Cyclothymic disorder: a mild form of bipolar disorder

Someone who is bipolar has periods of manic moods alternating with periods of depressive moods. The moods can alternate, with periods of normal mood in between. Someone suffering from cyclothymic disorder also has mood disorders, but it is a milder form than bipolar disorder. The mood disorder usually lasts for a few days and recurs at irregular intervals. A person can generally function normally between two episodes.

What a cyclothymic disorder is

This condition is characterized by periods of hypomanic episodes alternating with periods of mild depressive symptoms. Hypomania is an increased drive to act, where a person often sleeps less, is more talkative and bold than normal. He thinks he can handle everything, but can usually still function normally. There may be periods of mild depression, where a person feels lethargic, has no interest in others and is depressed. A period usually lasts for a few days, sometimes following each other at irregular intervals, and is considered a disorder if it lasts for at least two years. The symptoms are less severe than bipolar disorder.

What bipolar disorder entails

With bipolar disorder there are also changing moods with periods in which a person is manic, alternating with periods of depression. Previously, this disorder was called manic-depressive disorder. Mania is the opposite of depression, giving rise to the term bipolar. During mania, a person may be hyperactive and extremely cheerful. The mood disorders can occur occasionally, but also in rapid succession, where mixed episodes can also occur. It is also possible that a certain mood occurs repeatedly, so that someone experiences a number of depressive periods in a row. With bipolar disorder, a person can become impaired in daily functioning.

The symptoms of cyclothymic disorder

People who suffer from this disorder often have problems in social life and relationships. It can also cause problems at work. It can occur in both men and women, and is most commonly seen in young adults. The person may go from being temperamental and active to becoming moody and unpredictable. When someone has a cyclothymic disorder, the following characteristics apply:

  • Mood disorders lasting at least two years with hypomanic and depressive feelings
  • The periods of normal mood do not last longer than two months
  • The person does not have a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia or delusional disorder
  • Mood disorders are not due to physiological causes, such as drugs or medications
  • There is a social limitation such as relationship problems or problems at work

Social problems

Social problems can arise, which can cause relationship problems. It can be difficult if your partner has this. Someone has a changing mood, is unpredictable, then very active, alternating with gloomy and lethargic feelings. It can also cause problems at work. A person can be successful in business, perform well and be very creative. But during a manic period this can lead to the opposite. People with this disorder often feel misunderstood and do not always know that they have this condition. They often have repeatedly broken relationships and there is a risk of abuse of sleeping pills or other addictive substances.

The gradient

Depression and bipolar disorders are more common if the parents have cyclothymic disorder. This disorder usually manifests itself in young adulthood. It is sometimes taken as a sign that the person is predisposed to developing mood disorders, especially bipolar disorder. If the disorder only manifests itself later in life, there is usually another cause, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Cyclothymic disorder generally has a chronic course and there is a good chance that someone will later develop a bipolar disorder.


Therapy or medication is usually chosen to treat this condition. For example, antidepressant medications are often chosen to stabilize the mood. Talk therapy or a combination of both can also be chosen for treatment. The most commonly used medication for cyclothymic disorder is lithium. Lithium is also used in people with bipolar disorder. The drug can prevent a manic episode or make it less intense. When using this medication, the effect is usually noticeable within one to two weeks.

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