What is cyclothymia and what are the differences from bipolar disorder?

Going from a mild depression to an unusual state of euphoria, as well as presenting a state of mind that resembles a roller coaster or “yoyo” effect, that is, fluctuating in a short time, can be related to the cyclothymic disorder.

The cyclothymia It is one of the disorders that presents the state of mind whose characteristics are similar to bipolar disorder, but in a less intense form, softer in terms of symptoms, therefore less noticeable, although it tends to be more chronic.

Those who suffer from cyclothymic disorder, when they are in their lowest moments, present symptoms similar to those of mild depression, to a state of sadness, and are not as severe as those of major depression.

Characteristics of cyclothymia

People with cyclothymia, when they change their mood and go from sadness to euphoria, it does not become as intense as those seen in the manic phase of bipolar disorders, that is why they are identified and classified as hypomania, that is, a less severe form of mania.

Between the two states of mind, cyclothymics are likely to feel stable from an emotional point of view, it is even the only moment when they feel that they are themselves.

The prevalence rate of cyclothymia in the general population is between 0.4% and 1%, and affects men and women equally; however, it is women who are most likely to seek professional help. The onset of this disorder usually occurs during adolescence, and its appearance can be difficult to identify due to the mood swings that young people commonly present, associated with hormonal changes. Likewise, the risk of suffering from sleep disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, substance abuse and the challenge of imminent danger are high in people with cyclothymic disorder.

What are the symptoms of cyclothymia?

The symptoms of cyclothymia are mood swings, which at times called cyclothymic highs include symptoms of elevated mood, also called hypomanic symptoms; while the cyclothymic lows consist of mild or moderate depressive symptoms.

Common signs and symptoms

  • Low self-esteem
  • Weight changes due to eating much more or much less than usual
  • Impaired judgment, planning, or problem-solving skills
  • Difficulty managing conflict
  • Lack of motivation
  • Fatigue
  • You want to cry for no reason
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest in activities previously considered motivating and enjoyable
  • Pessimism
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Social retreat
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Feelings that life has no meaning or purpose
  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness
  • Loneliness
  • Submission
  • Sleep disorders, either sleeping much more or much less than usual

Common hypomanic signs and symptoms

  • Increased desire to achieve goals
  • Exaggerated increase in self-esteem
  • Search for strong emotions in sports, gambling, sex, consumption of strong substances, etc.
  • Euphoric state with an exaggerated feeling of well-being and happiness
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Easy distraction
  • Lack of judgment that can result in risky behavior
  • Talking more than usual
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsiveness
  • Inability to remain seated
  • Emotional instability overreacting to events
  • Irresponsibility
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Less need for sleep
  • Excessive optimism
  • Racing thoughts
  • Concentration problems

Causes and risk factors of cyclothymia

Like most mental health disorders, the exact cause of cyclothymia is unknown; however, the genetic component appears to be an important predictor. For cyclothymia as well as for depression and bipolar disorder, a family history with a history implies a greater risk of these diseases. Environmental factors are also very important when developing cyclothymia.

As with bipolar disorder and major depression, certain life events can increase the chances of developing cyclothymia. These factors include events such as physical or sexual abuse or other traumatic experiences and long periods of stress.

Living with cyclothymia

Less than half of the people living with cyclothymia develop bipolar disorder in their lifetime. In most cases, cyclothymia is a chronic disorder that usually lasts for life; in others, cyclothymia seems to dissipate and disappear by itself over time.

The effects of cyclothymia can be detrimental to family, social, work and partner life. Additionally, the impulsivity associated with hypomanic symptoms can lead to poor life decisions, both in legal, financial and health matters. When someone is suffering from cyclothymic disorder they are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Recommendations are not to use alcohol or drugs and to monitor mood to provide useful information to the therapist about the effectiveness of the treatment, as well as to get enough sleep and exercise regularly.

Although there is no approved drug for cyclothymia, the doctor can prescribe the drugs that are medicated for the treatment of bipolar disorder, which help control symptoms and prevent periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms.

Differences between cyclothymia and bipolar disorder

  • In cyclothymia, the symptoms that we list are milder, while in bipolar disorder these are more intense, more evident and tend to be more uncontrolled.
  • The temperament of the cyclothymic is a trait of his own personality, it is his way of being and he is identified as someone who may be in a high or low mood in terms of activity, ideas, actions.
  • In bipolar disorder, the changes are usually more abrupt if the person is not following the treatment.
  • In bipolar disorder, manias are more evident, while in cyclothymics they are usually confused with small manias that are manifested in order and excessive cleanliness.
  • For cyclothymics, talk therapy may be useful and sufficient, however, for those who suffer from bipolar disorder, specific and unalterable medication is necessary, in addition to psychotherapy.
  • In some cases, cyclothymia may disappear over time; bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition.

If you have been interested in this article, also check out Stendhal syndrome.

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