Treating Cyclothymic Disorder

Reviewed Mar 1, 2017

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Summary

  • Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder.
  • Some people may find symptoms mild enough not to treat.
  • The best treatment plan includes medicine, psychotherapy, and healthy lifestyle habits.

Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder. It is marked by swings between high and low moods. The high is called hypomania. It involves a period of high activity or energy. It may also be marked by feelings of great happiness for no reason and strong self-confidence. Hypomania is not as harsh as the mania seen in bipolar I disorder.

The lows of this disorder look and feel like depression. It involves low mood, activity, and energy. Some people may not be bothered enough by the lows to seek help. The same is true for the highs. What’s more, people may feel fine between the highs and the lows. The key is to note the symptoms that do cause distress and work with a doctor to find the best treatment plan.

Treatment

Treatments include:

  • Medicine
  • Talk therapy
  • Healthy lifestyle habits
  • Recovery supports

People often do best when all four of the above are used at the same time. But the best approach depends on the person, her symptoms, and how each treatment works for her.

Some people with this disorder may find their symptoms mild. They may not feel the need to seek treatment. Or they may feel more productive during the hypomania phase. This can make people pleased rather than upset. Some people may find talk therapy alone is enough during the lows. Or they may find that healthy lifestyle habits are the key.

Medications

Some of the same medicines that are used to treat bipolar I disorder can be given for this disorder. Some people may not respond as well to these medications as people with bipolar I disorder. But mostly these medicines can help.

Although there are no formal U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medications indicated to treat cyclothymic disorder, doctors sometimes use lithium to treat symptoms. It may take a few weeks and a few dose adjustments for people to feel the full positive effects. In some cases, it may take as long as a few months coupled with a few dose adjustments for people to see the best results. Some of the other medicines that are sometimes prescribed for this condition include:

  • Valproate (such as Depakote®)
  • Carbamazepine (such as Tegretol®)
  • Lamotrigine (such as Lamictal®)
  • Lithium

In general, antidepressants should be used with caution. Sometimes they can cause someone who has cyclothymic disorder to become hypomanic or even manic.

People may choose to stop taking medicines after some time. If you choose to stop, it is important to work with a doctor to do it safely. The doctor will watch you to make sure you are managing well without it.

Talk therapy

An ideal treatment plan for cyclothymic disorder includes talk therapy. Talk therapy can help someone:

  • Cope with mood swings
  • Learn about the illness
  • Solve problems
  • Repair relationships

Some types of therapy can address more exact needs for living with a mood disorder. For instance, there is therapy to help make life goals, handle stress, and change behavior. These types of therapies educate people. They also help them set up healthy sleep patterns and daily routines. Couples and family therapy can also help solve problems due to mood swings.

Healthy lifestyle habits

There are daily habits that can improve symptoms for people with cyclothymic disorder:

  • Keep regular daily routines
  • Get regular sleep
  • Exercise daily
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol

Recovery supports

These are provided by peers who have had mental health struggles:

  • Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®)
  • Peer support
  • Recovery education

Finding hope

Even though cyclothymic disorder may be a lifelong condition, it is treatable. Symptoms can change, though—in fact, people often start and stop treatment at different points in their lives. But it is important to work with a doctor to find the best treatment for you.

Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
www.dbsalliance.org
(800) 273-TALK

National Alliance on Mental Illness
www.nami.org/Find-Support
(800) 950-NAMI

By Sarah Stone
Source: American Psychiatric Association. (2015) Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5; Stratford, HJ et al. (2015) “Psychological Therapy for Anxiety in Bipolar Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review.” Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 35;19-34; U.S. National Library of Medicine, Cyclothymic Disorder, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001550.htm; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cyclothymia/basics/definition/con-20028763
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD Associate CMO, Operations, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder.
  • Some people may find symptoms mild enough not to treat.
  • The best treatment plan includes medicine, psychotherapy, and healthy lifestyle habits.

Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder. It is marked by swings between high and low moods. The high is called hypomania. It involves a period of high activity or energy. It may also be marked by feelings of great happiness for no reason and strong self-confidence. Hypomania is not as harsh as the mania seen in bipolar I disorder.

The lows of this disorder look and feel like depression. It involves low mood, activity, and energy. Some people may not be bothered enough by the lows to seek help. The same is true for the highs. What’s more, people may feel fine between the highs and the lows. The key is to note the symptoms that do cause distress and work with a doctor to find the best treatment plan.

Treatment

Treatments include:

  • Medicine
  • Talk therapy
  • Healthy lifestyle habits
  • Recovery supports

People often do best when all four of the above are used at the same time. But the best approach depends on the person, her symptoms, and how each treatment works for her.

Some people with this disorder may find their symptoms mild. They may not feel the need to seek treatment. Or they may feel more productive during the hypomania phase. This can make people pleased rather than upset. Some people may find talk therapy alone is enough during the lows. Or they may find that healthy lifestyle habits are the key.

Medications

Some of the same medicines that are used to treat bipolar I disorder can be given for this disorder. Some people may not respond as well to these medications as people with bipolar I disorder. But mostly these medicines can help.

Although there are no formal U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medications indicated to treat cyclothymic disorder, doctors sometimes use lithium to treat symptoms. It may take a few weeks and a few dose adjustments for people to feel the full positive effects. In some cases, it may take as long as a few months coupled with a few dose adjustments for people to see the best results. Some of the other medicines that are sometimes prescribed for this condition include:

  • Valproate (such as Depakote®)
  • Carbamazepine (such as Tegretol®)
  • Lamotrigine (such as Lamictal®)
  • Lithium

In general, antidepressants should be used with caution. Sometimes they can cause someone who has cyclothymic disorder to become hypomanic or even manic.

