Cyclothymic Bipolar Disorder In Children

cyclothymic disorder

Cyclothymic bipolar disorder is a more mild form of bipolar disorder mainly because the mood swings are less severe. However, even though the mood swings are less severe it will still disrupt daily life. Because the symptoms of cyclothymic bipolar disorder symptoms can be seen as typical changes in a child’s mood or energy level it is more difficult to diagnose in a child.

Cyclothymic Bipolar Disorder Defined

This type of bipolar disorder is a constant state of unstable moods that are characterized by various episodes or outburst of hypomania and mild depression. In order for a child to be diagnosed the symptoms of cyclothymic disorder must be present for at least 12 months. They symptoms can not be accounted for by any other type of psychiatric diagnosis. A child who has been diagnosed with this type of bipolar disorder many experience major depression or manic episode that is full blown eventually which would result in the diagnosis being changed from cyclothymic bipolar disorder to bipolar 1 or 2.

Mood Episodes In Children

Mood swings, especially mild ones, can be hard to diagnosis in children.  It can be difficult to separate them from the typical behavior in children such as normal tantrums in young children or the normal emotional issues of being a teenager. It is common in children with bipolar disorder to have rapid cycling mood swings. Children who suffer from bipolar disorder can switch from episode to episode very quickly and this can occur several times per day. Because the cycles can be so rapid they can experience episodes that are mixed meaning they can experience mania and depression at the same time. This is the same in children with cyclothymic disorder but the episodes are more mild which makes them harder to notice.

Behavioral Symptoms

A child who has mood instability will often show very specific behavior symptoms.  A child will show signs of irritability, will easily be upset, have temper tantrums, be rebellious, impulsive and show signs of hyperactivity. While most children will be hyper at some point this is usually caused by an activity they are doing and can easily be corrected when instructed from an adult. Children who suffer from cyclothymic bipolar disorder will experience feelings that are inappropriate for the situation. They can not stop these feelings and many not understand why they are wrong.

Other Symptoms

Symptoms of depression such as feeling sad, being lazy or irritable are common in children with cyclothymic bipolar disorder. Children who are affected will likely refuse invitations from friends and family to participate in activities because they simply do not feel up to being social. They will also become upset over small things that would not normally bother someone. A decrease in the need for sleep, hyperactivity and increased energy could be signs that hypomania is manifesting within the child. Oddly enough this mild mania in a child will usually come at a time when they are doing better in school and more productive overall.

Diagnosis and Charting

Because the diagnosis of a child with cyclothymic bipolar disorder requires an account of behavior over an extended amount of time it is suggested that the parents keep a daily behavior and mood diary. Keep track of events that cause changes in mood and any other help information such as any changes in socialization, school performance, medications that were taken, illness or temper tantrums.  This information will be helpful not only in diagnosing the child but also for a parent’s own resource.