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Guide HR: If the roller-coaster goes on too long

Be watchful of what are seen as less-severe mood swings

If it sometimes feels like your roller-coaster never really stops, maybe you suffer from cycloth­ymia, a mild version of bipolar disorder.

You wouldn’t be alone. I have met dozens of producers who have this disorder, and who come to see it as the source of their misfortunes. Obviously, they consult me when they’re “down” because, on the most beautiful days, well, everything is great (from their point of view).

If the person is lucky enough to be surrounded by people who love them and understand the situation, the damage can be mitigated. For example, a partner may be there to prevent them from making mood-driven decisions that they would later regret. Often, however, the partner becomes exhausted acting as the buffer.

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Cyclothymia is a mood disorder characterized by periods of mild elation and mild depression that are not related to life circumstances. “He just woke up this morning feeling down and doesn’t want to invest anymore,” a partner might say. “Yesterday, he did not understand why I did not agree to invest in the new project. He can cycle through these emotions even in the same day. I often think he has two personalities.”

In fact, this instability of mood is a mild form of bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depressive disorder). Although less severe, cyclothymia can significantly impact a person’s relationships and finances. Extreme and unexpected mood disturbances prevent the individual from functioning normally. In “up” periods, it’s like the person is wearing rose-tinted glasses. Everything is great. In low periods, however, they can feel quite depressed and unable to accomplish their tasks.

Between one and two per cent of the population suffer from manic-depressive disorder. However, if we include all mood disorders (severe and mild), this represents six to eight per cent of the population. But it’s also important to know that we find mood disorders represented even more highly among entrepreneurs and managers.

People suffering from cyclothymia would not be diagnosed with bipolar disorder because their condition is not as severe. However, their symptoms will gradually harm them and those around them.

Symptoms

The lows

  • Difficulty making decisions, problems concentrating, and poor memory recall.Guilt, self-criticism, low self-esteem, pessimism, and self-destructive thinking.
  • Constant sadness, apathy, hopelessness, helplessness and irritability.
  • Quick temper, poor judgment and lack of motivation.
  • Social withdrawal, appetite change and lack of sexual desire.
  • Self-neglect, fatigue, insomnia, and sleepiness or too much sleep.

The highs: Hypomanic episodes

  • Euphoria.
  • Unhealthy optimism, inflated self-esteem and arrogance.
  • Rapid speech, interrupting others, and racing thoughts.
  • Aggression, hostility and lack of consideration for others.
  • High energy levels — a person can work long hours without getting tired.
  • Risk-taking behaviours, such as driving fast, spending money and increasing sexual activity.
  • Highly goal oriented.
  • Decreased need for sleep, tendency to be easily distracted and an inability to concentrate.

A person need not exhibit all the symptoms to be diagnosed. Moreover, the severity of the problem has to be considered in relation to the pain that it causes to the individual and his environment. Of course, when someone is at the top of the roller-coaster, it feels great.

We all experience cycles in our energy levels, mood, and ambition. However, when someone struggles to recognize himself in his way of thinking, feeling and acting from hour to hour or day to day, it’s a sign that this variation has reached a level we should be concerned about.

Some people avoid seeking treatment because a certain degree of hypomania (i.e. the “highs”) may help them succeed in life. This high phase is associated with creativity, investment and expansion. The person may also be highly convincing, charismatic and productive. The problem is that in periods of mild depression, the individual no longer has the physical and psychological ability to support her projects.

It is crucial to recognize if you suffer from a mood disorder. If you have doubts about yourself or a member of your family, consult your doctor or psychologist. Because the mood swings are not as dramatic as in bipolar disorder, cyclothymia often goes under the radar and is undiagnosed, but getting help can significantly mitigate its relational and financial consequences.

If you feel that your life is like a roller-coaster, go see a specialist — a little bit of a roller-coaster can be great, but too much will give you nausea and make you really sick. And someone else will have to clean up the mess.

About the author

Columnist

Pierrette Desrosiers, MPS, CRHA is a work psychologist, professional speaker, coach and author who specializes in the agricultural industry. She comes from a family of farmers and she and her husband have farmed for more than 25 years (www.pierrettedesrosiers.com).

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