Cyclothymia and My Experience
Minor Mood Disorder
Why Cyclothymia is relevant to me?
The closest anyone has given me to a diagnosis of a solid disorder for my depression, anxiety, and insomnia (besides those diagnoses) is Cyclothymia. And the funny thing is that it was a counselor who said it was possible, not even someone how can legally diagnose clients with disorders. So it's never been official, and I'm afraid there will never be an official diagnosis besides depression, anxiety, and insomnia. That's just what I've experienced thus far while being treated by sleep doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists for two years.
What is Cyclothymia?
Cyclothymia is a mood disorder where one experiences depression episodes and manic episodes, but neither would be described as "major" episodes according to the DSM 5 (what psychologists/psychiatrists use to diagnose mental health symptoms). The person cannot have a prior medical diagnosis/history of manic depression (bipolar) or major depressive disorder to be diagnoses with Cyclothymia. Cyclothymia is more likely in people who have first degree relatives with Bipolar I.
How do doctors treat Cyclothymia?
Typically doctors will prescribe mood stabilizers and suggest cognitive therapy. They'll possibly suggest group therapy, depending on the severity of which Cyclothymia affects the patients life.
I see a psychiatrist every few months and am currently prescribed a high dose of Venlafaxine for my depression and anxiety (withdrawals start within 24 hours of missing my nightly dosage), and a small dose of Clonazepam for anxiety induced insomnia, in which I don't often take because it doesn't help and it is addictive in nature (similar to Xanax).
In the past I've gone to counseling and had bad experiences. I am not the type to talk about my feelings, I never have been, so cognitive therapy was never really for me. However, counselors I've gone to have mistreated me, further pushing me away from counseling.
I went to a counselor fresh out of seeing my psychiatrist for the first time because it was highly suggested. I'd been before but for art therapy, which was MUCH different. And let's be fair, my mom made me do it, I was 17, and I really didn't want to. Well, things were going alright, I didn't really prefer my counselor but I thought I'd try a little longer. It got weird when she kept asking me the same question as if she was trying to form my own thoughts. It was "do you feel guilty that...?" a couple times a session, and about the same thing even after I said it wasn't the case multiple times. It was as if she wanted me to feel guilty. On top of that, my final straw with this counselor came the day she told me that she couldn't help me because I have no reason to be depressed. That is the first thing psychologists should know not to say to someone being seen for depression. Instead, it would be professional to suggest me finding a new counselor or something much less brutal and true than what she did say. It took me a while to tell anyone that this counselor had said this to me because it really wasn't okay, and it didn't help me feel okay.
Well, I got a new counselor after that, at the same building/place where I was already being seen and my sister, brother, and mother had good experiences at. My new counselor began by trying to make me meditate, and one thing to know about me is that I have a very hard time relaxing due to anxiety and my constant busy schedule. I did give it a go, before bed with an app that kept me accountable. It didn't work, and I told her that and she claimed I wasn't even trying. So I quit trying, she got the message pretty clearly then. I was really done with counseling because I was about to move away for college and I hated my weekly visits. BUT, there was one more thing I wanted to use my counselor for, and that was to get a note for an emotional support animal and bring my cat to college with me (I was moving from Wisconsin to Nashville, 12 hours away). Now this counselor was, in fact, the counselor who told me about possibly having Cyclothymia, the only thing counseling really gave me. I trusted her way more than the last counselor. She told me she'd write the letter, and the due date to turn it into my University was coming up. My appointment where she was supposed to give me the letter was two or three days before that deadline. I went in to my appointment excited because college was coming up and hey I could potentially bring my cat with me; that excitement was met with disappointment. She sat down and said "so I don't think you need to bring your cat with you, you can survive without her." I said few words to her for the rest of the 45 minutes, but what I did say was that I didn't agree and that I was unhappy with her and my experience. She didn't say much to me about saying that, and somehow expected me to see her again, which was funny. I left my appointment, didn't tell the appointment coordinator or anything that I wasn't coming back ever, and since then I haven't been to counseling.
I did think bout going to counseling services on my campus last semester, but it never happened. I have too much anxiety about it to go back. It's sad that something that is meant to help me was ruined by not only one psychologist, but two.
I experience both depressive and manic episodes. I wouldn't say that my manic episodes are major, just spells of extreme hyper-ness and impulsiveness for a few hours, but I do experience major depressive episodes. That would stop any psychiatrist from diagnosing me with Cyclothymia, but it was closer than anything else to explaining my manic episodes. Right now, my high dosage of Venlafaxine tends to help, but I am at the highest of outpatient dosages that is legal, 225 mg, and my body tends to build up tolerance well (I've been on 3 different mood stabilizers/antidepressants, and abut 4 other sleeping meds), so I wonder how much longer it will last. However, my episodic moods don't last longer than a couple days, usually, so I don't experience weeks of one mood and then weeks of the next, which is what differentiates my symptoms from bipolar disorders. Another thing that adds to the possible diagnosis of Cyclothymia in me is that my sister has been diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. This is different from the bipolar everyone knows, but shows that these mood imbalances run in my genetics.
Now one thing about psychology and mental disorders is that one shouldn't self diagnose. I, personally, knew I had depression long before I saw a doctor, but that had to do with many personal and surrounding issues I had. With Cyclothymia I'm open to the diagnosis but am not sure I have it, possibly something else; Cyclothymia is just the closest anymore has mentioned to what I experience.
From my experience, it is important to be seen for any mental health concerns. I spent five years struggling with it alone because I was young and scared. But once I finally took those steps to feel better before I moved away, it wasn't nearly as scary as I anticipated. Of course, as I've shared, I've had some bad experiences, but that is unique to me and I believe there are good, skilled mental health professionals out there. Just make sure you are comfortable with your counselors and doctors, and if you're not, you can always switch to new ones, don't be afraid to do that! Also, if you're going to see a psychiatrist, which is a good idea if you struggle with mental health, make sure they do a whole mental health screening. That way it will lead to an appropriate diagnosis. I never had a full mental health screening, which I believe I will do in the future when I find new health providers in Nashville.
Don't be afraid to demand what you need. Be clear that you want a screening, be clear if you want to try a different counselor or different type of therapy, there is more than cognitive therapy!
The best way to go about being treated for mental health concerns is to be clear, and stand up for what you need and want so you can start to feel better. It doesn't hurt to brush up on some psychology as well!