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Cyclothymia (si-kloh-THIGH-me-uh), also called cyclothymic disorder, is a mild form of bipolar disorder. Like bipolar disorder, cyclothymia is a chronic mood disorder that causes emotional ups and downs. With cyclothymia, you experience periods when your mood noticeably fluctuates from your baseline. You may feel on top of the world for a time, followed by a low period when you feel somewhat blue. Between these cyclothymic highs and lows, you may feel stable and fine. Compared with bipolar disorder, the highs and lows of cyclothymia are less extreme. Still, it's critical to seek help managing these symptoms because they increase your risk of bipolar disorder. Treatment options for cyclothymia include psychotherapy, medications, and — most important — close, ongoing follow-up with your doctor.
Complications of Cyclothymic Disorder
Left untreated, cyclothymia can result in significant emotional problems that affect every area of your life. In addition, cyclothymia significantly increases your risk of developing bipolar disorder.
Causes of Cyclothymic Disorder
It's not known specifically what causes cyclothymia. As with many mental disorders, research shows that it may result from a combination of:
Signs & Symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder
Cyclothymia symptoms include an alternating pattern of emotional highs and lows. The highs of cyclothymia are characterized hypomanic symptoms, which resemble those of mania, but are less severe. The lows consist of mild or moderate depressive symptoms. Cyclothymia symptoms are generally similar to those of bipolar disorder, but they're less severe. When you have cyclothymia, you can typically function in your daily life, though not always well. The unpredictable nature of your mood shifts may significantly disrupt your life because you never know how you're going to feel — and you can't just will yourself to live life on an even keel.
Hypomanic phase of cyclothymic disorder
Signs and symptoms of hypomanic episodes of cyclothymia may include:
Depressive phase of cyclothymic disorder
Signs and symptoms of depressive episodes of cyclothymia may include:
Diagnosis of Cyclothymic Disorder
To help pinpoint a diagnosis for your symptoms, you'll likely have several exams and tests. Your doctor or other health care provider must determine if you have cyclothymia, bipolar disorder, depression or another condition that may be causing your symptoms.
These exams and tests generally include:
Treatments of Cyclothymic Disorder
Cyclothymia is a long-term condition that requires lifelong treatment, even during periods when you feel better. Cyclothymia treatment is usually guided by a mental health provider skilled in treating the condition. Because cyclothymia has a high risk of developing into bipolar disorder, it's important to get effective and appropriate treatment. Treatment is also vital for reducing the frequency and severity of hypomanic and depressive episodes and allowing you to live a more balanced and enjoyable life. Maintenance treatment — continued treatment during periods of remission — is also important. If you skip maintenance treatment, you may be at higher risk of having a relapse of cyclothymia symptoms or having minor episodes turn into larger problems. If you have problems with alcohol or substance abuse, you must get treatment for those, too, since they can worsen cyclothymia symptoms. The main treatments for cyclothymic disorder are medications and psychotherapy.
Medications may help control cyclothymia symptoms and prevent episodes of hypomania and depression. Medications commonly used to treat cyclothymia include:
Psychotherapy is another vital part of cyclothymia treatment. Psychotherapy, also called counseling or talk therapy, can help you understand what cyclothymia is and how it's treated.
Types of therapy that may help cyclothymia include:
Prevention of Cyclothymic Disorder
There's no sure way to prevent cyclothymia. However, treatment at the earliest indication of a mental health disorder can help prevent cyclothymia from worsening. Long-term preventive treatment also can help prevent minor episodes from becoming full-blown episodes of mania or depression.
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