Cyclothymia (sy-kloe-THIE-me-uh), also called cyclothymic disorder, is a rare mood disorder. Cyclothymia causes emotional ups and downs, but they're not as extreme as those in bipolar I or II disorder.
With cyclothymia, you experience periods when your mood noticeably shifts up and down from your baseline. You may feel on top of the world for a time, followed by a low period when you feel somewhat down. Between these cyclothymic highs and lows, you may feel stable and fine.
Although the highs and lows of cyclothymia are less extreme than those of bipolar disorder, it's critical to seek help managing these symptoms because they can interfere with your ability to function and increase your risk of bipolar I or II disorder.
Treatment options for cyclothymia include talk therapy (psychotherapy), medications and close, ongoing follow-up with your doctor.
Cyclothymia symptoms alternate between emotional highs and lows. The highs of cyclothymia include symptoms of an elevated mood (hypomanic symptoms). The lows consist of mild or moderate depressive symptoms.
Cyclothymia symptoms are similar to those of bipolar I or II 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.
Signs and symptoms of the highs of cyclothymia may include:
Signs and symptoms of the lows of cyclothymia may include:
If you have any symptoms of cyclothymia, seek medical help as soon as possible. Cyclothymia generally doesn't get better on its own. If you're reluctant to seek treatment, work up the courage to confide in someone who can help you take that first step.
If a loved one has symptoms of cyclothymia, talk openly and honestly with that person about your concerns. You can't force someone to seek professional help, but you can offer support and help find a qualified doctor or mental health provider.
Although suicidal thoughts might occur with cyclothymia, they're more likely to occur if you have bipolar I or II disorder. If you're considering suicide right now:
If you just can't make that call, reach out to someone else — immediately — such as your doctor, mental health provider, family member, friend or someone in your faith community.
It's not known specifically what causes cyclothymia. As with many mental health disorders, research shows that it may result from a combination of:
Cyclothymia is thought to be relatively rare. But true estimates are hard to pin down because people may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as having other mood disorders, such as depression.
Cyclothymia typically starts during the teenage years or young adulthood. It affects about the same number of males and females.
If you have cyclothymia:
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 symptoms from becoming full-blown episodes of hypomania, mania or major depression.
Your doctor or other health care provider must determine if you have cyclothymia, bipolar I or II disorder, depression, or another condition that may be causing your symptoms. To help pinpoint a diagnosis for your symptoms, you'll likely have several exams and tests, which generally include:
For a diagnosis of cyclothymia, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists these points:
Cyclothymia requires lifelong treatment — even during periods when you feel better — usually guided by a mental health provider skilled in treating the condition. To treat cyclothymia, your doctor or mental health provider works with you to:
The main treatments for cyclothymia are medications and psychotherapy.
No medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically for cyclothymia, but your doctor may prescribe medications used to treat bipolar disorder. These medications may help control cyclothymia symptoms and prevent periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms.
Psychotherapy, also called psychological counseling or talk therapy, is a vital part of cyclothymia treatment and can be provided in individual, family or group settings. Several types of therapy may be helpful, such as:
In addition to professional treatment, you can build on your treatment plan by following these lifestyle and self-care steps:
Coping with cyclothymia can be difficult. During periods when you feel better, or during hypomanic symptoms, you may be tempted to stop treatment. Here are some ways to cope with cyclothymia:
If you have signs and symptoms common to cyclothymia, call your doctor. After your initial appointment, your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider who can help make a diagnosis and create the right treatment plan for you.
You might want to ask a trusted family member or friend to come to your appointment, if possible. Someone close to you may provide additional insight about your condition and can help you remember what's discussed during your appointment.
Before your appointment, make a list of:
Questions may include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions.
Your doctor or mental health provider may ask: