Cyclothymic disorder and how can it be life altering disease, if overlooked?

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Cyclothymic disorder is a subtype of bipolar disorder included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders since 1980.

What is Cyclothymia?

Cyclothymia is a rare type of mood disorder where a person experiences cyclic highs and lows that have the potential to interfere with everyday life. 

How is it different from bipolar I and II

It is a subtype of bipolar disorder included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders since 1980, but largely neglected in research. 

The mood swings of cyclothymia are not as severe and prolonged as bipolar I and II disorders. Cyclothymia disorder generally starts early in life but mostly remains undiagnosed. It can be managed with treatment. This disease affects 0.4-1% of the population, affecting women more than men in a ratio of 3:2.


Symptoms of Cyclothymia

The standard diagnostic criteria from the American Psychiatric Association states that a cyclothymic patients show following symptoms,

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling tearful
  • Sleep disturbances – sleeping much more or much less than usual
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest in activities once considered pleasurable
  • Weight changes – due to eating much more or much less than usual
  • Lack of motivation
  • Impaired judgment, planning, or problem-solving abilities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Pessimism
  • Loneliness
  • Submissiveness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty handling conflict
  • Lacking meaning and purpose in life

Reason and Risk Factor

The reason behind this disease is quite not understood but it can be a combination of environmental factors and changes in neurotransmitter regulation and transmission. Environmental factors might include stressful life events with particular events, including the suicide of a family member, sleep cycle disruptions, family members with high emotional expression, and family dynamics that are hostile and critical. 


Prognosis of cyclothymia is generally good if the patient is able to seek treatment. Prognosis varies by internal coping styles, personality factors, family support, and early initiation of medications and psychotherapy. Though if left untreated manic episodes can continue for up to 6 months.



Treatment of cyclothymia rests upon managing risk factors, recognizing early symptoms, and utilizing treatment, including counseling and pharmacologic interventions. The patient needs to be willing to seek treatment and they can be a powerful ally in treating this disease. 

Psychotherapy and medication including the addition of mood stabilizer can be a cornerstone of the treatment.