Cyclothymia, a mild form of bipolar disorder, is characterized by mood swings from mild or moderate depression to hypomania. Hypomania involves periods of elevated mood, euphoria, and excitement but does not disconnect a person from reality.

A person with cyclothymia experiences symptoms of hypomania but no full-blown manic episodes. Hypomania may feel good to the person who experiences it and may lead to enhanced functioning and productivity. Thus even when family and friends learn to recognize the mood swings as possible bipolar disorder, the person may deny that a problem exists. Without proper treatment, however, hypomania can become severe mania or can turn into depression.

For cyclothymic symptoms to be diagnosed, hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms must be present alternately for at least two years. The risk of bipolar disorder developing in people with cyclothymia is about 33 percent. While this is 33 times greater than that for the general population, this rate of risk is still too low to justify viewing cyclothymia as merely an early manifestation of bipolar type I disorder.

Cyclothymia. Last reviewed 12/31/1969
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  • American Journal of Psychiatry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease
  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Institutes of Mental Health - Genetics Workgroup
  • Postgraduate Medicine
  • Journal of Psychiatric Research
  • US Public Heath Service - Office of Surgeon General
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