Understanding Cyclothymia

IMAGE Cyclothymia is a disorder characterized by numerous periods of elevated or irritable mood, alternating with mild depression . These episodes generally last a few days and do not follow a regular pattern. Cyclothymia disorder is related to, but not as severe as, bipolar disorder .

Mood Swings

Cyclothymia is classified as a chronic mood disorder. People with cyclothymia go through periods of elevated mood called hypomania. Hypomania is a less extreme version of mania that is not associated with psychotic breaks from reality and/or hallucinations. Hypomania more or less flies under the radar. Some people who have hypomania may exhibit behavior that is over and above their normal state, which for close friends and relatives, can be a tip off that something is wrong.People in a hypomanic state do not sleep as often, do not feel tired, may engage in risky behaviors, and make bad decisions. Gambling, excess alcohol, and sexual promiscuity are common in people with cyclothymia because they do not see the negative consequences of their behavior. Mood swings during this period occur as well. During hypomania, a person can feel elated, irritable, and angry. Hypomanic episodes can also result in high productivity and creativity.On the flip side, people with cyclothymia experience short episodes of mild depression. Symptoms of hopelessness, fatigue, apathy, and irritibility are common. During this time, a person may withdraw from friends and family and have problems concentrating or remembering.These swings in mood and temperament often negatively impact a person's work and social life. Consequences often include instability with an uneven work and schooling history, impulsive and frequent changes of residence, repeated romantic or marital breakups, and an episodic abuse of alcohol and drugs.


Cyclothymia often becomes apparent during adolescence or early adulthood. It is more common in women than in men. Like bipolar disorder, cyclothymia tends to run in families. There may be a genetic link between the two.Cyclothymia affects up to 1% of the population, but estimates may be higher because it is often diagnosed as another disorder or goes unnoticed.

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