Living with Cyclothymia

What is it like living with cyclothymia?

Around 1% of the US population is living with cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder). The chronic mood disorder leaves people struggling with recurrent bouts of depression and periods of hypomania, in which they may deal with racing thoughts, irritability, and insomnia.

Since cyclothymia is a chronic condition, it can be tough for individuals to cope with fluctuating moods and the prospect of struggling with depression on and off for the rest of their lives. Not only that, but there is a 15-50% chance that individuals with cyclothymia will go on to develop bipolar disorder later in life, which for many is a very daunting prospect.

Finding coping methods when living with cyclothymia

There are a variety of techniques that can help to manage the symptoms of cyclothymia and reduce the risk of the condition developing into bipolar disorder. Some may be more effective than others, and it may be helpful to try a range of different techniques to discover which ones offer the best results.

Medication

Doctors may prescribe medications for cyclothymia but the efficacy of them can vary from patient to patient. Generally, antidepressants aren't recommended for cyclothymic disorder because they don't help to stabilize mood fluctuation.

However, if a patient's low mood develops into a full episode of major depression, antidepressants may be helpful. Medications such as lithium or lamotrigine can help to stabilize mood, but they are quite aggressive and have lots of side effects which means they're often only used if patients are really struggling to cope with the fluctuations in mood.

Psychotherapy

Therapies such as CBT can help patients to better understand their thought processes during low or elevated moods and use this knowledge to swap negative behaviors for positive ones. Psychotherapy can also help patients find the root cause of their depressed moods and work on rectifying them where possible.

Meditation

Although not a cure for cyclothymia, meditation can be a helpful way for patients to regulate their moods. Practicing mindfulness and mindful breathing techniques can help individuals to relax, which may be particularly useful during hypomanic episodes. Meditation may also help to lift mood during depressed periods.

Limiting alcohol intake and drug use

50% of people with cyclothymia have a problem with substance abuse and others are likely to abuse alcohol. Although drugs and alcohol may offer temporary relief or distraction from symptoms, they can, in the long term, make mental health worse, not to mention the associated physical health risks and risk of addiction.

Alcohol is a depressant and can worsen low moods while stimulating drugs can amplify hypomania. Avoiding alcohol and drugs is essential for helping to regulate mood.

Herbal remedies

St. John's Wort, also known as Hypericum Perforatum, is a plant which has long been used to alleviate mild depression. For individuals who experience depression which is not severe enough to warrant antidepressants, St. John's Wort could be an alternative.

Do note, however, that it can interact with other medication and cause side effects, so be sure to consult your doctor before using it if you are already taking other prescriptions.

Keeping a journal

Some people may find it helpful to keep a journal where they can jot down notes about their mood and emotions on a regular basis. This might help to establish patterns in moods or environmental factors which trigger manic or depressive episodes.

A journal could also serve as a place to scribble down thoughts or ideas during a hypomanic phase when the mind tends to work very quickly or to offload negative thoughts during periods of low moods, which can be very therapeutic.

How to support someone with cyclothymia

The fluctuating moods caused by cyclothymia can make it a difficult condition not only for sufferers to cope with but also for the friends and family close to them. The condition can put pressure on relationships and it's important to know how to cope and offer support to those living with it.

It can be helpful to remember that people with cyclothymia can easily become irritable or angry during manic episodes and that their behavior towards you shouldn't be taken personally as it is difficult for them to control. During periods of low moods, you should let them know you're there to listen and offer support when they need it.

You can also help someone with cyclothymia by gently reminding them to take their medications or attend therapy or doctors appointments where necessary. Sometimes they may feel relatively stable and that medication or therapy isn't necessary, but long-term, consistent treatment is valuable for maintaining stability as much as possible.

Resources
Last Reviewed:
June 21, 2017
Last Updated:
October 12, 2017
Content Source: