Mental Health: Cyclothymia

meantal health

Emily Stranahan/ The Carolinian

Ailey O’Toole
   Staff Writer

Cyclothymia is a rare mood disorder in which the patient experiences emotional highs and lows. The symptoms are similar to those of bipolar disorder, but they are less severe.

If you have cyclothymia, you can generally still operate in your daily life, though some days not as well as others. The unpredictable nature of a cyclothymia patient’s mood swings may disrupt his or her life because he or she can’t predict how he or she is going to feel.

The symptoms of emotional highs of cyclothymia are indicative of an elevated mood, also known as hypomanic symptoms.

These include an exaggerated feeling of happiness or extreme optimism, inflated self-esteem, talking more than usual, poor judgment resulting in risky, impulsive behavior, racing thoughts, agitated behavior, excessive physical activity, increased sex drive, decreased need for sleep and more easily distracted.

If you remember my previous article about bipolar disorder, these symptoms are very similar to the manic symptoms that are indicative of bipolar I.

The emotional lows are defined as mild or moderate depressive symptoms.

These symptoms include feeling sad, hopeless or empty, tearfulness, irritability, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, changes in weight, feelings of worthlessness, sleep problems, restlessness and thinking of death or suicide.

If you are experiencing symptoms of cyclothymia, seek medical help as soon as possible. Cyclothymic symptoms don’t usually alleviate on their own. If you’re feeling reluctant or anxious to seek treatment, try working up the courage to confide in someone who can help you take the first step in treatment.

If someone you know displays symptoms of cyclothymia, talk openly and honestly with that person about your concerns. You can’t force someone to seek professional help, but you can offer support and help find a qualified doctor or mental health provider.

Cyclothymia, like most mental illnesses, requires lifelong treatment, especially in order to prevent the development of bipolar disorder.

Therapists can help patients reduce the frequency and severity of their symptoms in order for them to live more balanced and enjoyable lives.

Psychotherapy can also help prevent a relapse of symptoms through continued treatment during periods of remission; this is called maintenance treatment. A very important part of treatment for cyclothymia patients is helping to treat alcohol or other substance abuse problems, since they can worsen symptoms of cyclothymia.

Mental health care providers may also prescribe medications to treat cyclothymia. No specific medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for cyclothymia, but doctors may prescribe medicines used to treat bipolar disorder, such as mood stabilizers, since so many of the symptoms overlap.

There are several different types of psychotherapy—also called counseling or talk therapy—that are used in the treatment of cyclothymia and can be provided in individual, family or group settings.

A common treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the focus of which is to identify unhealthy and negative beliefs and behaviors, and replace them with healthy, positive ones. This kind of therapy can help to identify what triggers a cyclothymia patient’s symptoms and teaches him effective strategies to manage stress and cope with upsetting situations.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) is also used to treat cyclothymia because it focuses on stabilizing daily rhythms, such as sleep schedule and mealtimes. A consistent daily routine allows the patient to have better mood management. People with mood disorders usually benefit from establishing a daily routine for sleep, diet and exercise.

As always, don’t be afraid to seek help. UNC-Greensboro’s counseling center offers therapists for psychotherapy and psychiatrists who can help with prescribing medications. They also offer group therapy sessions and support groups.

You can schedule an appointment at any time by calling 336-334-5340.

The national suicide helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255.

There are many avenues you can pursue in getting help and you should never be ashamed to ask for it. I support you!

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