People with mood disorders have a high risk of developing addictions with about 50% of all people with cyclothymic disorder having a substance use disorder.

As a mental health condition related to bipolar disorder, cyclothymic disorder involves changing moods, hypomania and depression. Though the condition may not be as severe as bipolar disorder, it can create many unwanted physical and mental side effects.

Cyclothymic disorder affects people chronically and may eventually transition to bipolar disorder. Whether the diagnosis is a bipolar or cyclothymic disorder, substance abuse may accompany the condition.

Effects of Drug and Alcohol Use on Cyclothymic Disorder

It is impossible to say a substance use disorder causes a mental health disorder, but there is a connection between drug use and cyclothymic disorder. Part of the bond is due to a substance’s ability to create symptoms that mirror depression or hypomania.

During intoxication, alcohol and other substances may trigger periods of elation that appear as hypomania. When the intoxication ends, the person may feel low motivation, mood and energy, which can resemble depression.

However, cyclothymia and alcohol abuse or drug abuse are two separate issues. Even when a substance creates changing moods, it does not mean the substance produces cyclothymic disorder.

Another layer of the connection is the drug’s ability to disrupt normal brain signals. Alcohol and, particularly, cocaine prime the brain for developing mood disorders, so these substances could increase the risk of an emerging cyclothymic disorder.

Overall, substance use does not help a mood disorder. It only complicates and intensifies the problems associated with the disorder.

Statistics on Cyclothymia and Addiction

Cyclothymic disorder affects many, but the condition is not as well-studied or as well-understood as bipolar disorder. Still, the statistics on cyclothymia and addiction are compelling:

  • According to the American Psychiatric Association, as many as 1% of people will have cyclothymic disorder at some point in their life
  • Among people with a mood disorder, like cyclothymia, 32% have a co-occurring substance use disorder with 16.5% having an alcohol use disorder
  • As many as 50% of people with cyclothymic disorder will have substance use disorders

Can Cyclothymic Disorder Lead to Drug Abuse?

Any mood disorder creates a higher risk of drug use. With cyclothymic disorder, both the highs and the lows may contribute to substance use.

Having intense periods of depression can make drug and alcohol use an appealing form of self-medication. In addition, someone experiencing the symptoms of hypomania, poor judgment, low impulse control and increased risk-taking behaviors can result in increased substance use.

In moderation, these behaviors may not be problematic, but if a person uses alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, their healthy coping skills become less effective. With time, substance use becomes a person’s way to manage all stressors or uncomfortable situations.

Treating Cyclothymia and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

No matter the combination of co-occurring disorders, treatment professionals should address all mental health conditions simultaneously to produce the best results. If treatment focuses on only one aspect of a person’s symptoms, the other areas may worsen.

Many people with cyclothymia never receive treatment, which puts themselves in danger as there is some indication that people with cyclothymic disorder have an increased risk of suicide. Professional cyclothymia treatment may help reduce the risk with medications like:

  • Mood stabilizers: Options like lithium or lamotrigine (Lamictal) can regulate mood symptoms.
  • Antidepressants: A doctor may recommend Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft alone or in combination with a mood stabilizer to manage depressive symptoms.

Therapy may also help address the problematic signs and symptoms of cyclothymic disorder. Therapists can help investigate the connection between substance abuse and cyclothymic disorder to better understand the relationship.

If you or a loved one live with a substance use disorder, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative about how addiction treatment can benefit you. Individualized treatment programs benefit each patient’s personal needs. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

a man with a beard wearing glasses and a hoodie.
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
a man smiling in front of a brick wall.
Medically Reviewed By – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more

Goldberg, Joseph. “Cyclothymia (Cyclothymic Disorder).” May 10, 2018. Accessed May 13, 2019.

Quello, Susan B., Brady, Kathleen T., Sonne, Susan C. “Mood Disorders and Substance Use Disorde[…] Complex Comorbidity.” Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, December 2005. Accessed May 13, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.