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What is Cyclothymia?

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Updated June 30, 2014

Question: What is Cyclothymia?
Answer: Cyclothymia is a form of bipolar disorder that most people haven't heard of. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), cyclothymia or cyclothymic disorder - also called (incorrectly) cyclothymia disorder and bipolar cyclothymia - is "a chronic, fluctuating mood disturbance involving numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms and numerous periods of depressive symptoms." Simply translated, this means cyclothymia is a long-term condition where the person's moods cycle between hypomania - a "high" that can be mild to fairly severe but does not include delusions, hallucinations or other psychotic features - and depression, also mild to fairly severe but not incapacitating or suicidal.

Here's what goes into a diagnosis of cyclothymia:

  • All the criteria are met for a hypomanic episode
  • Symptoms do not qualify as manic or major depressive episodes
  • Symptoms never ease up for more than two months
  • There hasn't been a manic, mixed or major depressive episode in the first two years of symptoms
  • Another disorder is not responsible for symptoms
  • Symptoms are not caused by a drug or general medical condition
Cyclothymia is not a "mild" form of bipolar disorder. Symptoms of severe hypomania can cause serious problems, and severe depression, even if not incapacitating, can make the life a person with cyclothymia very difficult.

See Change Proposed for Definition and Diagnosing of Cyclothymia for an important update.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Bipolar Disorder
  4. Forms of BP
  5. Cyclothymia
  6. What is Bipolar Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder?

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