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Cyclothymic Disorder


William Coryell

, MD, Carver College of Medicine at University of Iowa

Last full review/revision Mar 2020| Content last modified Mar 2020

In cyclothymic disorder, relatively mild and short episodes of elation (hypomania) alternate with mild and short episodes of sadness (depression).

Cyclothymic disorder resembles bipolar disorder but is less severe. The episodes of elation and sadness are less intense, typically last for only a few days, and recur fairly often at irregular intervals. This disorder may develop into bipolar disorder or may continue as extreme moodiness.

Having cyclothymic disorder may contribute to success in business, leadership, achievement, and artistic creativity. However, it may also result in uneven work and school records, frequent change of residence, repeated romantic breakups or marital failure, and alcohol use and other substance use disorders.

Doctors diagnose cyclothymic disorder based on the distinctive pattern of symptoms.

Treatment of Cyclothymic Disorder

  • Education and support
  • Sometimes drugs that stabilize mood

People with cyclothymic disorder need to learn how to live with the extremes of their temperamental inclinations. However, living with cyclothymic disorder is not easy because interpersonal relationships are often stormy. Getting a job with flexible hours or, for people with artistic inclinations, pursuing a career in the arts may make it easier.

A drug that stabilizes mood (such as lithium or an antiseizure drug) may be used if cyclothymic disorder makes functioning difficult. People may tolerate the antiseizure drug divalproex better than lithium. Antidepressants are not used unless depression is severe and has lasted a long time because they can cause rapid switching from one mood to the other (rapid cycling).

Support groups can help by providing a forum to share common experiences and feelings.

More Information about Cyclothymic Disorder

  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), Cyclothymic Disorder: General information about how the diagnosis of cyclothymic disorder relates to bipolar disorder

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
lithium LITHOBID

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