Bipolar Spectrum Disorders – What is Cyclothymia?

Cyclothymia is neither bipolar depression nor unipolar depression but instead it is an illness that lies somewhere in the middle.

When psychiatric illnesses first started being recognized, some doctors felt that unipolar and bipolar depressions weren’t really the binary options for an illness but really just opposite ends of a spectrum. So then, one would have a spectrum where one could be a 100% bipolar depressive, or 100% unipolar depressive or they could lay somewhere in the middle. However, as illnesses need names and diagnostic criteria and not really vague percentages, bipolar and unipolar depression were defined separately.

Bipolar II – Within the Bipolar Spectrum

DSM-IV Criteria for Cyclothymia

Bipolar 2 though, is recognition of this false dichotomy. Bipolar 2 really sits in between unipolar and bipolar depression as more depressed than bipolar 1 but more hypomanic (emotionally dysregulatory) than unipolar depression. (See the difference between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorders.)

And that’s fine as far as it goes. But there is also recognition from a lot of doctors that other states lie even more in the middle, and cyclothymia is one such disorder.


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