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Bipolar Disorder Health Center

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Cyclothymia (Cyclothymic Disorder)

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What Are the Treatments for Cyclothymia? continued...

No medicines are specifically approved for the treatment of cyclothymia, although mood stabilizers such as lithium or lamotrigine are sometimes recommended as a possible strategy to reduce mood fluctuations. Antidepressants such Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft are generally not recommended unless someone develops a full major depression, which, by definition, does not occur in cyclothymic disorder. There is also a small risk that antidepressants could trigger or worsen mania symptoms in a subgroup of vulnerable people. Antidepressants alone also are not known to improve fluctuations in mood, which are hallmark characteristics of cyclothymic disorder.

Technically speaking, when elevated or depressed moods become severe, a person no longer has cyclothymia, but rather has bipolar disorder. This progression to more severe symptoms can happen, and this is when many people first receive treatment.

Living With Cyclothymia

Cyclothymia may wreak havoc on the personal lives of people with the disorder. Unstable moods frequently disrupt personal and work relationships. People may have difficulty developing stable work or personal relationships, instead moving through short-lived romances or erratic job performance. Impulsive behavior can be self-destructive and lead to legal problems.

People with cyclothymic disorder are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Up to 50% of people with cyclothymia may also have a problem with substance abuse.

Over time, people with cyclothymia are at increased risk of developing full-blown bipolar disorder. Limited data suggests they are at higher risk of suicide. Treatment with mood stabilizers may help to reduce this risk.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on May 11, 2014
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