Cyclothymia is considered a milder form of bipolar disorder. Extreme mood swings are experienced; however, the severity of manic episodes and depression is less than what a Type 1 bipolar sufferer will experience.
Symptoms of cyclothymia include mood swings with regular periods in-between; the subject has experienced these for at least two years; social maladjustment or discomfort during these periods; symptoms not conforming to those of other forms of bipolar disorder. For kids and young adults, the symptoms of hypomania and low-grade depression have to be present for at least one year before a clinical diagnosis can be made. While the symptoms with cylcothymia may be milder, they may possibly persist for longer than with bipolar disorder.
The condition is gender neutral and can affect both men and women equally. Early diagnosis can be tricky because the symptoms associated with cyclothymia are a feature of other conditions such as adjustment disorders, ADHD, and mood disorders. The psychologist has to be able to determine whether a case of depression has arisen from events in the subject’s life or can be traced to a medical condition. Diagnosing the condition in children is made difficult by the fact that hypomania exhibited in cyclothymia is similar to that exhibited by children with ADHD. Diagnosis is also hampered because cyclothymia can appear as a co-morbidity with other conditions. In the absence of a clear chemical marker, assessing the presence and extent of this condition calls upon skill, knowledge, and experience on part of the doctor.
The treatment for both conditions follows similar lines; both can be treated with medication and therapy. Often people do not feel the need for treatment because the mood swings aren’t particularly debilitating and are over quickly. However, periods of normalcy rarely last for more than two months. This approach of avoiding treatment can take a high toll on a person’s health and relationships. Work suffers, family and friends find it difficult to live with a person who cannot be relied on. A more important reason to get the condition diagnosed and treated is that 33% to 50% of those with cyclothymia end up with bipolar disorder. The chances of this happening are higher if an individual’s family has a history of bipolar disorder.
Therapy, where a psychologist talks to the subject, is a great tool to help one recognise the triggers that lead to this condition. Lack of sleep, caffeine, and alcohol can lead to an episode of cyclothymia.