People may choose to stop taking medicines after some time. If you choose to stop, it is important to work with a doctor to do it safely. The doctor will watch you to make sure you are managing well without it.

Talk therapy

An ideal treatment plan for cyclothymic disorder includes talk therapy. Talk therapy can help someone:

  • Cope with mood swings
  • Learn about the illness
  • Solve problems
  • Repair relationships

Some types of therapy can address more exact needs for living with a mood disorder. For instance, there is therapy to help make life goals, handle stress, and change behavior. These types of therapies educate people. They also help them set up healthy sleep patterns and daily routines. Couples and family therapy can also help solve problems due to mood swings.

Healthy lifestyle habits

There are daily habits that can improve symptoms for people with cyclothymic disorder:

  • Keep regular daily routines
  • Get regular sleep
  • Exercise daily
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol

Recovery supports

These are provided by peers who have had mental health struggles:

  • Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®)
  • Peer support
  • Recovery education

Finding hope

Even though cyclothymic disorder may be a lifelong condition, it is treatable. Symptoms can change, though—in fact, people often start and stop treatment at different points in their lives. But it is important to work with a doctor to find the best treatment for you.

Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
www.dbsalliance.org
(800) 273-TALK

National Alliance on Mental Illness
www.nami.org/Find-Support
(800) 950-NAMI

By Sarah Stone
Source: American Psychiatric Association. (2015) Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5; Stratford, HJ et al. (2015) “Psychological Therapy for Anxiety in Bipolar Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review.” Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 35;19-34; U.S. National Library of Medicine, Cyclothymic Disorder, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001550.htm; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cyclothymia/basics/definition/con-20028763
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD Associate CMO, Operations, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder.
  • Some people may find symptoms mild enough not to treat.
  • The best treatment plan includes medicine, psychotherapy, and healthy lifestyle habits.

Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder. It is marked by swings between high and low moods. The high is called hypomania. It involves a period of high activity or energy. It may also be marked by feelings of great happiness for no reason and strong self-confidence. Hypomania is not as harsh as the mania seen in bipolar I disorder.

The lows of this disorder look and feel like depression. It involves low mood, activity, and energy. Some people may not be bothered enough by the lows to seek help. The same is true for the highs. What’s more, people may feel fine between the highs and the lows. The key is to note the symptoms that do cause distress and work with a doctor to find the best treatment plan.

Treatment

Treatments include:

  • Medicine
  • Talk therapy
  • Healthy lifestyle habits
  • Recovery supports

People often do best when all four of the above are used at the same time. But the best approach depends on the person, her symptoms, and how each treatment works for her.

Some people with this disorder may find their symptoms mild. They may not feel the need to seek treatment. Or they may feel more productive during the hypomania phase. This can make people pleased rather than upset. Some people may find talk therapy alone is enough during the lows. Or they may find that healthy lifestyle habits are the key.

Medications

Some of the same medicines that are used to treat bipolar I disorder can be given for this disorder. Some people may not respond as well to these medications as people with bipolar I disorder. But mostly these medicines can help.

Although there are no formal U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medications indicated to treat cyclothymic disorder, doctors sometimes use lithium to treat symptoms. It may take a few weeks and a few dose adjustments for people to feel the full positive effects. In some cases, it may take as long as a few months coupled with a few dose adjustments for people to see the best results. Some of the other medicines that are sometimes prescribed for this condition include:

  • Valproate (such as Depakote®)
  • Carbamazepine (such as Tegretol®)
  • Lamotrigine (such as Lamictal®)
  • Lithium

In general, antidepressants should be used with caution. Sometimes they can cause someone who has cyclothymic disorder to become hypomanic or even manic.

People may choose to stop taking medicines after some time. If you choose to stop, it is important to work with a doctor to do it safely. The doctor will watch you to make sure you are managing well without it.

Talk therapy

An ideal treatment plan for cyclothymic disorder includes talk therapy. Talk therapy can help someone:

  • Cope with mood swings
  • Learn about the illness
  • Solve problems
  • Repair relationships

Some types of therapy can address more exact needs for living with a mood disorder. For instance, there is therapy to help make life goals, handle stress, and change behavior. These types of therapies educate people. They also help them set up healthy sleep patterns and daily routines. Couples and family therapy can also help solve problems due to mood swings.

Healthy lifestyle habits

There are daily habits that can improve symptoms for people with cyclothymic disorder:

  • Keep regular daily routines
  • Get regular sleep
  • Exercise daily
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol

Recovery supports

These are provided by peers who have had mental health struggles:

  • Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®)
  • Peer support
  • Recovery education

Finding hope

Even though cyclothymic disorder may be a lifelong condition, it is treatable. Symptoms can change, though—in fact, people often start and stop treatment at different points in their lives. But it is important to work with a doctor to find the best treatment for you.

Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
www.dbsalliance.org
(800) 273-TALK

National Alliance on Mental Illness
www.nami.org/Find-Support
(800) 950-NAMI

By Sarah Stone
Source: American Psychiatric Association. (2015) Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5; Stratford, HJ et al. (2015) “Psychological Therapy for Anxiety in Bipolar Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review.” Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 35;19-34; U.S. National Library of Medicine, Cyclothymic Disorder, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001550.htm; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cyclothymia/basics/definition/con-20028763
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD Associate CMO, Operations, Beacon Health Options

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