Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder. It is characterized by mood fluctuations that shift between depressive and hypomanic phases. Cyclothymics do not experience the extremes of major depression or manic episodes.

The depressive or hypomanic symptoms of cyclothymia may last for a few days to several weeks at a time, with brief intervals of normal mood in between. Personality changes are often evident to family and friends. Individuals who have a stable mood for longer than two months at a time are not likely cyclothymic. Symptoms may be mimicked by substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, or other mood disorder. A family history of depressive or bipolar disorders increases the risk.

Symptoms of Cyclothymia

Hypomanic Phase

Depressive Phase

The cycling between phases must be present for at least two years for a diagnosis (one year for teenagers). Work and family life are often negatively affected by the shifting moods.

Differences by Gender and Age

Cyclothymia, like the related bipolar disorder, affects men and women in roughly equal numbers. The disorder typically begins in the teenage or young adult years. Onset later in life is rare, and may be brought on by substance abuse or certain medications. Cyclothymia may progress to bipolar, though treatment may prevent this.

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