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What are the Symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder?

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi • updated: 9/15/2010

Cyclothymic disorder has symptoms which are similar to bipolar disorder, but they are considered to be less severe yet last for at least two years. If you're looking for the symptoms of cyclothymia, you've found them.

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    Cyclothymic disorder is what again?

    You may be familiar with cyclothymic disorder or you may not. It is certainly not a well known mental illness among the general population. However, bipolar disorder is, and it is very similar in nature with periods of depression and hypomania. Cyclothymia is a chronic form of bipolar disorder that lasts for at least two years, but it is less severe1. People who suffer from cyclothymia have not had episodes of major depression, mania, or a mixed episode of both during the first two years where symptoms are present, but they have consistently experienced light depression or hypomania during their cyclothymic period. If they are symptom free for two months or more during this two year period, they do not have cyclothymic disorder. Episodes can't be a result of some other mental illness or due to substance abuse.

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    The symptoms of cyclothymic disorder

    There are two major symptoms associated with cyclothyic disorder which are hypomania and light depression. Usually, people will seek treatment for their depression, and, only later, it will come to light that they have periods of hypomania. The symptoms of cyclothymia are the same as bipolar disorder, but they do not occur for as long.

    Symptoms of hypomania can appear in many forms and include an unusually good mood, extreme optimism, racing thoughts, rapid speech, and inflated self-esteem2. There will also be a noticeable change in behavior as well with a reduced need for sleep and increased physical activity which may manifest itself in risky behavior, spending sprees, and increased sexual drive. They would also exhibit an increased drive to perform or achieve goals. Also, agitation, hostile behavior, and a lack of concern for others may also be present. Yet, people in a hypomanic state may not be able to concentrate or may be easily distracted. These feelings would probably be seen as positives, and people may not want to treat this hypomanic state.

    The cycle of depression will be a stark contrast to the period of hypomania, but there are a couple of symptoms which may be apparent in both states. These symptoms are agitation and having problems concentrating. A plethora of other problems may also be present during the periods of light depression including the common symptoms of depression: sadness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts or behavior, and a loss of interest in daily activities. Also present may be anxiety, guilt, sleep problems, lack of appetite or excessive appetite, fatigue, decreased sex drive, and periods of chronic pain with no known cause.

    Symptoms of cyclothymic disorder are also very short when compared to bipolar disorder or a major depressive episode where people suffering from cyclothymic disorder may experience periods as short as a few hours before they switch back to normal or the other end of the spectrum1. Almost all who suffer from cyclothymia will also experience periods where they suffer from symptoms of both depression and hypomania knowned as mixed period. This period will likely make the sufferer highly agitated. These are the common symptoms of cyclothymic disorder.