Cyclothymia is a chronic mood disorder that results in emotional ups and downs. Between the cyclothymic highs and lows, the person will typically feel fine and stable. The highs and lows of cyclothymia are less extreme than those associated with bipolar disorder; however, if the symptoms are not managed correctly, there is an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder. The symptoms of cyclothymia include alternating patterns of emotional highs and lows with the highs characterized by hypomanic symptoms and the lows characterized by mild to moderate symptoms of depression. Someone with cyclothymia will typically be able to perform many of their daily activities, however, the unpredictable mood changes may cause a significant disruption as they never know how they are going to feel. The symptoms of the hypomania phase and the depressive stage of cyclothymia differ from each other.
The symptoms of the hypomanic phase of cyclothymic disorder include agitation, over optimism, inconsideration of others, an increased desire to complete goals, poor judgment, rapid speech and an increase in self-esteem. Other symptoms are:
- Difficulty concentrating due to continuous "racing" thoughts
- Racing thoughts-they cannot focus on the task at hand and therefore are constantly thinking ahead
- Aggressive or hostile behavior-he/she may become aggressive at the slightest inconvenience
- Unusual cheerfulness or good mood-also known as euphoria
- Risky behavior such as substance use or increased and unprotected sexual activity
- Spending sprees-shopping for unnecessary items without thinking of the financial consequences
- Increase in physical activity-examples include running or jogging more than usual
- Less need for sleep- they will often attempt to stay awake for several days
During the depressive phase of cyclothymic disorder the person may experience extreme sadness, hopelessness, irritability, fatigue, difficulties concentrating, guilt and a decrease in sex drive. Other symptoms are:
- Sleeping difficulties- they may sleep more than usual, or have difficulties falling/staying asleep
- Changes in appetite-they may be unable to eat or may eat more than usual
- Chronic physical pain-may include muscle aches, headache, stomach ache and other pains not associated with a medical condition
- Loss of interest in activities- he/she may lose the desire to spend time with usual hobbies, will not want to associate with friends/family and may miss work
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior-they may talk about death, contemplate suicide or act out on their suicidal thoughts.