Cyclothymia is a treatable condition. The risk bipolar will develop with cyclothymia is present ranges anywhere from 15–50%, and reducing this risk can often be an important part of treatment. Because alcohol and drug use may increase or worsen the severity of symptoms, any substance use issues might also be discussed and treated.
In therapy, triggers for hypomanic and depressive episodes can be explored, and methods to cope with stressful or upsetting situations can be developed alongside a compassionate mental health professional.
In therapy, the goal of treatment for cyclothymia may revolve around mood regulation. Certain types of therapy such as psychoeducation may help people learn more about their condition, while others can help people continue to develop healthy coping mechanisms that can help with the management of difficult symptoms.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people learn to reframe negative thoughts that may occur during a depressive episode. CBT may also help people discover what makes their symptoms worse and learn other strategies for managing their mood.
- Family therapy may be helpful when members are affected by a loved one's diagnosis. In therapy, family members can learn more about the condition and how they can help reduce stressors that might occur within the family.
- Group therapy might also be beneficial to those with cyclothymia, as the condition and symptoms be discussed with others who have similar experiences. Some also find that joining a support group for individuals with cyclothymia helps.
- Interpersonal social rhythm therapy, which can help improve management of a daily routine, might also be beneficial in addressing aspects of cyclothymia that impact relationships and daily tasks.
In addition to therapy, medication is also often prescribed to treat cyclothymia. Mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications may all be helpful for relieving symptoms of cyclothymia. However, antidepressants are typically combined with mood stabilizers to reduce the risk of manic episodes, which may occur when an antidepressant is used alone in the treatment of this condition.
Psychiatrists also sometimes prescribe antipsychotic medication to people with cyclothymia, but this treatment course is more common among people with bipolar. Anti-seizure medication has also been shown to be helpful.
If you think you may have cyclothymia, receiving treatment from a licensed mental health professional is often the safest and most effective way to manage symptoms. While professional help should be at the forefront of your treatment plan, these strategies may help boost the effectiveness of your current treatment.
- Practice self-awareness: Routinely check in with yourself and your mood. This can help you identify any external or internal triggers of intense feelings or moods.
- Try omega-3 fatty acids: While not a medication, these have been shown to be potentially helpful in the reduction of cyclothymia symptoms. Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, walnuts, and chia seeds could help you reap the benefits associated with omega-3.
- Take medication prescribed by your health care professional: Following your treatment plan, even when you think you have everything under control, can be key to maintaining mental health and managing disruptive symptoms.
- Sleep: Consistently getting enough sleep can be key in regulating mood. A therapist can help you pinpoint any issues if you it’s difficult for you to maintain a regular sleep schedule.
- Limit alcohol consumption: In many cases of cyclothymia, alcohol recreational drugs may trigger or exacerbate symptoms. Staying away from these triggers could make it easier to treat and manage cyclothymia.
Mood shifts and risky behavior in college student: Nita, 19, reluctantly makes an appointment at her university's mental health clinic after her roommate expresses concern about Nita's "wild behavior." Nita tells the counselor that since high school, her moods have changed frequently, but not severely, though she often experiences feelings of lowness and hopelessness. Though these sometimes rapidly went away, leaving her feeling happy and excited about life, she and others around her imagined the shifts were due to the various stresses of high school life. Nita admits she imagined they would clear up when she began college, but they have not. Her mood still fluctuates often between "up and down," she states. She is able to pursue her normal activities and stick to her daily routine, but she reports that she finds it difficult to do so at times. Nita relays to the counselor that she believes the mood shifts have become more frequent since college began, and when asked, she admits that she also began drinking after beginning college and that she has engaged in some risky acts, such as driving and having unsafe sex while intoxicated. Through questioning, the counselor determines that Nita has not experienced a full manic or depressive episode and refers her to a psychiatrist, who diagnoses Nita with cyclothymia and prescribes her a low dose of antidepressant and mood stabilizer. Nita resolves to stop drinking after being told it may worsen her symptoms, and she begins to attend biweekly therapy sessions. She also joins a school support group for students with mental health conditions and is able to form new friendships as her mood stabilizes and improves.
- Cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder). (2018, May 10). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cyclothymia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20371281
- Hjalmarsdottir, F. (2018, September 20). 12 foods that are very high in omega-3. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-omega-3-rich-foods
- Perugi, G., Hantouche, E., & Vannucci, G. (2017). Diagnosis and treatment of cyclothymia: The “primacy” of temperament. Current Neuropharmacology, 15(3), 372-379. doi: 10.2174/1570159X14666160616120157