What is Cyclothymia?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Cyclothymia, Bipolar, and Substance Abuse.

Cyclothymia is generally seen as a milder, subclinical form of Bipolar disorder. If it is the milder form we would expect to see a lot more Cyclothymia than Bipolar disorder. We don’t. So why and what is Cyclothymia?

A person with Cyclothymia is considered to be “temperamental, moody, unpredictable inconsistent and unreliable” (DSM-4-TR.) Cyclothymia seems to also be related to or overlaps Borderline personality disorder. Genetic risk factors, as well as environment and learning, may all play a role in creating Cyclothymia.

Cyclothymia, per the DSM, is a disorder characterized by chronic mood swings that do not meet the criteria for Bipolar disorder. Most mental illnesses require that the person, in order to get the disorder must experience a specific number of symptoms from a list of symptoms.

To be Bipolar I disorder you must have had a manic episode. For Bipolar Two, there must be a hypomanic (near manic) episode. That means that the person in addition to having an episode of elevated mood for at least 4 days must also have 4 of 7 listed symptoms. What if they only have three symptoms or if they have five “almost” symptoms. The way we count symptoms and who does the counting makes a lot of difference.

Cyclothymia waves the 4 day rule but requires that the mood swings go on over at least two years. (We make that one year in children.)  So for over two years the person needs to keep having episodes of depression and episodes of almost hypomania but never reaching the full criteria for depressive or hypomanic episodes.

My experience says that no diagnosis, no treatment, unless you have the money to pay and the motivation to push, like having an overly moody child. So rather than wait the whole year for a child or two years for an adult before treatment is begun, people with these almost hypomanic therefore almost Bipolar diagnoses end up with the label Bipolar NOS or Mood Disorder NOS.

The statistics seem to bear that out. Estimates of the prevalence of Cyclothymia run from 4 to 6 people per 10,000. Bipolar One and Two are in the range of 50 to 150 people per 10,000. Meaning that Cyclothymia despite being thought of as mild Bipolar is much rarer. Mostly Cyclothymia gets diagnosed in people who have suffered for a long time – the full two years before something happened that sent them to treatment.

The criteria say someone with Cyclothymia should be experiencing “almost” depression, mania, or hypomania most of the time over those two years. Those episodes should all be just short of the Bipolar or Major Depressive disorder diagnosis but should cause a lot of distress. There also cannot ever be two months when you don’t have mood swings or we don’t think you meet criteria for Cyclothymia.

To be Cyclothymia you should never have had any psychosis, which includes both hallucinations and severe delusional symptoms. And these symptoms can’t be the result of a medical condition.

Medications and Drugs can cause this.

It is not just street drugs but medications, prescribed and over the counter medications, that can cause Hypomania. Failure to sleep has been reported to cause hypomania and some overlooked products can cause the lack of sleep that induces mania.

Stimulants can interfere with sleep and that includes most of the medications for ADHD. But there is a bigger worry in children.

I feel certain I have seen sleep disruptions, and resulting mood disturbances in kids who take in excessive caffeine. Energy drinks are a problem in teens but the little ones, the preschoolers and the early grade student are also at risk.

Most sodas contain not just obesity causing sugar but massive amounts (relative to body weight) of caffeine. That huge amount of caffeine per pound of body weight causes sleep disruption and sleep disturbances which may be causing mood swings and even inducing Bipolar disorder.

The DSM-5 will tighten up the exclusion for any Drug or medication induced hypomania.

Environmental and learned factors

Some of these symptoms, the swings between depression and hypomania look a lot like what we see in children from abusive, neglectful or deprived backgrounds. Adult children of Alcoholics report that one time they would do something and be praised or rewarded for a behavior, the next time they might get hit.

Inconsistent environment would encourage you to be depressed and anxious at times and when it was safe to possible go overboard at seeking pleasure. So being sort of hypomanic could be adaptive in a dysfunctional environment.

Cognitive Behavioral therapy has been reported as effective in treating people diagnosed with Cyclothymia. This suggests to me that some of these symptoms are learned and that there are core beliefs or schemas supporting this fluctuating mood way-of-being.

There are a host of other factors that influence the expression of Cyclothymia. Sleep changes can trigger changes in mood but so can changes in eating. Social support systems and the level of stress all contribute to mood swings.

Studies of Cyclothymia have the same defects as studies of other mood and anxiety disorders. People who act out and get arrested don’t get included in studies. Neither do people with drug or alcohol problems or those who are suicidal. Psychosis and delusions also get you kicked out of research. So those most likely to really be impaired by Cyclothymia are most likely to be excluded.

Information on Bipolar, Hyperthymia, Cyclothymia, Depression and other Mood disorders is scattered through this blog and I will continue to add to those posts. Check the categories list to the right. To make Bipolar Family posts easier to find there soon will be a separate post devoted to links on this blogs and others places on the subjects of mood disorders.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

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Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

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Hyperthymia, Hyperthymic Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Does you temperament predispose you to mental illness?

