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Unseen Disorder - Cyclothymia.

Moods are an expression and direct reflection of these inner feelings.

In recent years, there has been a general increase in awareness about mental health issues, along with a genuine effort to effectively confront stigma against people who may be suffering from the more serious psychological disorders. Accessible information, endless opportunities to Google, campaigns and high profile cases reported by the media, such as the death of the adored comedian Robin Williams, encourage people to further explore the complexities of crippling emotional conditions. The problem is, as inexperienced or unqualified people sift through the various medical categories and symptoms to deepen their understanding, or worse yet, to self diagnose, they're likely to be drawn to the more known and common disorders, and might miss the nuanced layers of what they are experiencing. The result of this is that you may think that there's more wrong with you than there actually is, adding extra stress and anxiety to the situation. This further leads into a series of dangerous decisions, stemming from a flawed assumption about your condition, such as trying to treat the symptoms either with food and diet or over-the-counter medication that might only exacerbate matters.

We are quite complex creatures and throughout the day, we go through a kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions. We devote a large chunk of our energy balancing the experiences and stimuli our mind deals with. Moods are an expression and direct reflection of these inner feelings. So a mood swing is any sudden shift in disposition that, if not persistent or irrational, is considered completely normal.

Some psychological complaints are so subtle that they don't receive as much attention as their other cousins on the same spectrum therefore they are less visible in the health community. This is particularly true in regard to mood disorders and while we may be more familiar with depression or bipolar disorder, 'cyclothymia' can be as difficult to deal with, causing regular emotional ups and downs, yet it's usually unidentified.

According to the Mayo Clinic ( 'Cyclothymia has a strong genetic root and symptoms alternate between emotional highs and lows. The highs of cyclothymia are characterized by symptoms of an elevated mood (hypomanic symptoms), which resemble those of mania but are less severe. The lows consist of mild or moderate depressive symptoms.

During the hypomanic phase of cyclothymia, symptoms include an exaggerated feeling of happiness or well-being, extreme optimism, inflated self-esteem, poor judgment, rapid speech and racing thoughts, agitation, aggressive or hostile behaviour, excessive involvement in enjoyable and goal directed activities, deceased need to sleep and inability to concentrate.

The depressive phase of cyclothymia symptoms include fatigue, sadness, anxiety, guilt, sleep problems, loss of interests, social withdrawal, irritability and chronic pain with a clear cause. Such indications, during each phase, can last up to four days, however it's different for everyone and may vary according to situations, overall health of the person and their ability to manage the highs and lows.

People who suffer from cyclothymia say no two days are alike. They describe their mood fluctuations to go from numbness in the morning to fragmented thoughts and feelings later on during the day to hyperactivity by night. Despite this emotional roller coaster ride, these people manage to set goals, maintain relationships and jobs as well as achieving various degrees of success. The main problem is that the changes in mood can be unpredictable and frustrating not only for the person affected, but also for the people who interact closely with them.

It's important to keep in mind that persistent and illogical changes in temperament could be a sign of more serious psychological problems. If mood swings are severe and occur frequently disrupting professional, academic or personal life then it would be beneficial to consult a professional in order to pursue expert guidance. After being diagnosed, most people's first reaction is that they wish they had known sooner. Even though the signs and patterns might be quite obvious, due to lack of awareness and a resistance to being labelled, most people opt avoidance and delay their chance at both understanding the root causes and stabilising their well being. Remember, admitting your vulnerability doesn't make you weak; it makes you better.

Dr. Samineh I. Shaheem is the Learning & Development Director at Kawader (, and the owner of Life Clubs UAE. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and now the UAE. She co-hosts a radio program on 103.8 FM Dubai Eye (Psyched Sundays, Voices of Diversity 10-12pm) every Sunday morning discussing the most relevant psychological issues in our community. Twitter: @saminehshaheem/Facebook: Life Clubs UAE. Please forward your thoughts and suggestions for future articles to

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Sep 27, 2014
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