What happens if someone feels depressed but doesn't meet the criteria for major depressive disorder? Or if someone seems to have a light case of bipolar disorder? In this lesson, we'll look closer at the mood disorders dysthymia and cyclothymia.
For as long as anyone can remember, Archie has been depressed. Not really depressed, just sad a lot of the time. He suffers from insomnia and eats too much. Sometimes he'll feel OK for a few days, but, soon enough, his symptoms come back.
Betsy also sometimes suffers from mild depression, like Archie. But she also sometimes feels really happy and energized. She'll go for days at a time with very little sleep, but she feels alert and awake. During those times, she also feels like she could conquer the world.
Both Archie and Betsy are suffering from mood disorders, which are psychological disorders involving abnormal or exaggerated emotions for long periods of time.
The most common mood disorders are major depressive disorder, which involves a deep depression for at least two weeks, and bipolar disorder or manic depression, which involves cycling between depression and mania.
Major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder usually involve a loss of functioning. That is, people with those disorders have trouble holding down a job or staying in relationships. But there are two other disorders, dysthymia and cyclothymia, which involve some of the symptoms of major depressive disorder or manic depression, but are less severe and allow people to function better in their lives.
Remember Archie? He feels blue a lot, has insomnia, and eats a lot. His girlfriend thinks he has major depressive disorder, which is what most people think of when they think of depression. But Archie heard that major depressive disorder comes with a lot more symptoms than he has, and those symptoms seem to be more severe than his.
So does that mean Archie is OK? That this is just who he is, and there's nothing he can do about it? Not at all! When a person has mild symptoms of depression most of the time for at least two years, it's called dysthymia or dysthymic disorder. For children and adolescents, the duration must be at least one year, not two.
Besides feeling sad, a person with dysthymia has at least two other symptoms, like too much or too little sleep, changes in appetite, fatigue, low self-esteem, trouble concentrating, or feelings of hopelessness.
What could cause dysthymia? Psychologists aren't really sure, but there are three major theories: biology, genetics, and psychosocial. People with dysthymia may have differences in the levels of certain chemicals in their brain, which is the biological model of dysthymia.
Genetics also might play a part, since dysthymia seems to run in families.
Finally, psychosocial issues, like having a job you hate or childhood trauma, could lead to or exacerbate dysthymia.
In truth, it's probably caused by a mixture of biology, genetics, and environment. And the most successful treatment plans usually treat it with a combination of antidepressant medication to deal with the biological issues and therapy to approach the psychosocial issues.
Betsy isn't like Archie. Sometimes, she seems like she might have dysthymia, but other times she's on top of the world and feels great. She's energized and feels really optimistic about things. She doesn't need much sleep at all, but doesn't feel tired.
Betsy might be suffering from cyclothymia or cyclothymic disorder, a mood disorder that includes cycling between mild depression and mild mania. It's kind of like bipolar disorder, but less exaggerated.
Cyclothymic patients suffer from the same type of mild depression as dysthymic patients, like Archie. But they also have hypomania, which is a mild manic state that might involve symptoms like decreased sleep, feeling very happy or irritable, risky behavior or bad decision-making, racing thoughts and rapid speech, and others.
Like dysthymia, cyclothymia is a less severe form of another mood disorder. And like dysthymia, it has several possible causes, including biology, genetics, and psychosocial causes.
It runs in families, which means that there might be a genetic factor involved.
And like both bipolar disorder and dysthymia, cyclothymic patients might have chemical imbalances in their brains.
In addition, environmental or psychosocial causes could include abnormal thought processes, childhood issues, or life situations that are stressful, like having a baby or dealing with a stressful job.
Cyclothymia has a high risk of developing into a more severe form of bipolar disorder, and treatment is aimed at both helping prevent that and helping relieve the symptoms of the disorder. Most patients are treated with a combination of mood stabilizer drugs to deal with the biological issues and therapy to deal with the psychosocial causes of the disorder.
Mood disorders are psychological disorders that involve abnormal or exaggerated emotion. Dysthymia is a mild, chronic form of depression, while cyclothymia is a mild case of bipolar disorder and involves cycling between mild depression and mild mania. Both have genetic, biological, and psychosocial causes, and both are treated with medication and therapy.
After completing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define the various mood disorders
- Describe the depressive disorder of dysthymia
- Identify the similarities of cyclothymic episodes to a bipolar disorder
- Understand the treatments probably have a biological factor as well as psychosocial