Hyperthymia person

Hyperthymia, hyperthymia personality disorder, and bipolar. Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Personality characteristics may be a risk factor for certain mental illnesses but the exact connection continues to be far from clear. Psychologists have long been interested in various personalities. Are you outgoing – let’s call that extroverted. Psychopharmacologists look for connections between meds, drugs of abuse and temperaments or personalities.

For the mental health community, the connection becomes more problematic. We are reluctant to diagnose someone as “mentally ill” because they are introverted, extroverted or have some other “personality type.” We really want to know that your personality issue or temperament is somehow interfering with your life, job, and friendships or making you miserable before we start saying that the way you are and were born, is somehow a disorder.

We know, or think we know, that some personality characteristics might increase your risk for certain disorders. To the extent that genetics play a role in mental illness your temperament just might be a factor in developing mental illness.

Hyperthymia is one of those possible risk factors.

Hyperthymic people are those people who have so much energy, do so many things and get so much done they annoy others. Goel, Terman and Terman (2002) defined Hyperthymia as equivalent to Hypomania but without the impairment. So if you lose control it is hypomania and you get diagnosed with a mental illness (Bipolar.) But Hyperthymia by this definition means you are able to hold it together.

In their discussion of Bipolar and creativity, Shapiro and Weisberg (1999) define Hyperthymia as those people who have had periods of hypomania but there had not been a period of depression. This inconsistency in definition for Hyperthymia leads to a lot of inconsistencies in our understanding of this personality dimension.

Does that mean people with Hyperthymia are mentally ill?

A Hyperthymic personality has been suggested as a possible precursor for Bipolar Disorder. Currently, the DSM-4 includes diagnoses for Bipolar I, the most severe kind and the Bipolar II variety with less visible mania, but not necessarily less severe, as the choices. Some theoreticians have suggested that there are also some “soft bipolar disorders.” They have suggested designations of Bipolar III and Bipolar IV for the less obvious forms.

Enter Bipolar III.

Shapiro and Weisberg suggested a diagnosis of Bipolar III for people who have depressive episodes and then when given antidepressants, experience hypomania. For them, the only time Bipolar III’s are manic is when on meds. Other authors suggest or imply that most any person with Bipolar Disorder will react quickly and dramatically to antidepressants.

Could Hyperthymia be Bipolar IV?

One area of research has been the search for connections, precursors or predictors of future mental illness. These precursors are sometimes called “premorbid” conditions. If we knew that some currently small symptom meant you were at high risk to develop a mental illness maybe we could begin treatment early and reduce the severity and length of a mental illness. Hyperthymia just might be such a precursor.

Hyperthymia seems to be one of several personality characteristics that increase the likelihood of developing some symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. But an increase in risk does not equal you having or getting the disorder.

People with Hyperthymic personality characteristics who experience a depression, even a mild depression may “overreact” to antidepressants. Doctors have been warned to look out for high energy people who have an episode of depression and when given an antidepressant are propelled into mania or hypomania. An excess reaction to antidepressants could be one way of diagnosing Bipolar Disorder. One research study (Hoaki et al. 2011 published in Psychopharmacology) suggests that doctors should consider giving these Hyperthymic type people a mood stabilizer rather than an antidepressant.

Risk factors for Hyperthymia.

These researchers also found some other risk factors for developing Hyperthymic personality and presumably a soft form of Bipolar Disorder. Now, this is my understanding from reading this and other studies but a lot more research is needed in this area. Remember this is my opinion not necessarily the researchers.

When subjects for research were first screened there seemed to be a connection between how much they exercised and how “Hyperthymic” they were. Presumably, if you exercise more you have more energy. This did not end up in the lists of the risk factors for Hyperthymia so at this point it does not seem likely that more exercise will push people with risk factors into a Bipolar Disorder. But frankly, at this point, any connection between exercise and Hyperthymia or Bipolar Disorder seems like a wild guess. If anyone out there with Bipolar Disorder has seen a connection please drop me an email or leave a comment.

More light- More Hyperthymia.

Hoaki and his colleges found the relationship between light and Hyperthymia to be fairly strong. Even people who did not exercise much, when they were in brighter surroundings, had more energy and more Hyperthymic personality traits. So being outside or around more light might improve your energy level. We know that lack of light is one reason some people suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but this makes us wonder, could changes in light level provoke Hyperthymic episodes and might this be a risk factor for a hypomanic episode?

More variation in sleep – More Hyperthymia.

One diagnostic marker for manic and hypomanic episodes is a decreased need for sleep. What Hoaki’s article seems to suggest is that it is not just that a reduced need for sleep is a problem, but fluctuations in the amount of sleep from night-to-night may be a risk factor to set off Hyperthymic characteristics. Hoaki frames this as changes in bedtime; presumably, his subjects have a constant time to get up for work or school. Studying sleep fluctuations in people who have no set time to get up might clarify this issue.

