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What Causes Cyclothymic Disorder?

What Causes Cyclothymic Disorder?

Cyclothymia, sometimes referred to as cyclothymic disorder, is a rare mood disorder characterized by emotional ups and downs, similar to but not as severe as bipolar disorder.

Although the highs and lows of cyclothymia are less extreme than those of bipolar disorder, it’s critical to seek help because they can interfere with your life and increase your risk of bipolar I or II disorder. If you have cyclothymia, you can typically function in your daily life, though not always well. Untreated, the unpredictable nature of these mood shifts can significantly disrupt your life.

Cyclothymic Disorder Symptoms

Cyclothymia symptoms alternate between emotional highs and lows. The highs of cyclothymia include symptoms of an elevated mood, or hypomanic symptoms. The lows consist of mild or moderate depressive symptoms.

Hypomanic symptoms

Signs and symptoms of the highs of cyclothymia may include:

  • An exaggerated feeling of happiness or well-being (euphoria)
  • Extreme optimism
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Talking more than usual
  • Poor judgment that can result in risky behavior or unwise choices
  • Racing thoughts
  • Irritable or agitated behavior
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Increased drive to perform or achieve goals (sexual, work related or social)
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Tendency to be easily distracted
  • Inability to concentrate

Depressive symptoms

Signs and symptoms of the lows of cyclothymia may include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or empty
  • Tearfulness
  • Irritability, especially in children and teenagers
  • Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
  • Changes in weight
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Sleep problems
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue or feeling slowed down
  • Problems concentrating
  • Thinking of death or suicide

Diagnostic criteria

For a diagnosis of cyclothymia, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists these points:

  • You’ve had many periods of elevated mood (hypomanic symptoms) and periods of depressive symptoms for at least two years (one year for children and teenagers) — with these highs and lows occurring during at least half that time.
  • Periods of stable moods usually last less than two months.
  • Your symptoms significantly affect you socially, at work, at school or in other important areas.
  • Your symptoms don’t meet the criteria for bipolar disorder, major depression or another mental disorder.
  • Your symptoms aren’t caused by substance use or a medical condition.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you suspect you or someone you love is dealing with cyclothymia, we can help. Speak with a confidential counselor right now at (855) 525-3180.


Cyclothymia typically starts during the teenage years or young adulthood. It affects about the same number of males and females. Its root cause is unknown. As with many mental health disorders, research shows that there may be a combination of contributing factors which include:

  • Heredity – cyclothymia tends to run in families
  • Differences in the way the brain works – changes in the brain’s neurobiology
  • Environment – traumatic experiences or prolonged periods of stress


While there is no known way to prevent cyclothymia, seeking treatment at its earliest indication can prevent cyclothymia from worsening and significantly lessen your symptoms. To treat cyclothymia, your doctor or mental health provider will work with you to:

  • Decrease your risk of bipolar I or II disorder, because cyclothymia carries a high risk of developing into bipolar disorder
  • Reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms, allowing you to live a more balanced and enjoyable life
  • Prevent a relapse of symptoms, through continued treatment during periods of remission
  • Treat alcohol or other substance use problems, since they can worsen cyclothymia symptoms

Treatment options for cyclothymia include talk therapy (psychotherapy), medications and close, ongoing follow-up with your doctor.

There are no medications specifically prescribed for cyclothymia, but medications used to treat bipolar disorder may be helpful. These medications can help control symptoms and mitigate periods of hypomania and depression.


Psychotherapy, also called psychological counseling or talk therapy, is a vital part of cyclothymia treatment and can be provided in individual, family or group settings. Several types of therapy may be helpful, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A common treatment for cyclothymia, the focus of CBT is to identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. CBT can help identify what triggers your symptoms. You also learn effective strategies to manage stress and cope with upsetting situations.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT). IPSRT focuses on the stabilization of daily rhythms, such as sleeping, waking and mealtimes. A consistent routine allows for better mood management. People with mood disorders may benefit from establishing a daily routine for sleep, diet and exercise
  • Other therapies. Other therapies have been studied with some evidence of success. Ask your doctor if any other options may be appropriate for you.

The very good news is that mood disorders can be successfully treated. You can be free of your mood disorder’s grip!

At Honey Lake Clinic, our experienced doctors and staff strongly believe that faith-based treatment, encompassing mind, body and spirit, will help you develop the spiritual and psychological skills which bring renewal and healing.

Our professional and experienced team of licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatric specialists will assist you in regaining control of your life. The individualized treatment, experienced staff, and tranquil environment at Honey Lake Clinic can help you regain control of your life and find lasting transformation.

You can get started today with something as simple as a phone call. What are you waiting for? To learn more or get started today, call Honey Lake Clinic (888) 837-6577, email or visit