Rapid cycling is described as a pattern of distinct and frequent episodes in a bipolar disorder. In this type of bipolar disorder, the person experiences four or perhaps more episodes of depression or mania in one year. The cycle can occur at any point in the course of the disorder. Moreover, this can come and go over many years. However, the occurrence will depend on how the condition is treated. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder does not necessarily define a permanent or indefinite pattern of the episodes.
Anyone can develop bipolar disorder. About 10 to 20 percent of the total number of people with this condition develops a rapid cycling pattern. However, prevalence of this condition occurs in women with bipolar II disorder.
There are distinct markers of this type of condition. First, there should be at least one episode of mania in the person’s life. Second, there should also be several recurrent episodes of depression or major depressive disorder. Mania is characterized by an abnormally elevated mood as well as high energy. This condition is typically accompanied by an erratic behavior, which lasts at least five to seven days at a time. On the other hand, hypomania is characterized by an elevated that does not reach a full-blown mania. This occurs in a minimum of about four days.
Most people with rapid cycling bipolar disorder develops alternating periods of major depressive disorder and hypomania.However, it is far common that there are repeated as well as distinct episodes of depression that occurs. The repeated periods of depression are characterized by infrequent as well as shorter periods of normal or elevated mood.
It is often debated how bipolar disorder is diagnosed. This condition is often diagnosed after someone experiences a manic or hypomanic episode in addition to episodes of depression, hypomania, and mania. Rapid cycling is not a diagnosis. However, this is considered a descriptor of the course of this health condition. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder is identified when there are four or more distinct episodes of mania, hypomania, and depression that occur during a one-year period. Rapid cycling can actually happen at any time in the course of this disorder and this may come and go at different points over a lifetime.
There are instances where rapid cycling bipolar disorder becomes difficult to identify because some episodes can undergo alternate increases and decreases without resolving. When this happens, they do not necessarily represent separate and distinct episodes. This condition is often misdiagnosed as unipolar depression because most people with this condition spend more time being depressed than hypomanic or manic.
Since symptoms of depression are more common in people with rapid cycling bipolar disorder, the treatment of this condition is often aimed towards the relief of depression as well as the prevention of the occurrence of new episodes. Antidepressants are not prescribed for this type of condition especially with long-term use since this type of medication may increase the frequency of new episodes over time. The core treatment for this condition includes mood-stabilizing drugs. A combination of mood stabilizing drugs is often prescribed to treat the condition. In addition, antipsychotic medications may also be prescribed as part of the treatment regimen of this condition, regardless of the absence or presence of hallucinations and delusions. The treatment using mood stabilizers is typically continued even when the person does not exhibit the symptoms of the condition, as this prevents recurrence of new episodes. There are some cases, however, when antidepressants are used. However, this medication is usually tapered as soon as depression is controlled.