What is Cyclothymia?
The word cyclothymia describes a situation when a person’s mood swings from high to low.
My best friend, who recently gave birth, has been diagnosed with cyclothymia. I want to help but don’t understand this condition – please can you explain it?
The word cyclothymia describes a situation when a person’s mood swings from high to low. It comes from cyclo – meaning change and derived from the Greek work for circle, kuklos – and thumos, also Greek and meaning temper. It can be used to describe a personality type but may also develop as a condition.
We are all familiar with the term bipolar disorder, or manic depression. Cyclothymia is a milder version of this, but it can be very distressing as the mood may change quite rapidly from feeling high and on top of things to low, depressed, basically not coping.
Also, although it may be mild compared with other conditions, it’s very important that it’s well monitored by a professional; when associated with pregnancy and birth, patients may need to be seen by a specialist perinatal psychiatrist.
There can be a fine line between this condition and bipolar disorder, so the treatment may vary from supervision and support to expert psychiatric intervention, with medication if the situation deteriorates.
I believe that some women suffering from cyclothymia can deteriorate quite rapidly, but the transition to bipolar disorder is not very well understood. Therefore a clear plan and access to information needs to be in place for your friend, her family and friends. It can be very distressing for everyone but being well informed makes a big difference and helps people to be more in control.
Those involved in the care may range from a midwife, health visitor or GP to an obstetrician or perinatal psychiatrist. In some areas your IAPT (psychological therapies service) may be involved.
Dr Peter Ilves