Cyclothymia Vs. Dysthymia Symptoms: The Differences Between The Two Personality Disorders

This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

When researching mental health symptoms online, you are bound to find that many conditions overlap. This is fairly common and the main factor that makes it so hard for someone to receive an accurate diagnosis. Even psychologists who work with their clients for a long time may have difficulty determining their exact condition.

This is the case with cyclothymia and dysthymia. Both have very similar symptoms despite being very different conditions. This article will give you a brief description of each disorder and highlight the differences for your understanding.

What Is Cyclothymia?

Cyclothymia is a rare and mild form of bipolar disorder. People with this condition live with frequent ups and downs in their mood, but not to the same extremes as other forms of bipolar disorder.

As with other types of bipolar disorder, the symptoms come in two categories: hypomania and depression. Therefore an accurate diagnosis comes from meeting the criteria in both categories.

Common symptoms of a hypomanic episode of cyclothymia include:

  • An exaggerated sense of happiness or euphoria
  • Increased self-esteem and confidence
  • Extreme optimism
  • Racing thoughts
  • Heightened energy levels
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Talkativeness
  • More physically active than usual
  • Partaking in risky behavior
  • Significant increase in motivation and drive
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating

Common symptoms of a depressive episode of cyclothymia include:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Irritability
  • Apathy and boredom
  • Weight changes
  • Problems sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide**

**If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.

What Is Dysthymia?

Dysthymia is another term for persistent depressive disorder. It is a continuous and chronic form of depression that significantly interferes with one’s daily life for years. People with this condition often feel hopeless, have low self-esteem, and struggle to remain productive. They may also struggle to feel good or happy even on the best occasions and are described as having a gloomy personality.

The symptoms of dysthymia are very similar to those of other forms of depression. These symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Apathy
  • Low self-esteem or confidence
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability or excessive anger
  • Sleeping problems or disorders
  • Appetite changes
  • Social isolation

The Differences Between Dysthymia and Cyclothymia

The primary difference between the two conditions is that cyclothymia is a form of bipolar disorder and dysthymia is a form of depression. Though cyclothymia involves depressive episodes, this condition also involves hypomanic periods, which are absent in dysthymia.

However, because cyclothymia is far milder than other forms of bipolar disorder, it can be hard to discern when a hypomanic period occurs. Therefore, people with this condition often believe they have depression as they aren’t aware of their hypomanic states.

Furthermore, the depression experienced in dysthymia is often more chronic and severe than the depressive episodes of cyclothymia. Someone with the latter does experience depression, but these episodes are not chronic or continuous, such as with dysthymia.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, it is easy to confuse the two conditions. However, one disorder leads to a constant flux of emotions while the other results in persistent depression. Hopefully, this article cleared up any confusion you may have had about these disorders. If you think you may have one of these conditions, then please consider talking to a therapist about your symptoms and concerns. If you want to learn more about these disorders or similar conditions, you can find more information and resources over at BetterHelp.

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