Is Cyclothymia a Disorder? People who have Cyclothymic disorder usually do not realize they may have a treatable disorder because they feel that their mood swings are associated to life’s imbalance. Many things in life can trigger mood swings making it difficult to determine if there is a mood disorder. However, an individual that has unpredictable mood swings may have Cyclothymia and should be concerned. Individuals who have this disorder go through life on an emotional rollercoaster and tolerate up and down feelings, because they believe these feelings are normal emotions.
This research paper will give the definition, causes, and symptoms of Cyclothymic disorder and how it is diagnosed. I will also give examples of my own personal experience with mood swings; and interview an individual dealing with Cyclothymia to show evidence why some think this disorder is not a disorder at all. Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder is defined as a relatively mild mood disorder. “In Cyclothymic disorder, moods swing between short periods of mild depression and hypomania, an elevated mood. The low and high mood swings never reach the severity of major depression or mania.
Cyclothymia is a “Bipolar-like” illness. People with Cyclothymic disorder have milder symptoms than in full-blown Bipolar disorder” (WebMD). The exact cause of Cyclothymic disorder is still unknown however, “Depression researchers are exploring two sets of influences. One focuses on genetic predispositions and on abnormalities in brain structures and functions (including those found in neurotransmitter systems). The second, the social-cognitive perspective, examines the influence of cyclic self-defeating beliefs, learned helplessness, negative attributions, and stressful experiences.
The biopsychosocial approach considers influences on many levels” (Myers 529). Cyclothymic symptoms are generally similar to those of Bipolar disorder, but they are less severe. With Cyclothymia, an individual can typically function in daily life but the unpredictable nature of mood swings may significantly disrupt the individual’s life because he or she may never know how they are going to feel. Symptoms include mood swings that result in elevated confidence and energy levels to the inability to maintain enthusiasm for a new project.
In addition, these mood swings can cause abrupt changes in personality from cheerful to depressed or even anger. Personal relationships can suffer due to the influence of moods causing constant pulling and pushing away of emotions. It is also common for an individual with Cyclothymia to self-medicate by using alcohol or illegal drugs. The mood swings of Cyclothymia do not follow a set pattern. A person may experience the same mood swing for weeks, months, even years at a time before suddenly having the opposite mood.
In addition, the severities of mood swings differ from person to person. Hypomania is a mood that many do not perceive as a problem; it actually may feel good and give an individual a greater sense of well-being and productivity. Cyclothymic disorder is diagnosed by using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). “This manual contains diagnostic criteria and text containing information about the disorder such as associated features, prevalence, familial patterns, age-culture and gender specific features and differential diagnosis.
This manual is used by mental health professionals from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds in a wide range of settings” (American Psychiatric Association). According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, the DSM manual specifies six criteria that must be met for a diagnosis of Cyclothymic disorder: (1)Numerous episodes of hypomania and depression that are not severe enough to be considered major depression. These episodes must have lasted for at least two years. 2)During the same two-year period (one year for children and adolescents), the individual has not been free from either hypomania or mild depression for more than two months at a time. (3)No major depression, mania, or mixed (both depression and mania together) condition has been present during the first two years of the disorder. (4)The individual does not have a thought disorder such as schizophrenia or other psychotic condition. (5)The symptoms are not due to the direct effects of substance use (such as a drug of abuse or a prescribed medication) or to a medical condition. 6)The symptoms cause significant impairment in the patient’s social, occupational, family, or other important areas of life functioning. Not until doing research for a group presentation on Cyclothymia did I realize that I may be living with Cyclothymia and have been for quite some time. For example, for years I have struggled with mood swings that range from happiness to sadness then anger; optimistic to pessimistic; increased to decreased energy levels and much more. I have always related my mood swings to everything from life’s challenges to going through menopause.
When I am overwhelmingly happy, I have an extreme amount of energy and must stay busy. My thoughts race so fast that I can hardly keep up with new projects I begin because I am so eager to finish them. At times, this enormous amount of energy causes me to make rash decisions but to me it is at this time I make my best decisions. When really excited about learning and doing new things, I talk so fast that my husband has to tell me to slow down. In addition to the overwhelming feeling of happiness, my self-esteem is in a total comfort zone and I love everything about myself and love everyone around me.
However, all of that can change in a fraction of minute, from feeling on top of the world to feeling I hit rock bottom. When feeling depressed, it feels like no one cares or understands what I am going through and everything feels like its falling apart at the seams. I do not feel like laughing or talking to anyone and it does not take much for me to get upset with someone. I find myself aggravated by the silliest things, disagree, and find fault in everything; this causes those around me to feel intimidated.
I lose interest in the projects I started and I do not feel like doing anything outside of the basics. I feel tired and drained and cannot concentrate on the things I need to. I start seeing myself differently and get angry that I cannot change what I see or feel. I start dwelling on my past mistakes and connect them to every bad feeling I have. My family and co-workers have come to accept my moods and just stay clear of me when I am in my bitch mode. These mood swings make me feel so out of control.
I connect my moods with what I perceive as life’s normalcy of right, wrong, good or bad, it becomes very challenging to decipher whether or not my moods are associated with a disorder. Therefore, this gives me the assumption that many others may feel the same and go through years of dealing with mood disorders that they relate to normal feelings. Once again, life’s changes trigger mood swings and these changes are seen as normal in today’s society. There is no doubt this could be the reason why so many people with Cyclothymia deal with the disorder for years before deciding to seek treatment.
In an email interview, Heather Wilson, a co-worker that has been struggling with this disorder for years, stated: My therapist diagnosed me with Cyclothymia at the age of 40; I am now 47 years old. After years of dealing with mood swings, it was relieving to find out the lack of being steady in a relationship, committed to projects or family affairs, was not something that was all in my head. Feeling emotionally challenged and unable to relate to society is difficult. After the diagnosis, it felt as if someone released my mind from prison.
There were times I thought the men in white jackets were going to come, lock me up, and throw away the key. Now I take 600mg of lithium daily and it keeps me calm enough to be happy but not over the top and stops me from wanting to run my car in a ditch. Through my research, I have found that Cyclothymic disorder is mild mood swings that range from depression to hypomania. It is important for an individual to know the symptoms of this disorder. Even though the symptoms of Cyclothymia are mild they are chronic, and an individual may never completely feel free from the symptoms.
These symptoms can interfere with the ability to function in social and business environments, and can cause relationships to suffer because individuals lose interest in the feelings of others. Unlike Bipolar disorder, a person with Cyclothymia does not disconnect from reality. In order for an individual to be diagnosed with Cyclothymic disorder, hers or his symptoms must have lasted for more than two years, but never experiencing more than two consecutive symptom-free months.
When feeling energetic and cheerful (hypomania) an individual may not want to receive treatment. In addition, Cyclothymic sufferers should know that there are medicines and therapies that are helpful in managing the stress the disorder causes. Not recognizing Cyclothymic disorder symptoms or ignoring the disorder can lead to Bipolar disorder, so getting and following a treatment program is important. Research shows that any form of mood swings is not normal and they need to be taken seriously.