Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

2013 Bipolar Update

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder is a particular pattern within the bipolar mental condition. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistics Manual states that this ailment occurs when the person experiences four or more episodes of mood swings in one year. This is not a separate sub-category of bipolar but a modifier of the illness. It can be diagnosed in individuals with bipolar type I, II, depressed, manic or mixed symptoms. However, people with bipolar II seem to have a higher incidence of rapid cycling.

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder is characterized by symptoms of mania, hypomania, depression or mixed symptoms. Rapid cycling patients also suffer from extreme depression and higher incidences of suicide attempts. In between rapid cycling, the person returns to his normal bipolar pattern.

Approximately 5-15% of bipolar disorder people are classified as having rapid cycling. The ailment occurs more frequently in women. Approximately 70% - 90% of cases are diagnosed in women. Studies suggest there is family link such that if another member of the family has rapid cycling, the risk of experiencing it is higher. Rapid cycling symptoms tend to first appear in the late teen years or the early twenties.

Sometimes bipolar people will experience several cycles in one month or less, and this is known as “ultra-rapid recycling”. Furthermore the cycling pattern can take place within 24 hours which is known as ‘ultradian’ or ultra-ultra rapid cycling. Ultradian symptoms often mimic a mixed episode pattern. Studies have shown that bipolar children are particularly prone to rapid cycling with frequent mood changes in a single day.

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder often co-occurs with other ailments such as concomitant hypothyroidism. Certain medications also have an adverse effect. For instance, the antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclics have been found to act as triggers for rapid cycling. It has also been noted that lithium, which is often used to treat bipolar, has a relatively low success rate for rapid cycling conditions.

Bipolar sufferers are sometimes advised to write down side effects they experience with different drugs so as that the physician can try to discover if there is a link between the episodes and the medication.

Consequently, it has been challenging coming up with the right medication plan to treat bipolar with rapid cycling. For cases where depression is the major symptom, antidepressants together with mood stabilizers can be prescribed together. Anticonvulsant drugs show better results in treating resistant rapid cycling.

Certain types of clinical therapies are beneficial in terms of stabilizing the mood. Self-help therapies also help to control rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Maintaining a good social support structure through family, friends and support groups helps to stabilize the mood changes.

Exercise is also beneficial. However, one should consult a physician before embarking on any type of workout to get guidance on the best form of exercise for your particular type of rapid cycling. Regular exercise contributes to overall good health, discharges excess energy that builds up from frustration and anxiety, and also promotes better sleeping patterns in bipolar people.

There is a huge amount of research going on that is going to vastly help bipolar individuals. If you are bipolar you should stay on your medication at all times. By doing this you will be able to control your bipolar disorder and have a very normal lifestyle.