believe Cyclothymia has been greatly underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed because its symptoms overlap with bipolar and borderline personality disorders.

What is Cyclothymia Disorder?

Cyclothymia is a mood disorder where you are experiencing a "high" or "low" or both. Also known as Cyclothymic, is often considered a milder form of bipolar disorder (previously known as manic-depressive disorder), and is marked by separate episodes of hypomanic symptoms (elevated mood and euphoria) and depressive symptoms over two years. The mood shifts are not sufficient in number for a hypomanic or depressive episode in terms of quantity, severity, or duration, but they are present more than half of the time, but no more than two months go without symptoms. It causes a person to experience periods of highs and lows. People with this disorder will experience manic episodes, depressive episodes, and hypomanic episodes.

Hypomania is characterized by times of increased mood, euphoria, and excitement, but it does not lead an individual to lose touch with reality. Hypomanic symptoms characterize Cyclothymia but not full-blown manic episodes. Hypomania may feel pleasant to the individual experiencing it, resulting in improved performance and efficiency. A manic episode is distinguished by increased mood, excitability, and, in some cases, psychotic symptoms.

Causes of Cyclothymia Disorder

Its major causes include genetics, imbalance in brain chemistry, and environmental factors.

Symptoms of Cyclothymia Disorder

Cyclothymia is a mood disorder that causes a person to experience periods of highs and lows. Cyclothymic highs include signs of a heightened mood (hypomanic symptoms). The lows are characterized by mild to moderate depression symptoms. Symptoms of Cyclothymia: Cyclothymia symptoms happen to be similar to those of bipolar 1 and 2 disorder, although they are less severe symptoms of high Cyclothymia, which include :

  • An overstated sense of euphoria or well-being
  • Excessive optimism
  • High self-esteem
  • More talkative than normal
  • Poor judgments lead to risky actions or poor decisions
  • Thoughts that race
  • Behavior that is irritable or agitated
  • Increased physical activity
  • Increased motivation to perform or attain objectives (work-related or social)
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Unable to concentrate

Depressive symptoms include :

  • Feeling depressed, hopeless, or empty
  • Tearfulness
  • Irritability, particularly in children and adolescents
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Sleep issues
  • Restlessness
  • Tiredness or a sense of being slowed down
  • Concentration issues
  • Consideration or thoughts of death
  • Living with Cyclothymia

People living with Cyclothymia may feel irritated and angry at times. Depression is a common symptom of this disorder, making an individual face difficulty in maintaining relationships as they often isolate themselves. People suffering from this are often misdiagnosed. They may experience periods of fatigue, especially when they are in the "lows" phase. Many feel like they cannot achieve their goals and follow their dreams. People who experience low mood symptoms may find it hard and difficult to keep up with their work and personal life. They may lack control over their emotions and behaviors.

People with Cyclothymia are at a high risk of later developing bipolar I or II disorder; they may also have other co-occurring mental disorder such as anxiety.

Diagnostic Criteria

Diagnosis for Cyclothymia begins with a medical history and physical examination. Blood Work screening for substance abuse and ruling out other illnesses with similar symptoms, psychological evaluations in which self-assessment of the questionnaire are asked to be filled, mood charting for recording sleep patterns, mood patterns and other factors such as exercise and meals to help with the diagnosis. According to the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, DSM 5 diagnosis criteria are as follows :

  • Symptoms that have been present for at least half of the time in the last two years and one year in the case of children and teenagers.
  • Alternating highs and lows symptoms are no effects of substance abuse or other medical conditions.
  • There have not been more than two months being symptom-free.
  • Significant distress and impairment in daily functioning are visible.
  • Symptoms do not meet bipolar disorder, major depression, or other mental disorders.


Treatment and management for Cyclothymia are challenging as people are not as open about their dysfunction and may not seek treatment as they do not find a problem in them due to being less severe than bipolar. Many people get misdiagnosed as having other mental disorders, or the diagnosis becomes complicated due to the presence of other mental disorders.

  • Medication : Currently, no medication is approved by the food and drug administration for Cyclothymia. However, psychiatrists prescribe mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, antidepressants, and anticonvulsant medications that are usually used in treating bipolar disorders, which help individuals to some extent in controlling their cyclothymic symptoms and prevent periods of hypomania and depression.
  • Psychotherapy : CBT is a common treatment for Cyclothymia as it focuses on identifying negative and unhealthy beliefs and behaviors and replacing them with positive ones. It helps individual manage stress and copes with difficult situations. Interpersonal and social Rhythm therapy is an intervention for individuals who suffer from bipolar illness (BD). Its major goal is to restore the frequent circadian rhythm abnormalities in bipolar disorder patients (BD). A combination of other therapies, such as family therapy, may also be used per an individual's requirement.
  • Psychoeducation : Mood tracking has been found beneficial in such cases. It can be beneficial to keep a record of their daily mood symptoms, treatments, sleep patterns, and life events. Such tracking has been found to assist individuals and their families in better understanding and manage the condition; mood changes are frequently detected in time to prevent a full-blown episode. Even when there are no gaps in treatment, mood changes can occur, and they should be reported immediately so that the professionals can adjust the treatment plan accordingly.
  • Lifestyle changes : Physical exercise, participating in activities involved in an individual's social and personal lives, a healthy diet, seeking out new hobbies, practicing self-care, and avoiding alcohol or other recreational drugs are beneficial in such cases.


Cyclothymia is a mood disorder that is characterized by periods of depression and periods of mania. It is known to be less severe than bipolar I and II disorder. Many symptoms come with this disorder, but the most common are mood swings. Many people with this disorder cannot function normally when experiencing the low phase, but they or their family members usually do not feel like something is wrong with them. They may feel like they are not living up to their potential. People with Cyclothymia are at a high risk of later developing bipolar I or II disorder. The good thing is that many treatment options can help them cope and lead a more fulfilling life.


Updated on 13-Oct-2022 11:19:47