Cyclothymia: The Rare Bipolar Disorder Type We Don’t Talk About


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When we think about bipolar disorder, we often only think about two types — bipolar I and bipolar II. But did you know there is another bipolar disorder type?

Cyclothymia, also known as cyclothymic disorder, is a relatively mild mood disorder compared to its cousin bipolar disorder, which is characterized by periods of highs (mania) and lows (depression). In cyclothymia, the highs and lows are much shorter and not as intense — known respectively as “hypomania” and “mild depression.” Cyclothymia affects just under 1 percent of the U.S. population, making it a rare mood disorder.

To learn more about cyclothymia, we reached out to J. Allanah Evans, MS, LSCW, who specializes in treating bipolar disorder. Despite cyclothymia’s rarity, Evans said she believes it’s under-diagnosed and misdiagnosed in some people.

What is Cyclothymia?

Cyclothymia is a mild version of bipolar disorder, meaning symptoms don’t last as long as they do in bipolar I or bipolar II disorders.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), someone can be diagnosed with cyclothymia after experiencing hypomanic and depressive episodes for at least two years. In addition, a person with cyclothymia usually experiences some “stable” mood periods that last about two months at a time. In order to be diagnosed with cyclothymia, your symptoms have had an impact on your daily life, but not to the point where you would qualify for bipolar disorder or another mental illness.

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