Cyclical Depression: Types and How to Find Support

The term “depression” often refers to major depressive disorder. But it can also serve as an umbrella term that encompasses various types of depression.

Depression does not follow the same pattern for everyone. It can involve quite a bit of variety not only in its symptoms, but also in its severity and duration.

Major depression, for example, involves episodes of mild to severe depression that last at least 2 weeks. dysthymiaor persistent depressive disorder, usually involves milder symptoms that persist for years rather than weeks or months.

Many people living with depression never link their symptoms to a specific subtype of depression. It may not seem to matter that much what kind of depression it has, as long as it receives support; after all, treatment is treatment, right?

But some types of depression do respond better to certain treatments. Even finding the most helpful therapy approach may depend, at least in part, on the type of depression you have. That’s why tracking any patterns your symptoms tend to take can provide important information that leads to more effective treatment.

If you’ve noticed that your symptoms of depression tend to occur in cycles, you’ve come to the right place.

Cyclical depression is not an official mental health diagnosis and mental health professionals may not use the term. That said, certain types of depression do follow a pattern. These symptoms come and go in some kind of cycle instead of persisting day after day.

Below, we’ll explore some types of depression that involve cyclical symptoms, plus offer guidance on how to get support.

The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5)” lists this condition under “Bipolar and Related Disorders.” In other words, experts don’t technically consider it a type of depression.

That said, if you’re living with this condition, your symptoms can resemble cycles of depression.

cyclothymia It involves fluctuating periods of hypomania, or high mood, and depression, or low mood.

During periods of depression, you may:

  • feeling depressed, sad, irritable, or hopeless
  • have less energy than you normally would
  • avoid spending time with loved ones
  • lose interest in your usual routine
  • find it hard to enjoy everyday life
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During a period of hypomania, you may:

  • Feeling more energetic and confident than usual.
  • have more interest in socializing
  • talk more than you normally would
  • feel highly motivated to do things
  • take risks you normally wouldn’t take

Hypomania is not as serious as maniathe extremely euphoric and grandiose mood that characterizes bipolar I disorder. With cyclothymia, the hypomania that follows depression may seem like your mood has improved.

Not everyone who experiences hypomania find it distressing. Since you may not even realize that these mood swings represent mental health symptoms, periods of depression may stand out more, especially if you enjoy periods of excitement and high energy.

What does the treatment involve?

Treatment for cyclothymia usually involves a combination of:

This subtype of major depression involves symptoms that come and go as the seasons change. You’ll usually notice symptoms in the fall and winter, though you may also experience seasonal depression. in the spring and summer

Experts don’t know exactly what causes seasonal depression. But the condition appears to be related, at least in part, to hormonal changes brought on by reduced exposure to natural light.

That’s why your symptoms may seem to follow a different cycle: appearing during the shorter, darker days of fall and winter and getting better as spring begins (or vice versa, for spring and summer depression).

The most common signs include:

  • changes in your typical energy levels, from low energy and fatigue (winter pattern) to increased restlessness and agitation (summer pattern)
  • changes in appetite and weight
  • trouble sleepingincluding insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
  • difficulty concentrating
  • withdrawal from social activities
  • feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or worthlessness

To diagnose seasonal depression, a mental health professional will ask you questions about the time of year you experience these symptoms and if you have any symptoms at other times. They will also want to know how many cycles you have noticed, as this diagnosis requires that you experience symptoms for at least 2 years in a row.

What does the treatment involve?

Specific treatments for seasonal depression may include:

This condition, which you’ll find in the DSM-5 along with other depressive conditions, involves a combination of mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. These symptoms start about a week before your menstrual period and end after your period starts.

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Along with a low and sad mood and a feeling of hopelessness, PMDD could cause:

You may not experience these symptoms every month, but you will notice them most months. To receive a diagnosis of PMDD, you will also need to experience symptoms for at least 2 months in a row.

Depression symptoms may also seem cyclical if they regularly worsen around your menstrual cycle, which can occur due to premenstrual exacerbation (PME).

With PME, symptoms of an underlying mood condition such as depression or bipolar disorder are usually worse in the week before your period starts. This pattern of more severe symptoms may be even more noticeable if your symptoms remain mild for the rest of each month.

What does the treatment involve?

  • Therapy. Different therapy approaches, including interpersonal therapy, CBT, and acceptance and commitment therapy, might have benefits for PMDD symptoms.
  • Medicine. A psychiatrist or other prescribing doctor can provide more information about medications that help treat PMDD symptoms. Potential options include antidepressants, Yaz and another hormonal birth control pills that prevent ovulation and drugs that block the production of progesterone and estrogen.
  • Self care. exercise regularlygetting enough quality sleepand eating a balance diet containing complex carbohydrates and lean protein can make a difference in your symptoms.
  • Stress management techniques. Since stress can make PMDD worse, taking steps to reduces stress in your life can improve symptoms. You could, for example, try relaxation exercises like meditation, yogaor guided imagery. But it’s also worth reaching out to your loved ones to emotional support.

If you experience symptoms of depression that keep coming back, connecting with a therapist is always a good next step.

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You’ll want to get in touch as soon as possible if your symptoms:

  • affect their ability to meet basic needs
  • Difficulty managing daily tasks and responsibilities.
  • keep you from succeeding at school or work
  • create problems in your personal and professional relationships

Although your symptoms may not seem that severe, especially when you know they will eventually get better, it’s important to recognize that they could get worse over time.

Experts have not found a cure for depression. Still, taking the first steps toward getting a diagnosis and finding an effective treatment could reduce your chances of experiencing more serious symptoms in the future.

Keep in mind, too, that a therapist will usually need to trace the pattern of your symptoms over a few months to a few years to arrive at the correct diagnosis. It never hurts to start this process sooner rather than later.

A therapist can:

  • help you explore possible causes of your symptoms
  • offer guidance on helpful strategies for navigating triggers
  • teach techniques for managing and coping with symptoms
  • suggest alternative remedies that suit your unique needs and personal lifestyle
  • refer you to a psychiatrist, if you want to try medication

Not ready to start therapy yet? You can begin to track your symptoms yourself by keeping a diary of mood swings and any other emotional or physical concerns you notice.

Cyclical depression may not be an actual mental health condition, but the symptoms of certain types of depression can certainly come and go in cycles.

Only a trained professional can link your symptoms to a specific mental health condition, whether it’s depression, bipolar disorder, or something else. A therapist can also, and perhaps more importantly, help you find a effective approach to treatment that suits your symptoms and your needs.


Crystal Raypole writes for Healthline and Psych Central. Her fields of interest include Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health, along with books, books, and more books. In particular, she is committed to helping decrease the stigma around mental health issues. She lives in Washington with her son and an adorable recalcitrant cat.

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