Differences Between Cyclothymic Disorder and Unspecified Bipolar Disorder in Youth May Indicate Course of Disorder

Investigators sought to determine the differences between youth with cyclothymic disorder and bipolar disorder not otherwise specified.

Youth with cyclothymic disorder show few differences from youth with medically unspecified bipolar disorder, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. However, persistent subsyndromal mood symptoms could have implications for the severity and course of a disorder.

This study included 154 young participants, 29 of whom met criteria for a research diagnosis of cyclothymic disorder. Youth with this disorder showed a higher likelihood for disruptive behavior disorder (P =.014), irritability (P =.039), sensitivity to rejection, and mood reactivity. Youth with unspecified bipolar disorder were likelier to experience mood episodes during the follow-up period and were at higher risk of developing depression (P =.024) or hypomania (P =.016).

The average age of youth in this study was 11.96 (SD 3.3) years, with the cyclothymic disorder group being younger at baseline (P =.039). The participants were recruited from the Course and Outcome of Bipolar Youth study before being assessed for cyclothymic disorder. The follow-up period of this study was 8 years, and baseline characteristics were compared between the research diagnosis cyclothymic disorder and the unspecified bipolar disorder groups.

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The study researchers conclude that “[there] were few differences between [research diagnosis of cyclothymic disorder] and [bipolar disorder – not otherwise specified] youth. However, the ways in which the groups diverged could have implications; chronic subsyndromal mood symptoms may portend a severe, but ultimately non-bipolar, course. Longer follow-up is necessary to determine the trajectory and outcomes of [cyclothymic disorder] symptoms.”


Van Meter A, Goldstein BI, Goldstein TR, et al. Parsing cyclothymic disorder and other specified bipolar spectrum disorders in youthJ Affect Disord. 2018; 238:375-382.