The Bipolar Disorder spectrum of mood disorders is generally characterized by an emotional rollercoaster of up and down mood swings. When these mood changes occur in rapid succession, it's called Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder. A person with Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder typically experiences alternating episodes of mania and depression. However, periods of depression tend to be predominant, interspersed with briefer periods of abnormally elevated "manic" or "hypomanic" mood instability. The "manic" phase of Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder is often characterized by sudden euphoria or rage, racing thoughts, hyperactivity, decreased need for sleep, and various types of reckless behavior such as sexual indiscretions and impulsive spending. The milder "hypomanic" elevated mood occurs less often. The depressed phase of Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder looks the same as Major Depression, which typically includes: persistent sadness and fatigue; loss of interest; changes in sleeping and eating patterns; difficulty concentrating; feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness; and thoughts of death or suicide. The diverse mood swings, often referred to as "poles" of mania and depression, is why Bipolar Disorder is often referred to as "manic depression." Symptoms at either pole that last for at least a week are considered an "episode." Nearly six million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of Bipolar Disorder, which typically begins in late teens or early adulthood, and rarely after age 50. It's believed that 10 to 20 percent of people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder develop the rapid cycling pattern, which typically occurs later in the illness. Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder occurs more frequently in women than in men. Studies also suggest that Bipolar Disorder tends to run in families, so having an immediate family member with the illness may increases a person's risk. Additionally, research shows that approximately 60 percent of Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder sufferers may abuse alcohol or drugs. A diagnosis of Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder involves four or more episodes of mania or depression in a one-year time period to establish a cycle. It is also necessary to assess the proportion of time a person spends in both the depressed and manic states. The typical predominance of the depression cycle puts sufferers of Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder at a high risk for suicide, which underscores the need to see a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. While treatment for Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder may focus on medications that relieve depression, such as Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac, experts say mood-stabilizing drugs should accompany antidepressant medications and some question the utility of using antidepressants at all, in patients with bipolar disorder. That's because antidepressants alone are thought to increase rapid cycling and may trigger manic episodes. While treatment of Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder presents some challenges, ongoing medication and psychotherapy can help. Studies show that rapid cycling typically ends within two years of onset and rarely lasts beyond five years.If you experience recurring symptoms of mania and depression, please see your doctor or mental health provider.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012