Anxiety, depression, bipolar. Chances are you’ve not just heard of these common mental illnesses, but either know someone who struggles or have had issues yourself. But as more and more people open up about their mental health, it’s becoming clear there are other conditions that are less well known, but equally deserving of attention. One such condition is cyclothymia.
Cyclothymia made headlines in late 2021 when DJ, broadcaster and musician Matt Edmondson revealed on social media that he had been diagnosed with the condition. Edmondson said that he had been suffering for a number of years, describing how he oscillated from periods of high mood and rapid productivity to lows that included extreme anxiety and catastrophising.
If that sounds a bit like bipolar, that’s because it is. According to the NHS, ‘Most people’s symptoms are mild enough that they do not seek mental health treatment, or the emotional highs feel nice, so they do not realise there’s anything wrong or that they should seek help.’
“The ‘up’ times truly do feel fantastic,” said Edmondson. “They come with a relentless energy, sense of excitement and hunger for new ideas.”
What goes up…
That’s not to say it isn’t hard to live with, though. He added that it was these upswings that caused the biggest problem, with people in his life struggling with the fact that he neglected other responsibilities, missing out on sleep and not eating so he could work.
Now, Edmondson says he has found that the best way to manage his cyclothymia is to hold off on starting a new work project when the excitement hits. Instead, he says he waits for a few days to see if it lasts, before then channeling his energy in a more focused and less destructive way.
“My focus would be on managing the symptoms first and foremost and also consider medication for stabilising mood,” says Dr Ruth Allen, an outdoor and online psychotherapist. “Invariably some of the work would be learning to track the changes, working out triggers and exacerbators and considering how life can be reorganised a little bit to work with it. You first need to understand what’s going on and then become empowered to work out what alleviates it.”
Spotting the signs of cyclothymia
If you’re concerned that you or a friend might be struggling with cyclothymia, these are the key symptoms. Go and see your GP if you’re worried
You might feel anxious or low, but not long enough for it to be classified as clinical depression. Usually, two weeks is seen as the basis for a depression diagnosis.
LOSS OF INTEREST
When feeling low, you’re likely to lose interest in the things you love to do. But with cyclothymia, it’s unlikely you won’t be able to go about your day-to-day life.
Hypomania, where you have bursts of energy and don’t feel you require sleep, is a classic sign of cyclothymia.
Words: Joe Minihane