Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder. It is characterized by mood fluctuations that shift between depressive and hypomanic phases. Cyclothymics do not experience the extremes of major depression or manic episodes.
The depressive or hypomania symptoms of cyclothymia may last for a few days to several weeks at a time, with brief intervals of normal mood in between. Personality changes are often evident to family and friends. Individuals who have a stable mood for longer than two months at a time are not likely cyclothymic. Symptoms may be mimicked by substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, or other mood disorder. A family history of depressive or bipolar disorders increases the risk.
Symptoms of Cyclothymia
The cycling between phases must be present for at least two years for a diagnosis (one year for teenagers). Work and family life are often negatively affected by the shifting moods.
Differences by Gender and Age
Cyclothymia, like the related bipolar disorder, affects men and women in roughly equal numbers. The disorder typically begins in the teenage or young adult years. Onset later in life is rare, and may be brought on by substance abuse or certain medications. Cyclothymia may progress to bipolar, though treatment may prevent this.
Psychiatric theorist Christopher Bollas invented the idea of normopathy to describe people who are so focused on blending in and conforming to social norms that it becomes a kind of mania. A person who is normotic is often unhealthily fixated on having no personality at all, and only doing exactly what is expected by society. Extreme normopathy is punctuated by breaks from the norm, where normotic person cracks under the pressure of conforming and becomes violent or does something very dangerous. Many people experience mild normopathy at different times in their lives, especially when trying to fit into a new social situation, or when trying to hide behaviors they believe other people would condemn.
Sadness, apathy, preoccupation. These traits come to mind when people think about depression, the world’s most frequently diagnosed mental disorder. Yet, forthcoming research in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology provides evidence that depression has a positive side-effect. According to a new study, depressed individuals perform better than their non-depressed peers in sequential decision tasks.
In their study, participants — who were healthy, clinically depressed, or recovering from depression — played a computer game in which they could earn money by hiring an applicant in a simulated job search. The game assigned each applicant a monetary value and presented applicants one-at-a-time in random order. Experiment participants faced the challenge of determining when to halt search and select the current applicant. In addition to resembling everyday decision problems, such as house shopping and dating, the task has a known optimal strategy. As reported, depressed patients approximated this optimal strategy more closely than non-depressed participants did. While healthy participants searched through relatively few candidates before selecting an applicant, depressed participants searched more thoroughly and made choices that resulted in higher payoffs.
This discovery provides the first evidence that clinical depression may carry some benefits. For decades, psychologists have debated whether depression has positive side-effects. While researchers have recognized that most symptoms of depression impede cognitive functioning, scholars such as Paul Andrews of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics and Andy Thomson of the University of Virginia have proposed that depression may promote analytical reasoning and persistence — that is, qualities useful in complex tasks.
There are important distinctions between the psychopath and the average criminal:
1. The psychopath very seldom takes much advantage of what he gains and almost never works consistently toward a goal in crime or anything else, seemingly lacking purpose.
2. Criminal ends, though condemned, can usually be understood by the average man. It is not hard to understand why a criminal steals money. However, the psychopath, if he steals or defrauds, appears to do so for an obscure purpose, sometimes incomprehensibly throwing away much of value for short-term gains.
3. The criminal usually spares harm to himself as much as he can and harms others. The psychopath, although he causes sorrow and trouble for others, usually puts himself in a shameful position. His most serious damage to others is often through their concern for him and their futile efforts to help him.
4. The typical psychopath usually avoids murder or other offenses that lead to lengthy prison sentences. The larger part of the psychopath’s antisocial behavior can be interpreted as purposely designed to harm himself. Most of the people who commit violent and serious crimes fail to show the chief characteristics of a psychopath.
The amygdalae are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located in the limbic system and temporal lobe of the brain. It is involved in memory and emotion, particularly fear.
The outer layer of the brain is known as the cerebral cortex or grey matter. Grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perceptions such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions and speech.
The prefrontal cortex is the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain, lying in front of the motor and premotor areas.
This brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behaviors, personality expression, decision making and moderating correct social behavior. The basic activity of this brain region is considered to be orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals.
The most typical psychological term for functions carried out by the prefrontal cortex area is executive function. Executive function relates to abilities to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social “control” (the ability to suppress urges that, if not suppressed, could lead to socially-unacceptable outcomes).
Mania is a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal, and/or energy levels. In a sense, it is the opposite of depression. It is usually a feeling of well-being, energy and optimism. These feelings can get so intense that the person loses contact with reality. When this happens the person believes in strange things about their personality and they can often act in embarrassing ways and can sometimes even act in dangerous ways.
A manic episode is defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual as a period of seven or more days of unusually and continuously effusive and open elated or irritable mood, where the mood is not caused by drugs or a medical illness and is causing obvious difficulties at work or in social relationships and activities, or requires admission to hospital to protect the person or others, or the person is suffering psychosis. To be classed as a manic episode, while the disturbed mood is present at least three (or four if only irritability is present) of the following must have been consistently prominent: grand or extravagant style, or expanded self-esteem; reduced need of sleep (e.g. three hours may be sufficient); talks more often and feels the urge to talk longer; ideas flit through the mind in quick succession, or thoughts race and preoccupy the person; over indulgence in enjoyable behaviors with high risk of a negative outcome (e.g., extravagant shopping, sexual adventures or improbable commercial schemes).
Mania is always relative to the normal rate of intensity of the person being diagnosed with it; therefore, an easily-angered person may exhibit mania by getting even angrier even more quickly, and an intelligent person may adopt seemingly “genius” characteristics and an ability to perform and to articulate thought beyond that of which they may be capable in a normal mood. But perhaps the easiest indicator of mania would be if a noticeably clinically depressed person becomes suddenly cheerful, optimistic, happy, and full of energy.