Alice tracked her life in moods\u2014she was happy and productive, super productive, in the spring when she met Charlie; irritable and depressed in the summer, even though the weather was so lovely and warm; and fine again until Christmas when all hell broke loose with the stress of the holidays. But she thought that was normal; wasn\u2019t everybody a little moody sometimes? She liked to think she just had a \u201csensitive temperament\u201d\u2014life could be hard. But she wasn\u2019t \u201ccrazy.\u201d It\u2019s not like she\u2019d ever been hospitalized or anything. Still, when Alice looked back, she could see that she fit a certain description. She did have a history of \u201cbrief, intense relationships\u201d and if she was honest, she might admit to having frequently \u201cprojected her issues\u201d onto her lovers, accusing them of being angry, moody and emotionally unstable. She tended to fall hard for someone during one of her upbeat periods, feeling each time that she had finally met \u201cthe one.\u201d Then after only a short while her agitation or depression would return and rather than acknowledge its perennial nature, she\u2019d assume the problem was with her lover\u2014everything was going badly because of him, not her mercurial moods. She\u2019d had more than one affair, often finding someone new while still involved. Alice didn\u2019t like to admit that she didn\u2019t want to be alone, but who did? And there was her history of \u201chypersexuality,\u201d but she liked to think of herself as a free spirit and a \u201csexually liberated feminist.\u201d She could sleep with whomever she liked as often as she liked; it was no one\u2019s business but her own. The problem was that when she came down from the days or weeks of frenzied mood and risky behavior, when everything had seemed so fun and exciting, she often felt miserable, and sometimes ashamed. She didn\u2019t recognize herself in the mirror at those times, and she couldn\u2019t understand how she\u2019d only days before been so carefree and uninhibited. Then there was the matter of her careless spending. She tried so hard to be frugal with money; she didn\u2019t make a lot and she knew well the value of a dollar. But there had always been these periods when she seemed to lose all rationality; it was like \u201cInvasion of the Body Snatchers,\u201d or wallet snatchers, if you will. In those times she could spend without thinking, and afterward she always regretted it. She was thousands of dollars in debt and her depression sank lower every time just thinking about it. But she\u2019d never really hurt anyone or herself, although once or twice she\u2019d thought she might be better off dead. And although she\u2019d called in sick more than once simply because she was feeling too tired and depressed to go to work, she didn\u2019t make a habit of it. Even at her lowest she could still manage basic care and responsibilities. And all of this is why she doubted the bipolar diagnosis that had been suggested to her by a friend. When she sat in her new therapist\u2019s office explaining all of this, it was a relief when he agreed. So it surprised her when he suggested something else: cyclothymia. Cyclothymia Symptoms Cyclothymia might be thought of as \u201cbipolar lite.\u201d It is a mood disorder in which the highs and lows are not as severe as the mania or depression of bipolar I or bipolar II disorders, but where the shifting moods are destabilizing enough to present problems for a sufferer. People with cyclothymia are sometimes misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder NOS or borderline personality disorder, but cyclothymia is different from these disorders. The moods of cyclothymia range from depression at the low end to hypomania at the high end, not crossing over into full-blown mania. The symptoms of hypomania may include: \tExtreme feelings of happiness or euphoria \tIntense optimism \tRacing thoughts \tRapid speech \tDecreased need for sleep \tHigh sex drive \tRisk-taking behavior \tIntense desire to perform, such as work goals \tIncreased productivity \tDistractibility \tSpending sprees \tPoor judgment \tInconsiderate behavior \tAgitation, irritability and restlessness The symptoms of depression may include: \tSadness, hopelessness, guilt, regret \tAnxiety \tSleep disturbance \tProblems with appetite \tFatigue \tIrritability \tLoss of interest in things normally found enjoyable \tLoss of sex drive \tPoor concentration \tHeadache, stomachache or other somatic complaints \tSuicidal thoughts or behavior Diagnosis and Treatment To be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder, a person will have had symptoms of hypomania and depression for a period of at least two years, and will not have gone without symptoms for more than two months. Many people with cyclothymia do not ever recognize they may be suffering from a mental health issue, and many others who do, don\u2019t elect to seek treatment. There are ways to manage the shifting extremes of cyclothymia without medical intervention, such as meditation, yoga and nutrition, but therapy in conjunction with certain pharmaceutical medications has been shown most effective for people experiencing mood disorders. Cyclothymia tends to be a lifelong disorder, and can for some, progress into a more severe form of bipolar disorder. Regarding occupational and life functioning, Dr. Prentiss Price in The Cyclothymia Workbook, has this to say: The workplace does not go unaffected. Those with cyclothymia may have a history of variable work performance, sometime struggling to keep the same job for a length of time. They can be argumentative, easily frustrated, inconsistent, and difficult to get along with. For some, hypomania can enhance productivity, but for others, it can create disorganization and unfocused energy that leads to a drop in job performance. The lows of depression can also affect functioning at work and lead to problems with motivation, concentration, energy, and self-esteem. It\u2019s never easy to admit to mental health vulnerability, and it can be difficult sometimes to see that we have one. If you have a history of highs and lows, periods of intense irritability, creativity, sadness and distress, your moods may be more changeable than the average. Admitting your vulnerability doesn\u2019t make you weak. Choosing to become aware of who we are and then to make ourselves better, after all, is one of the best choices we get to make for ourselves\u2014if only we will. Asking for help can mean the difference between living a life on the brink and one of strength, possibility and daring.