Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder


One of the leading mental disorders that has affected more than 6 million people in the United States is bipolar disorder. This disorder has affected people of all different races, ethnicities and gender. Bipolar disorder is often associated with having mood swings. Those who do not understand this disorder usually think a person’s behavior is neurotic or crazy. It is important to understand that those suffering from bipolar disorder are neither of the words described above. Those with bipolar disorder have bouts of happiness but are mainly tinged with depression. Stemming from bipolar disorder is rapid cycling bipolar disorder. A state of depression with at least four episodes of mania or hypomania episodes occurs during rapid cycling. A mixture of major depressive symptoms including, manic and hypomanic episodes can be sparse or close together but they need to be within a year to be considered rapid cycling. 

What is Rapid Cycling 

Although it is often referred to as a type of bipolar disorder, rapid cycling is more like a course than a type. Within the bipolar disorder spectrum, there are four categories. These categories include bipolar 1 and 2, cyclothymic and other bipolar disorders. Rapid cycling can fall into any of these categories as a direction in which bipolar disorder is heading to.  


Rapid cycling bipolar disorder has similar effects on the mind and body as bipolar disorder, but is usually more unpredictable. People who become dominated by this disorder tend to have mixed emotions during the period of rapid cycling. Some of the symptoms that are associated with this course of bipolar disorder are: 

  • Uncontrollable emotions or outbursts 
  • Random mood swings 
  • Depression 
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Energy changes (both high and low)  
  • Anger  
  • Mania 
  • Hypomania  
  • Psychosis  
  • Impulsivity  
  • Inability to sleep  
  • Thoughts of suicide  

Causes and Risk factors  

For those looking for a specific answer as to what causes rapid cycling bipolar disorder, you might be disappointed. Unfortunately, there are no known causes of the precise reason as to why this direction of bipolar disorder occurs. Below are some of the triggers that can cause a reaction to bipolar disorder that can lead to rapid cycling.  

  • Drug abuse 
  • Alcohol abuse 
  • High stress and anxiety 
  • Poor life choices 
  • Not taking the proper medication 
  • Too much anti-depressant medication- This possible cause of rapid cycling bipolar disorder has been recently studied to determine the risk of too much use of anti-depressants. Unfortunately, the link between the overuse of these types of medications can cause random outbursts of rapid cycling bipolar disorder.  

Just like many other illnesses and disorders, there are certain groups of people who are more at risk of developing rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Those will a higher risk include: women, those in their late teens or early 20’s and those with bipolar II disorder.  


The diagnosis of rapid cycling disorder is considered to be: at least 1 episode of mania, hypomania or a combination of the two with episodes of depression. The difference between mania and hypomania is that mania episodes can occur for seven days or more. Hypomania episodes are usually four days and it does not have an abnormally high level of elevated energy or mood. If not diagnosed properly, doctors may only prescribe anti-depression medication to treat the depression side of this disorder. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder is often overlooked as a potential threat to a person’s life. Because depression takes center stage and the bouts of mania or hypomania episodes can appear insignificant. Unfortunately, one single episode of mania or hypomania is often overlooked, causing a misdiagnosis on behalf of the doctor and patient.



Reading a self-help book is not the best way to relieve rapid cycling bipolar disorder. One may believe that to treat this disorder, anti-depressants are the way to go. Unfortunately, anti-depressants are the least helpful drug to give a person with this disorder. Mood-stabilizers are the most efficient drug to calm the symptoms of rapid cycling disorder. Medications such as Tegretol, Zyprexa and lithium are common medications prescribed to patients. Treatment via drugs will only be effective if used for a consecutive amount of time. A one-time shot of lithium will not help a patient with this disorder, but it may make matters worse.