Differences between cyclothymia and major depression
These two psychological disorders have a common basis, but are expressed differently.
Psychological disorders are very varied, but many of them coincide in terms of symptoms. Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate clearly and sharply between a disorder such as major depression and others such as recurrent brief depression or bipolar disorder.
That is why there are diagnostic manuals, such as the DSM or the ICD, which allow a differential diagnosis to be made and ensure that the patient receives the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes major depression and cyclothymia, which presents hypomania-depression cycles, can generate some confusion.. For this reason we are going to explain them in this article, in addition to mentioning the 4 main differences between the two disorders.
- Recommended article: "Differences between unipolar depression and bipolar depression".
Brief definition of both disorders
First of all, let's get to know the definition and basic characteristics of both disorders.
Major depression is a psychological disorder characterized by the manifestation of a deep pathological sadness for at least two weeks.. Depressed people often have very low self-esteem, little interest in doing activities they used to enjoy, as well as lack of energy and unexplained aches and pains. Because of all this, the disorder can have a very serious impact on the depressed person's life, affecting their social relationships, work, studies and general health.
Cyclothymia, also called cyclothymic disorder, is a psychological disorder in which there are periods with depressive symptoms and periods with hypomanic symptoms.. The occurrence of these episodes has to be about two years.
Differences between the two disorders
Let us now know what are the differences between cyclothymia and major depression.
1. Episodes vs. steady state
The main difference between the two disorders is that in cyclothymia there are hypomanic and depressive episodes while in major depression only depressive symptomatology occurs..
In depression, the episodes are unipolar, i.e., there are no abrupt mood changes as in bipolar disorder or cyclothymia, in which there is a transition from a low mood to a high mood, with manic symptoms.
In major depression these symptoms last for at least two weeks, and can last for months and years.
On the other hand, in cyclothymia, as in bipolar disorder, there are episodes that go from one extreme to the other of the mood.
Although the symptoms are not as severe as in bipolar disorder, some episodes are accompanied by depressive symptoms while others are accompanied by hypomanic symptoms.
When depressive episodes occur without being accompanied by manic episodes, depression is usually referred to as unipolar.
In cyclothymia there are depressive episodes, in which symptoms of depression are manifested, but there are also hypomanic episodes. Thus, in cyclothymia there are variations in mood that go slightly beyond euthymia.
2. Severity of symptoms
The symptoms of major depression are various, some of them being insomnia and hypersomnia, weight gain and Weight loss without making any significant changes.The symptoms of major depression include insomnia and hypersomnia, weight gain and weight loss without dieting, fatigue and loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, concentration problems, along with profound sadness, suicidal ideation and self-harming attempts.
All of these symptoms are serious and have a very negative impact on the life of the depressed person.
Although cyclothymia also has an impact on the person's life, it does not do so as severely as major depression does.
It is true that in cyclothymia there are depressive symptoms, however, these do not acquire the severity of those of major depression. In addition, the depressive episodes in cyclothymia do not usually last as long as in depression, rarely exceeding two weeks.
Because of all this, cyclothymia does not become as detrimental as major depression, although it should be noted that it is not adaptive to have frequent depressive episodes, since it can make it difficult to maintain a partner or to continue studies and work.
The same is true for the hypomanic episodes of cyclothymia when compared to the manic highs of bipolar disorder. While in bipolar disorder there is euphoria and a feeling of invincibility, in cyclothymia these symptoms are less severe..
3. Seeking help
Although we all need to see a psychologist, either to check that we are well or to see if there is something wrong with us and to start treatment as soon as possible, the truth is that not all people with psychological disorders decide to seek help, the truth is that not all people with psychological disorders decide to seek help..
Related to the previous point, due to the difference in the severity of the symptoms of both disorders, there are also differences on the part of those affected by these disorders when it comes to seeking help.
In major depression, as there is a very noticeable impact on life, people tend to seek professional help more often and earlier than in the case of cyclothymia.
It is true that there may be reluctance to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist, but since the person with major depression is very aware that he or she is suffering and his or her environment is also often under more pressure from the family to seek the help they so desperately need.
However, the same is not true for people affected by cyclothymia. As the changes in mood can be mistaken for normal, healthy changes in a somewhat unstable person or related to their personality, the degree of concern is less and the fact that they are suffering from a psychological problem is not as frequent.
However, seeking help can never be too muchIt is estimated that between 15% and 50% of the population of people with cyclothymia will progress to bipolar disorder with episodes of greater severity.
4. Differential diagnosis
For cyclothymia to be diagnosed, the patient must have manifested depressive and hypomanic episodes for a period of more than two years. for a period of more than two years.
In the case of major depression, a diagnosis can be made if the person reports suffering from depressive symptoms for more than two weeks.
Major depression is classified in the DSM-5 as a mood disorder and is diagnosed as such when there has been at least one depressive episode, without the symptoms of mania or hypomania.
Usually, if there has been an episode with manic symptomatology, major depression is ruled out and the possibility of a cyclothymic or bipolar disorder is considered.
Cyclothymia is classified as a subtype of bipolar disorder. The intervals in which neither depressive nor hypomanic symptoms occur are not longer than two months.
It should be noted that during the diagnosis of cyclothymia it is necessary to find out if the person has consumed drugs, since some of them can affect the mood in such a way that there are episodes of euphoria followed by emotional lows that can be misinterpreted as a cyclothymic disorder.