Subaffective disorders are a class of mental illnesses that affect mood, but are less severe than major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. The suffix “thymia” refers to mood, and the prefix “dys” means painful. “Cyclo” refers to changes or cycles. Dysthymia is a less severe form of depression, and cyclothymia is a less severe form of bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Dysthymia

  • Low mood

    Persistent feelings of sadness that last most of the day, most days, for a prolonged period of time. This sad mood must not be a response to life circumstances, grief or a medical condition.

  • Impact on appetite

    This may be an increase or decrease, with resulting weight gain or loss.

  • Impact on sleep

    Dysthymia typically causes either insomnia or excessive sleep.

  • Impact on cognitive abilities

    Dysthymia also tends to cause difficulties with thinking. Confusion, trouble concentrating, trouble making decisions, and mental tiredness are all reported as part of this disorder.

  • Negative feelings of self-worth or low self-esteem

    Not only do people with dysthymia feel sad, but they typically report feeling bad about themselves as well. Feelings of guilt or shame are commonly reported.

Symptoms of Cyclothymia

In addition to the low mood symptoms of dysthymia, people suffering from cyclothymia also experience hypomanic moods. One important criteria for diagnosing cyclothymia is that normal mood states that occur in between hypomanic and depressed moods last a maximum of two months. These hypomanic moods states are characterized by:

  • Having lots of energy and a decreased need for sleep

    This is different from insomnia, where you want to sleep but can’t. In a hypomanic episode, you feel like you don’t need to sleep.

  • Racing thoughts

  • Verbally over-productive

    In a full-blown manic episode, you may experience pressured speech, which is a more extreme form of being verbally overproductive. In a hypomanic episode, you just tend to talk a lot more than you would under normal circumstances.

  • Irritability

    For some people suffering from cyclothymia, hypomanic episodes include feeling thin-skinned. Everything and everyone is annoying.

Both dysthymia and cyclothymia respond well to treatment. Medications can help, and a number of psychotherapeutic techniques can ease the discomfort of these moods. Seek treatment and be hopeful–a positive attitude is an excellent first step.



Mood Disorders – WebMD

Dysthymia and Cyclothymia: Historical Origins and Contemporary Development – Journal of Affective Disorders

Cyclothymic Disorder – PsychNet UK

Dysthymia and Cyclothymia: Definition, Symptoms & Treatment –


Choose a better life. Choose recovery.