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Diagnosis and Treatment of Cyclothymia: The “Primacy” of Temperament

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Background: Contrary to DSM-5 definition based on recurrence of low grade hypomanic and depressive symptoms, cyclothymia is better defined in a neurodevelopmental perspective as an exaggeration of cyclothymic temperament. Emotional dysregulation with extreme mood instability and reactivity is the core features of the complex symptomatology.

Method: In the present article, we critically reviewed the literature on the diagnosis and treatment of cyclothymia, focusing on the temperamental and neurodevelopmental perspectives.

Results: Current epidemiological and clinical research showed the high prevalence and the validity of cyclothymia as a distinct form of bipolarity, frequently associated with multiple comorbidities with anxiety, impulse control, substance use, and so called “personality” disorders. Many patients receive correct diagnosis and treatments after many years of illness, when the superposition of complications reduces the possibility of complete remission. A therapeutic model combining the focus on symptomatic presentations with a temperamental perspective seems to represent an effective approach for cyclothymic patients with complex clinical presentations.

Conclusion: Cyclothymic mood instability is an understudied issue despite the evidence of its clinical relevance. Unresolved issues concern its diagnostic delimitation and the possible relationships with emotional dysregulation observed in other neurodevelopmental disorders. We need to confirm the specificity of the disorder and to improve its recognition in early phase of the life, especially in youth. Early recognition means avoiding unnecessary complications and establishing specific treatments and clinical management since the beginning.
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Keywords: Bipolar disorder; DSM system; cyclothymia; emotional dysregulation; mood; temperament

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2017

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  • Current Neuropharmacology aims to provide current, timely and comprehensive reviews of all areas of neuropharmacology and related matters of neuroscience. The journal publishes reviews written by experts and leaders in the fields of molecular, cellular, and systems/behavioural aspects of neuropharmacology and neuroscience. The journal serves as a comprehensive, multidisciplinary expert forum for neuropharmacologists and neuroscientists.
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