Cyclothymic disorder, also known as cyclothymia, is a considerably milder form of bipolar disorder that causes frequent changes in mood. Patients with this condition may experience euphoria and hopelessness more frequently and intensely than the average person, but they do not normally require hospitalization for their manic behavior or depression. Even so, patients with cyclothymic disorder may stand out because of their moodiness and instability and may have trouble holding onto jobs or maintaining intimate relationships.
Symptoms of cyclothymic disorder are the same as those of bipolar disorder but present in a less dramatic way. Symptoms of its manic phase may include:
- Extreme optimism
- Exaggerated feelings of self-importance
- Aggressive behavior
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased sex drive
- Decreased need for food or sleep
Symptoms of a depressive phase may include:
- Loss of interest in sex
- Thoughts of suicide
The causes of cyclothymic disorder, like those of bipolar disorder, have not been pinpointed, but are believed to be some combination of heredity, brain chemistry and environment. Those with a family history of mood disorders are at greater risk of developing cyclothymia, as are those who have experienced major stress.
Patients with this condition are sometimes treated with antidepressants, tranquilizers, mood stabilizers or anti-seizure medications. As with bipolar disorder, dosage must be carefully prescribed and monitored as the patient's moods change. Various forms of long-term psychotherapy may be helpful in managing the illness, preventing or mitigating symptoms as they arise. There is some danger that patients with cyclothymia may develop full-blown bipolar disorder, so treatment is important. Patients with this disorder are advised to refrain from using alcohol and drugs since these substances are likely to make the condition worse.