8 Symptoms Of Cyclothymic Disorder And When To Seek Help

Updated February 5, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 2.6% of the adult population in the United States has bipolar disorder. There are different types of bipolar disorder, including cyclothymic disorder, which may affect an even smaller percentage of individuals. As a result, it can be easy to live with cyclothymic disorder and be unaware of its impacts or potential consequences. Understanding what cyclothymic disorder is and identifying its symptoms may help you determine if it is necessary to seek help.  

Want To Learn Effective Ways To Manage Cyclothymic Disorder?

What Is A Bipolar Episode?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme mood swings that range from mania to depression. While most people can experience changes in mood that are temporary and that do not affect daily life, people with bipolar disorder experience more dramatic changes. These changes, also called episodes, are typically classified as manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes.

Mania (or Manic Episode)

Manic stages are generally characterized by periods of being very energetic and talkative, appearing restless, and presenting with a period of euphoria. During this stage of bipolar disorder episodes, some people may participate in risky behavior, such as using alcohol or illicit substances, engaging in unprotected sex, and more. Disruptions in professional and personal relationships and roles are not uncommon during manic episodes.


Hypomanic episodes have symptoms like those of mania. However, the symptoms are usually not as severe and often do not cause critical issues in one’s personal or professional lives. Symptoms of hypomania typically last for most of the day for at least four days.

Depressive Episodes

The depressive stage of bipolar disorder is characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness, and fatigue. An affected individual may have trouble concentrating and experience irritability, changes in appetite, and poor sleep patterns, among other symptoms. 

How Many Types Of Bipolar Disorder Are There?

There are several types of bipolar disorder, and each type can involve episodes of depression and mania to a certain degree.

  • Bipolar I disorder may involve periods of severe mood episodes that cycle from mania to depression.

  • Bipolar II disorder may involve milder episodes of hypomania that alternate with periods of severe depression.

  • Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is often referred to as a more severe version of bipolar disorder. Individuals who experience this form of bipolar disorder typically experience at least four episodes of mania, hypomania, or major depression within twelve months. People who experience a bipolar episode at a young age and women are potentially more likely to develop rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.

  • Bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms is another severe form of bipolar disorder. Mood episodes associated with this type of bipolar disorder may include delusions or hallucinations. These symptoms are features of psychosis, a severe mental health disorder in which thoughts and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.

  • Mixed features refers to the presence of several symptoms of both manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes. Many people experience high energy, insomnia, and racing thoughts, but at the same time may feel irritable or hopeless.

  • Cyclothymic disorder, also known as cyclothymia, is a form of bipolar disorder that can be characterized by distinct episodes of hypomania and depressive symptoms.

 Cyclothymic Disorder Symptoms

One thing that makes cyclothymic disorder different from other bipolar disorders is that symptoms last over a period of at least two years. Although the mood changes this disorder can produce are generally not severe enough to meet the criteria for a hypomanic or depressive episode, they can be present at least 50% of the time. Additionally, lapses between episodes usually occur no more than two months apart, according to the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

Overall, a person with cyclothymic disorder will likely experience hypomanic episodes, but  manic episodes typically do not occur. In fact, rather than being bothersome, some people report feeling increased productivity and focus as a result of their symptoms. Unfortunately, without proper treatment, things can quickly take a turn for the worst. Therefore, it is important to seek help as soon as symptoms are evident, even if they don’t appear to be disruptive to daily life or obligations.

8 Common Symptoms Of Cyclothymic Disorder

Hypomanic Episodes Of Cyclothymic Disorder May Include:

  • Grandiose personality. Grandiosity refers to having an unrealistic sense of superiority. It may be characterized by viewing oneself as better than others, viewing others as inferior, or believing that one has traits that are unique only to the affected person.

  • Distractibility, inability to concentrate on one subject. Despite attempts to carry on a conversation or complete a task, when episodes of hypomania occur, the affected individual often feels like it is impossible to “stay on track.” They may begin several projects but not complete any of them.

  • Excessive involvement in risky behavior. Risky behaviors may have a high potential for negative consequences. Examples include going on spending sprees, having an extra-marital affair, or experimenting with recreational drugs.

  • Distinct changes in mood or behavior that are observable by others. These mood changes often involve a “powerful personality” or attention-seeking behavior, an unusually high elevation in mood, and a lack of empathy toward others.

 Depressive Episodes Of Cyclothymic Disorder May Include:

  • Having a significant change in appetite and/or weight. A person’s appetite can be affected differently by mood. Some people eat very little or not at all while others may engage in binge-eating. This can result in rapid weight loss or gain. In many cases, appetite changes can be very extreme in one way or the other and are usually noticeable to others.

  • Severe fatigue or lack of energy. The fatigue associated with depressive episodes usually occurs suddenly and may leave the individual feeling like they don’t have the energy to accomplish even simple tasks, such as bathing or drinking enough water each day.

  • Having trouble with memory, concentration, or decision-making. During a depressive episode, lapses in memory may occur. Concentration may appear fragmented, and tasks that would otherwise be simple might feel overwhelming.

  • Having thoughts about or contemplating suicide. When feelings of numbness or sadness take a strong hold, some people with cyclothymic disorder may begin to have thoughts of or attempt self-harm. If you or someone you know is in need of immediate support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline offers free emotional support to those in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Treatment Of Cyclothymia

Want To Learn Effective Ways To Manage Cyclothymic Disorder?

Currently, no medication is explicitly approved for the treatment of cyclothymia disorder. However, a primary care provider or mental health professional may prescribe certain medications to manage the symptoms associated with the disorder. 

Cyclothymia symptoms are not as pronounced as those of “classic” bipolar disorder; it often goes undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated. This may be especially true because many people who experience hypomanic symptoms don’t view them as disruptive, even though they may still lead to consequences. More often, depressive symptoms are what motivate a person to get help, though they still may not realize that what they’re experiencing is cyclothymic disorder rather than another mental illness.

In addition to possible medication management, psychotherapy (talk therapy) is usually recommended for those living with any type of bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy is a term used to describe a variety of treatment techniques that help individuals learn to identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Seeking Help For Cyclothymic Disorder

If you or someone you know is experiencing cyclothymic disorder symptoms, it may be wise to make an appointment with your primary care provider for a consultation. They can perform a physical exam and assessment and provide you with a referral to a mental healthcare provider as needed for monitoring, medication, and other support. 

In addition to speaking with your doctor, it may be a good idea to reach out to a licensed therapist who can help you begin pursuing psychotherapy that makes sense for your needs. And even if you are not yet comfortable with meeting personally with a counselor or therapist, online counseling services are available to help. By meeting with a therapist online, you can get help at a time and place that works for you.

Not only is online therapy convenient, but it’s also capable of significantly improving various mental health symptoms. In fact, one recent review of 17 studies on the effectiveness of online cognitive behavioral therapy found that it could be just as effective as in-person treatment in terms of treating mental health symptoms, specifically those related to depression. The same review also discovered that online therapy was a more cost-effective option for clients, which may mean that it makes it easier to pursue treatment consistently and with minimal stress. 


Cyclothymic disorder, a type of bipolar disorder, can produce symptoms that may be tricky to detect but can be potentially harmful to your mental health nonetheless. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, it may be time to reach out your doctor and a mental health professional so that you can receive the treatment you may need.

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