Many people have heard of bipolar disorder, but did you know that there are a few different subtypes of bipolar disorder? Cyclothymia is a type of bipolar disorder that is often described as “bipolar light” or “low-level bipolar disorder.” We all experience ups and downs in life, so it is useful to know more about each type of bipolar disorder and remain aware of the best ways to treat these conditions when they occur.
People who have a diagnosis of any type of bipolar disorder experience episodes of depression and episodes of mania. Some subtypes of bipolar disorder include bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymia, mixed-state bipolar disorder, and substance-induced bipolar disorder.1
Cyclothymic disorder is a milder form of bipolar disorder, indicated by mild depression and episodes of hypomania with symptoms persisting for at least two years in adults and one year in children. Those diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for any of the other three forms of bipolar disorder.
Cyclothymic disorder is rare. It is usually diagnosed in adults as it tends to first manifest in adolescence or early adulthood, and it affects approximately one percent of the population.2
“I learned how difficult it is to do it on your own and that without learning how to motivate myself, I would not be in recovery today,” writes Daphne at HeroesInRecovery.com. “I also learned that mental illness doesn’t define me…I would advise people to stand out from the crowd and get help however you need to at whatever pace you need. If it doesn’t happen right when you ask, don’t give up. Create your recovery.” Read Daphne’s story here.
Mania in Cyclothymic Disorder: An Addictive High
Due to its somewhat milder nature and subtle symptoms, cyclothymic disorder is difficult to diagnose and many people never get treatment because the symptoms can be difficult to recognize. For example, depression symptoms are not as severe in someone who suffers from cyclothymic disorder as they are in someone who has a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder, for example.
One of the most striking differences of cyclothymic disorder in comparison to other forms of bipolar disorder is the way in which the hypomanic state manifests. Hypomania is indicated by an elevated mood in which the person can become highly animated and positive or more energetic and angry.
This type of mania can feel like a wonderful “high” to some people. They may strive to maintain those feelings and even attempt to keep the energy up through stimulants. There is no doubt that hypomania “little mania” can increase productivity in our busy modern world, and this feeling can be addictive. Unfortunately, this hypomania can also cause big distractions, lead to relationship conflicts, and cause the affected person to spend money recklessly, make poor business decisions, or make otherwise regrettable decisions.3
Sometimes, people with cyclothymic disorder will engage in the use of stimulants in an attempt to bring this “high” feeling back. This only makes the problem worse, and can lead to a full-blown substance use disorder that does not truly regulate mood or relive times of depression. It’s easy to slip into a pattern of substance use in an effort to feel better, and it is important to seek recovery as soon as possible.
Managing Cyclothymic Disorder
Bipolar disorder, and especially cyclothymic disorder, can often be managed successfully with proper diagnosis and treatment. Typically, a loved one can be a great resource in helping a medical professional to diagnose someone with cyclothymic disorder, as they often know their loved one’s mood swings and patterns better than anyone else.
Some specific tools to help manage symptoms include:
- Maintaining a structured schedule and routine
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol, as substance abuse can exacerbate symptoms
- Avoiding caffeine after noon as it can interfere with sleep
- Psychotherapy to help understand triggers
While it may seem simple, keeping a consistent eating, sleeping, waking, and exercise schedule can keep your circadian rhythms consistent, which promotes stable moods. Drugs and alcohol can also make symptoms worse, increasing mood swings. Both alcohol and caffeine interfere with proper sleep habits as well.
Getting treatment for cyclothymic disorder is important to long-term recovery and can really make a difference in helping to manage and regulate moods and symptoms. Psychotherapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a vital tool that helps individuals learn what may trigger episodes of hypomania or depression and how to manage or avoid them. Black Bear Lodge not only strives to treat the disorder but also really focuses on the individual, promoting physical and emotional wellness through many successful treatment methods. Call for more comprehensive information today.
1 “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5.” Arlington, VA:American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013. Print.
2 Tartakovsky, M. “Understanding and Coping with Cyclothymia.”PsychCentral. 17 July 2016.
3 Carey, B. “Hypomanic? Absolutely. But Oh So Productive!”The New York Times. 22 Mar 2005.