Cyclothymia – a little-talked-about condition

Matt Edmondson

As I rapidly approach the end of my fifth decade on Planet Earth, it’s becoming ever rarer for me to find something in common with Radio 1.

So it was with some surprise, when I recently read about Radio 1 DJ Matt Edmondson’s diagnosis of a little-talked about mental health condition, cyclothymia.

The relevance to me is that it’s the same disorder that I also live with – and have been for many, many years.
As you’re unlikely to have heard of cyclothymia, allow me to give you a short primer.

It’s a mental health condition characterised by mood swings – you can feel positively euphoric in the morning and very quickly descend to a profound low by teatime.

Either of these states can last for extended periods – we’re talking days – and happen relatively frequently.
It’s rare that I go a week without experiencing either end of the spectrum – think of it as a less serious version of bipolar disorder.

For years I assumed I suffered with regular depression, and took medication for it. The day I got the diagnosis of cyclothymia and I read up on it, so many things fell into place.

You can get medical treatment for it – mood disorder tablets are often prescribed (which didn’t work for me) – but one of the most powerful ways to combat it, as far as I’m concerned, is just the mere knowledge of having it.

While I do get lows (they often appear from nowhere), I find myself able to label them more easily and be aware that they will colour potential decisions.

This means I’m less likely to beat myself up about certain things – doing something wrong at work, my inability to reply to messages, my desire to ignore social events – and ride it out.

The only fly in the ointment is when a ‘low’ lasts for days, rather than a few hours.

Mindfulness also helps – the Calm app has been hugely beneficial – and I also find exercise incredibly helpful (I walk a fair bit and go cold water swimming).

One of the other benefits of the diagnosis for me was finally being able to come off my anti-depression medication. It allowed me to ‘feel’ normal emotions for the first time in years.

Now I can watch The Repair Shop and cry along with the best of them.

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