Addiction is a condition that frequently co-occurs with mood disorders like depression, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder. These dual diagnoses have been thoroughly documented. However, of the mood disorders, an often-overlooked form of bipolar disorder should be discussed. Today, we would like to provide an educational overview of cyclothymia. What is it, how does it interact with a substance use disorder, and how does it differ from other mood disorders? Read on to learn more.
Key Signs of Cyclothymic Disorder
Cyclothymia is a pattern of long-term mood shifts between depression and hypomania (a less severe manic state). Like most mental health issues, this condition begins to present in adolescence or young adulthood. It often goes undetected or is misdiagnosed as bipolar II, depression, or other mental illnesses. While genetic factors and environmental stressors may increase one’s predisposition to cyclothymia, we don’t know exactly what causes it.
To identify cyclothymia, you should look for signs of mild depression and hypomania. These mood changes do not happen over the course of a few hours; they usually take at least four days to occur.
- Increased isolation
- Anhedonia: loss of pleasure in once-loved activities
- Issues with concentration or memory
- Constant fatigue
- Crying and low mood
- Sleeping too much
- Thoughts of suicide
- Gaining or losing weight
- Poor decision-making skills
- Reduced impulse control
- Becoming very chatty
- Agitation and restlessness
- Fidgeting and pacing
- Feelings of euphoria
- Increased self-esteem
- Sleeping less than normal
Cyclothymia Vs. Bipolar Disorder
Cyclothymia has a few different names, including cyclothymic disorder and bipolar III. The second nickname comes from the fact that this condition is considered a milder form of bipolar disorder.
In a traditional diagnosis of bipolar I or bipolar II, a person will experience long-term mood cycles of mania and deep depression. When a person experiences cyclothymia, these shifts happen on a smaller scale. They oscillate between hypomania (a slightly manic state) and low-grade depression.
Cyclothymic shifts are not incapacitating, and individuals with this condition are not at the same risk of suicide as their bipolar peers. They can still function in their daily lives. However, this diagnosis warrants specialized treatment, and individuals with it may find themselves misusing drugs or alcohol.
Cyclothymia and Addiction
When we talk about the link between substance abuse and mood disorders, we must avoid saying that one causes the other. In reality, the symptoms of a mental illness can prompt increased drinking or drug use, and ongoing substance use can result in worsened mental health. In other words, the relationship goes both ways.
In cyclothymia, the correlation is similar to that of addiction and bipolar disorder. Namely…
- Substance use can trigger hypomanic episodes during intoxication. Afterwards, the person may feel tired and unmotivated, which can trigger depression.
- Drugs and alcohol are mind-altering substances. This means that drinking or using drugs can disrupt the brain’s normal communications, particularly within the dopamine/reward system. This can prime the brain for deficits in certain neurotransmitters: a staging ground for mood disorders.
- All mood disorders increase the risk of substance abuse. Often, people will begin drinking or using in an attempt to quell symptoms. Additionally, those in a manic episode are more likely to make poor decisions about substance use.
- Among people with mood disorders like cyclothymia, more than 30% are also dealing with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
How to Treat Mood Disorders and Substance Abuse
Cyclothymia is an under-diagnosed condition – left unidentified, it can impact a person’s quality of life and substance use in significant ways. People with this disorder require specialized treatment that incorporates key hallmarks of clinical care, such as individual therapy sessions, process groups, and medication management.
In instances of dual diagnosis, the client must receive treatment for both conditions simultaneously. At Lakeside-Milam, we offer comprehensive mental health services in combination with our primary addiction treatment program. This enables those who choose our treatment center to recover fully – mentally, spiritually, and physically. To learn more about our proven approach, contact our admissions office.