Could fluctuations in the amounts of sleep be a risk factor for inducing Mania and Hypomania?

Hoaki et al. speculate that a consistent amount of sleep might be a preventative for developing Bipolar Disorder.

People with a Hyperthymic personality or temperament also had a tendency toward Serotonin Dysregulation. So the way in which Serotonin is used in the brain may be an important marker for Hyperthymic Personality as well as for mood disorders. Hoaki notes that other authors have suggested that people with a Hyperthymic personality may also have differences in the way their brains regulate dopamine. The more we learn about the brain the more neurotransmitters seem to be involved in the way our brains work.

The conclusion of Hoaki’s study is that light, sleep, and serotonin activity are all factors in Hyperthymic personality characteristics and in Bipolar disorder, so there is likely a connection between these two conditions. How the two conditions are related we are just not so sure.

Is Hyperthymia a personality disorder?

The lists of Personality Disorders listed in the DSM-4 as diagnosable mental illness is short and specific. Hyperthymic personality is not recognized as a disorder. It would be correct to consider Hyperthymia a personality characteristic or someone’s temperament but not as a disorder.

Those very energetic people may be annoying to some but they are just not considered mentally ill at this point.

More on the recognized personality disorders to come

Hope this helped to clarify Hyperthymia, Hyperthymic Personality characteristics and why there is not a recognized Hyperthymic Personality Disorder.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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Are you Hyperthymic?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Hyperthymia person

Are you Hyperthymic? Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Recently I read an article in a peer journal about Hyperthymia. Here is an interesting point of view on the question of whether the mentally ill are really different from “normal” people. Maybe people with a diagnosed illness are on a continuum and just have more or less of the characteristics the rest of us take for granted.

I am inclined towards the idea of continuums, not discreet illnesses despite the fact that I need to give people a diagnosis to get insurance to pay for treatment. That says to me, some people’s problems keep them from having jobs, friends or being happy and they need help. Other people get along fine as they are and don’t need help. For example, 70% of people report having at least once in their life heard a voice calling their name but when they looked there was no one there. Does this say that hearing “voices” is normal or that the other 30% are lying?

Bipolar disorder is especially troublesome. There are degrees of symptoms and as we have talked about in past blogs lots of people get another diagnosis first and then it gets changed later on, often when the antidepressants make it worse, not better. What if parts of Bipolar disorder are just normal personality characteristics? Could there be milder forms of bipolar disorder that are not getting recognized or does that start to pathologize everyone?  Some authors have suggested we need a Bipolar 3 and Bipolar 4 to capture milder forms of the disorder.

Hyperthymic temperament is a description given to people with 7 specific characteristics.  Sometimes the list is longer or shorter. It is currently seen as a personality characteristic which means it is not generally recognized as an illness. Most mental health professions avoid working with and diagnosing personality disorders as these are often seen as just the way a person is and not likely to change or as needing lots of treatment to change. Dialectic Behavioral Therapy is used to treat some personality disorders and long-term psychotherapy is used for treating aspects of personality that might be considered neurotic or psychotic personality features. Most of the time professionals leave this one alone.

People with this personality style do develop problems of living everyday life that result in them coming to counselors for treatment. Maybe it should be a disorder?

Here are the 7 characteristics of Hyperthymic Personality described by Glick. With MY explanations of how they might be recognized.

1. Cheerfulness

Hyperthymic people are annoyingly cheerful, cheerful to a fault. Hard to understand how someone could be too cheerful but I have learned to be suspicious of overly cheerful people. What are they up too?

2. Exuberance

This is clearly pathological, especially before I have had my coffee in the morning. These people are often described as needing a “chill pill.”

3. Meddlesomeness

To my detractors, I will say I am not meddlesome. I am just helpful even when you don’t realize you need my help. If this does not explain things try the “chill pill” described in 2 above.

4. Lack of inhibitions

Why can’t people just let last year’s New Year’s Eve part go? Occasionally letting your hair down is a good thing. However if this has resulted in more than one arrest, we are thinking you are beyond uninhibited.

5. Overconfidence

What I shouldn’t run for president? Have you seen who else is running? Now that is overconfidence.

6. Grandiosity

Genius is never recognized in its own time.

7. High energy levels.

Not sure about this one. I can be as energetic as almost anyone right after my nap. So there are people with high energy all morning?

So are there people who meet most or all of these characteristics? Sure. Do they sometimes get in trouble and have problems, yes again. Should this be another condition we diagnose and treat? The jury is still out on that one.

What do you think? Is Hyperthymia a legitimate issue? Does it need treatment? Are we making too many things disorders and trying to treat people just for being who they are?

This post was featured in “Best of Blog – May 2012

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.