Sunday, 8 August 2010

Cyclothymia. What it is and how to deal with it.

When a friend contacted me; asking me to investigate Cyclothymia, I had no idea what to expect. I’d vaguely heard of the condition and knew it related to a mood disorder; comprising highs and lows, but I never appreciated the severity of its symptoms, nor that it could lead to suicide. Least of all did I appreciate that it can be a hereditary condition.

We live and learn. So, I’m here today with a new report about the condition called Cyclothymia for those who, like me, vaguely know about it, yet don’t know enough about it.

Cyclothymia apparently affects 0,4 to 1% of the population. It can affect men and women in equal proportions, and it generally starts in the teen years or the early twenties. There is evidence to suggest that genetics play a role in Cyclothymia. In fact, people with a family history of the bipolar condition, suicide, depression, alcohol or drug dependency are prime Cyclothymia candidates.

Just as with the bipolar condition, Cyclothymia sufferers have mood swings that go from hypomania to manic depression. These extremes in mood changes disrupt a person’s life, relationships, eating habits, sleeping patterns and put their safety at risk.

While a cyclothymic person is in a hypo-maniac mood they may be very cheerful and loving towards their partner, spouse, family etc. However, they can be very thoughtless because their actions become aggressive and rapid. They seem to move at a faster pace than the rest of the world. Hence, they get impatient and inconsiderate. They will barely sleep. They lose the ability to concentrate for too long and they become easily distracted.

At the opposite spectrum, while they’re in a manic depressive mood, they will reject all emotions and push away all loved ones. Most of the time they will even have a job to pull themselves out of bed in the morning. They will constantly feel sad, hopeless, helpless, apathetic and be irritable. They may even withdraw socially and have suicidal tendencies.

The problem for most sufferers is that even they don’t quite know what mood to expect on which day. I should say here that this condition isn’t diagnosed lightly.

To determine whether a person is cyclothymic or not, they have to have suffered definite mood swings, adhering to a specific set of guidelines, for two years with a symptom free period no greater than two months in between.

If a person didn’t meet the criteria outlined for determining Cyclothymia sufferers, they would just be considered bipolar in nature, and of course that’s a whole new discussion because there is bipolar I and bipolar II; depending on symptoms.

Apparently but probably not surprisingly, there is little research about treatments available for cyclothymic sufferers. I found general recommendations for mood stabilizers, (lithium based,) which I wouldn’t give my worst enemy; since lithium is toxic to the human body; antidepressants used for treating the bipolar I condition.

Personally, I would recommend psychotherapy, psychology, behavioural modification therapy, lifestyle and diet modification therapy. I would recommend giving up immediately any kind of alcohol or drug intake as these already cause alterations in moods and personality changes. Of course, these courses of action require more effort on the sufferer's part, but in the long run they educate the person, with the condition, to better manage it and catch each mood on the on-start. Antidepressants only suppress the symptoms. They don’t get to the root causes and anything that contains lithium or any abstract thereof is a poison in the human body, which causes more harm than the condition itself; if managed properly.

The other plus side to psychotherapy and suchlike is that it offers family and loved ones counselling sessions. Therefore, it provides a support system for and around the sufferer.

As a qualified Holistic Health Therapist, I would also suggest burning a few drops of lavender oil mixed with water in a burner, around the home; during times of hypomania - to soothe the sufferer’s senses. Lavender is very balancing and calming.

Similarly, during a time of manic depression, a few drops of essential lemon or tangerine or a similar citrus oil burnt in the same way, scenting the home, would be uplifting to the senses.

I would also be inclined to recommend a lighter dietary consumption during times of depression so that food metabolism requires less energy and all surplus energy can be redirected to the rest of the body.

Similarly, during times of hypomania, it is recommendable to eat slightly more to slow the rest of the body’s processes down by redirecting most of the energy to the digestive processes.

I hope this helps.

Further Reading: