While having cyclothymia can affect your relationships in many ways, there are also lots of treatment options and coping tools to help.

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme shifts in mood and energy.

According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), roughly 2.8% of adults in the United States live with symptoms of bipolar disorder every year.

There are several types of bipolar disorder, including three main types: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder.

Cyclothymic disorder, also known as cyclothymia, is a “milder” type of bipolar disorder that features frequent swings between mild depression and hypomania symptoms.

Like bipolar disorder, cyclothymia can have a significant effect on someone’s ability to function ― including when it comes to building and maintaining personal relationships.

Learn more about how cyclothymia can affect relationships, including how to reach out for support if you or a loved one is living with this condition.

Cyclothymic disorder can affect all aspects of your interpersonal relationships, from the way you interact with friends to the quality of your relationships with your family and partner.

Research on the exact impact that cyclothymia can have on relationships is limited. However, a study from 2016 found that in younger people with cyclothymic disorder, irritability and impulsive aggression were associated with social impairment and poorer relationship quality scores.

Here are just a few ways that cyclothymia may affect relationships with family members, friends, and partners:

Cyclothymia and family

When you live with cyclothymia, your relationships with your loved ones can become tense or strained.

When experiencing hypomanic symptoms, you might engage in behaviors that your family members feel are “out of character” for you. This can lead to worry or even judgment.

And when having depressive symptoms, you might find it difficult to take care of yourself, which can place a strain on any family members who are helping take care of you.

Emotionally, you might notice that you’re more reactive during conversations with your loved ones. You may have extreme reactions to any kind of criticism or negativity from them. Over time, this can make it difficult to have healthy, productive conversations with your family members.

Cyclothymia and friendships

Cyclothymia doesn’t just affect the relationship you have with family members ― it can also affect your friendships, too.

When you’re having symptoms of hypomania, you may be more likely to suggest activities or behaviors that appear irrational or could be harmful. If your friends attempt to discuss these behaviors with you or dissuade you from doing them, you might find that your reactions are extreme or even hurtful.

On the other hand, having symptoms of depression can leave you unable to socialize with friends, and you may notice that you’re more likely to isolate yourself. You might have trouble maintaining relationships, which can be upsetting to those in your friend group.

Cyclothymia and intimate relationships

The ups and downs of cyclothymic disorder can cause a significant amount of strain on all types of relationships, especially intimate relationships.

Hypomania symptoms can cause you to act intimately in ways that your partner is uncomfortable with, such as being hypersexual. You may even engage in behaviors that break your partner’s trust.

Depressive symptoms can cause the opposite ― you may pull away from your partner romantically and intimately, which can be hurtful for them if they don’t understand the reasoning.

And because cyclothymia can cause you to react more strongly to emotional situations, your partner might find it difficult to discuss these issues with you. When they do try to have a discussion, your emotions may make it difficult to communicate in a healthy way.

If cyclothymic disorder has caused a strain on your personal relationships, you’re not alone. Treatment can allow you to heal and nurture your relationship with yourself and others.

For many people living with cyclothymia, therapy is an important part of managing symptoms. One specific type of therapy, called family therapy, can help address the symptoms of bipolar disorder that directly impact relationships.

Family therapy can help you explore how living with cyclothymia has affected your relationships with your loved ones, including your family, partner, and friends. During therapy, you’ll learn how to improve your communication skills, cope better with interpersonal conflict, and more.

Over time, you can use the skills you’ve learned in family therapy to build healthy, productive relationships with the people who are most important to you.

It can be emotionally difficult to watch as someone you love experiences the symptoms of a mental health condition like cyclothymic disorder. But a little support can go a long way in helping your loved one get the treatment and tools they need.

So, here are just a few small ways you can help support your loved one with cyclothymia:

  • Educate yourself: One of the best things you can do for your loved one is to educate yourself on cyclothymic disorder. When you understand what the condition looks and feels like, it can help shape your own response to the symptoms.
  • Recognize shifts: When you understand the symptoms of cyclothymia, you can more easily recognize when your loved one is having symptoms. Sometimes this means offering more support. Other times, it means stepping back to care for yourself.
  • Offer support: Supporting someone with cyclothymia can make a huge difference in their willingness to seek out treatment. If you can, consider helping your loved one with things like doing research, getting to appointments, or even reminding them to take their meds.
  • Support yourself: Whether you’re a parent, partner, or close friend of someone living with cyclothymic disorder, support is available for you, as well. Several large organizations hold family support groups for loved ones of those with bipolar disorders.

At the end of the day, while you can’t force your loved one to get help, you can offer them support as they navigate treatments and improve their quality of life.

Learn more about how to help a family member get a psychiatric evaluation.

Family and relationship therapy

Family and relationship therapy can be an effective approach to rebuilding and maintaining healthy relationships when you’re living with cyclothymic disorder. If you or someone you love is living with this condition, here are a few resources to get you started on your therapy search:

You can use each of the tools listed above to search for family and relationship mental health professionals in your area.

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Cyclothymic disorder can cause someone to have alternating symptoms of mild depression and hypomania. People living with cyclothymia may have trouble functioning in different aspects of their life, including their relationships with loved ones.

Treatment for cyclothymia often includes a combination of medication and therapy to help manage symptoms long-term. Family-focused therapy approaches, specifically, can help address the symptoms that are having the biggest impact on a person’s relationships.

With the right treatments and support, people living with cyclothymia can learn how to build and maintain healthy relationships with others.