Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Full description of Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia). Definition, signs, symptoms, causes of Cyclothymic Disorder.

Description of Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar II disorder and can be a precursor to bipolar II disorder. However, it can also occur as extreme moodiness without becoming a major mood disorder. Cyclothymia is characterized by hypomanic and mini-depressive periods that follow an irregular course.

For some people, cyclothymia may contribute to success in business, leadership, achievement, and artistic creativity; however, more often, like bipolar I disorder, it can have serious detrimental interpersonal and social results. Results often include instability with an uneven work and schooling history, impulsive and frequent changes of residence, repeated romantic or marital breakups, and an episodic abuse of alcohol and drugs.

Diagnostic Criteria for Cyclothymic Disorder

For a diagnosis of Cyclothymic Disorder associated with Bipolar Disorder, these are the signs and symptoms doctors are looking for:

A. For at least 2 years, the presence of numerous periods with hypomanic symptoms and numerous periods with depressive symptoms that do not meet criteria for a Major Depressive Episode. Note: In children and adolescents, the duration must be at least 1 year.

B. During the above 2-year period (1 year in children and adolescents), the person has not been without the symptoms in Criterion A for more than 2 months at a time.

C. No Major Depressive Episode, Manic Episode, or Mixed Episode has been present during the first 2 years of the disturbance.
Note: After the initial 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents) of Cyclothymic Disorder, there may be superimposed Manic, or Mixed Episodes (in which case both Bipolar I Disorder and Cyclothymic Disorder may be diagnosed) or Major Depressive Episodes (in which case both Bipolar II Disorder and Cyclothymic Disorder may be diagnosed).

D. The symptoms in Criteria A are not better accounted for by Schizoaffective Disorder and are not superimposed on Schizophrenia, Schizophreniform Disorder, Delusional Disorder, or Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

E. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g, a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

F. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Causes of Cyclothymic Disorder

While researchers believe Cyclothymia is a mild version of bipolar disorder, they aren't sure what causes Cyclothymia. As with many psychiatric disorders, the cause of Cyclothymic Disorder is probably related to genetics, brain chemistry and a person's environment. Like bipolar disorder, there seems to be a strong genetic component to cyclothymia - people with cyclothymia are likely to have relatives with bipolar disorder.

For comprehensive information on Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) and other forms of bipolar disorder, visit the Bipolar Disorder Community.

Sources: 1. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. 2. Merck Manual, Home Edition for Patients and Caregivers, last revised 2006.

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2009, January 2). Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 19 from

Last Updated: July 5, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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