Cyclothymic disorder is a mental health condition where someone experiences long periods of low moods and short periods of elated/happy moods. This is known as a ‘hypomania’ in bipolar I, whereas people with bipolar II have a mixture of hypomania and depression. The symptoms must be present for at least two years in order to diagnose someone with cyclothymic disorder. Roughly 1% of the US population has been diagnosed with this condition or experiencing symptoms that could lead them to be diagnosed.
Categorization of Cyclothymic disorder
There are three categories that describe how often these cycles occur, each including specific specifications listed below:
Mild(a): Mood swings don’t occur more than one day a week and moods last at least 4 days.
Moderate(b): Mood swings occur between one and three days a week and moods last at least 2 days.
Severe(c): Mood swings occur more than 3 times a week and moods last less than 2 days.
As well, there is the specifier ‘With anxious distress’ or ‘without anxious distress’ to indicate whether anxiety is present throughout the cycles. The diagnostic criteria are summarized below:
The cyclothymic disorder has been classified in different ways by different authors, under several names including chronic depression, dysthymia, mood fluctuations, bipolar III disorder, sub-threshold bipolarity, and Bipolar III.
Cyclothymic disorder is not an independent disease but rather a symptom of other types of disorders such as mood disorders or schizophrenia. It shouldn’t be diagnosed on its own unless it persists for at least two years.
The DSM-5(Diagnostic Statistical Manual – outlines the diagnostic criteria for cyclothymic disorder to include having significant fluctuations in the mood for at least 2 years with periods where emotions are milder than typical manic episodes. If this condition has lasted less than 2 years, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be considered instead.
An estimated 0.4% of Americans have cyclothymic disorder. This illness usually starts between the ages of 15 and 25, although adults over 30 can also be diagnosed with it.
The onset of Cyclothymic disorder
The cyclothymic disorder usually occurs during adolescence or early adulthood. It is considered a life-long condition; however, people tend to experience different fluctuations in their moods as they age. The first episode of cyclothymic disorder often occurs before the age of 20 and tends to last less than two years. Around half of all cases start between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Often those who have been previously diagnosed with bipolar I or II may have a misdiagnosis as bipolar III. This happens because individuals who have been previously diagnosed with bipolar I or II have experienced mania, whereas those who have been wrongly diagnosed as bipolar III do not.
Gender and Cyclothymic disorder
The majority of individuals with cyclothymic disorder are women. This may be because women tend to seek more medical help than men. In addition, according to a study done by the National Comorbidity Survey Replication(NCS-R), women experience more symptoms than men. Women also tend to experience the same symptoms for a long time before seeking help.
Cyclothymic disorder and Cultural differences
These mood swings and symptoms seem to be present across different cultures, especially if it falls within the DSM criteria, however, some research has suggested that the way feelings and moods are communicated may differ between cultures.
Causes of Cyclothymic disorder
The cause of the cyclothymic disorder is unknown. It has been speculated to be caused by biological, psychological, or environmental factors. As one study suggests, it could result from a combination of these factors. Research indicates that genetics play a large role in the development of the bipolar disorder. Individuals with cyclothymic disorder are also at high risk to develop additional mood disorders.