Bipolar Rapid Cycling

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by episodes of mania and depression. Rapid cycling is a subtype of bipolar disorder that includes more frequent, distinct mood episodes occurring in a shorter period of time. If you suffer from rapid cycling bipolar disorder, it’s important to look into treatment options.

If you or a loved one suffers from frequent episodes of mania and depression, call Alta Loma Transformational Services today at(866) 457-3843.

Prevalence of Rapid Cycling

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance claims that rapid cycling occurs at some point in around half of all people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. However, only a small percentage of people with bipolar disorder experience the rapid cycling pattern chronically. If you’ve had four or more distinct episodes of depression or mania within the span of one year, you meet the criteria for this subtype.

What Do Rapid Cycling Manic Episodes Look Like?

A rapid cycling manic episode involves the same symptoms as regular bipolar, except it doesn’t last as long. In general, a person with this subset of bipolar disorder experiences four or more episodes within a single year. At least three of the following bipolar symptoms must be present:

  • High levels of energy
  • Increased confidence and positivity
  • Increased aggression and irritability
  • Increased libido
  • Racing thoughts and rapid speech
  • Lack of sleep without tiring
  • Overreaction to stimulus
  • Impulsivity and poor judgment, which can lead to risky behaviors such as overspending, drunk driving, substance and alcohol abuse, and unprotected sex
  • Delusions of grandeur or other delusional thinking patterns such as belief in special powers or abilities
  • Hallucinations

Hypomanic Symptoms

If a person has bipolar II disorder, they might experience hypomania, which is a milder version of full-blown mania. The main reason it’s considered less severe is the lack of psychotic symptoms, which include delusions and hallucinations. It’s still completely distinct from the individual’s regular mood and is characterized by an uptick in energy and distinctly out-of-the-ordinary behavior for that individual.

What Do Rapid Cycling Depressive Episodes Look Like?

The rapid depressive state is the same as regular bipolar disorder and can include the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained crying spells
  • Extreme sadness in response to regular situations
  • Pessimism or apathy
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of energy or persistent exhaustion
  • Feelings of shame, guilt and worthlessness
  • Hyperfocus on perceived failures and misgivings
  • Unexplained pain
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Indecisiveness
  • Inability to focus
  • Social withdrawal and indifference to activities that usually bring joy
  • Substance abuse
  • Fixation on suicide attempts or death

Why Do People Experience Rapid Cycling?

It’s hard to say what causes rapid cycling in bipolar disorder, but there are some external factors that may come into play:

  • Antidepressants can trigger mood changes and cause someone to develop rapid cycling.
  • Another theory points to the possibility of having an underactive thyroid that doesn’t produce the appropriate level of hormones, causing frequent mood changes.
  • Not getting enough sleep can also trigger or worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
  • Dysfunctional circadian rhythms have been associated with this subset of bipolar.
  • MS, head injury and developmental delay are also implicated causally.

Who’s at a Higher Risk of Experiencing Rapid Cycling?

Scientists still don’t understand exactly what causes rapid cycling, but the following can put you at a greater risk for the condition:

  • Women appear to be at a higher risk of rapid cycling than men, which some experts suggest may be due to the nature of women’s hormone cycles.
  • individuals who get a diagnosis during adolescence appear to be more likely to develop this subset.
  • People with bipolar II might be more likely to experience rapid cycles.

Risks Associated With Rapid Cycling

Frequent changes in mood and behavior can negatively impact your sleeping, eating and relationships. As you’re struggling with navigating your mood swings, your work and school performance might suffer. If you’re experiencing repeated disturbances in mood, this could lead you to develop psychosis. While many people with bipolar disorder experience thoughts of suicide, people with rapid cycling bipolar disorder are 54% more likely to attempt suicide than people with other bipolar subtypes.

substance abuse in a depressive episode

Treatment Options for Rapid Cycling Bipolar Patients

Mood stabilizers and antipsychotics can help alleviate the symptoms of mania, psychosis and depression. Therapy can also provide you with a safe environment to talk about the challenges you’re facing with bipolar disorder. A therapist can teach you how to identify and cope with your symptoms. A personalized plan can be made for you to help improve your symptoms and keep your mood stable.

Support groups are also a great way to connect with people dealing with your challenges and be able to tell your story. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder symptoms don’t have to overwhelm your life as long as you have a treatment plan.

Rapid Cyclers vs Borderline Personality Disorder

When it comes to mental health disorders, there can be significant overlap between disorders, with rapid cycling bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder sharing many similarities.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

BDP is a personality disorder, which is distinct from a mental health condition such as bipolar because it’s largely caused by inappropriate coping skills and persistently unhelpful thought patterns present since childhood. This doesn’t mean it’s any less clinically significant than bipolar disorder, and it can be persistent, highly resistant to treatment and significantly impair function. It’s characterized by an unstable sense of self and intense difficulty managing interpersonal relationships.

Someone with BPD often experiences severe mood swings from day to day or even within the space of a single day. This can make it look very similar to rapid cycling bipolar disorder, and separating the two can be a challenge. However, BPD is largely a result of black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking and often a direct response to stimulus. For example, a person might think they’re completely unlovable because they have a minor disagreement with their partner or feel they’re a failure at work because they get a single piece of constructive feedback.

Key Differences

While bipolar disorder is believed to be a result of differences in brain chemistry, BPD is theorized to occur due to perception and unhelpful thought patterns. Key differences are that even rapid cycling bipolar doesn’t include mood swings as frequent as people with BPD experience, with borderline affective instability rarely lasting more than a few days. Bipolar tends to be diagnosed later and gets worse over time if left untreated, while BPD tends to be diagnosed earlier and often improves naturally over time.

It’s important to get a diagnosis so you can get the necessary treatment and learn about your condition to help yourself as best as possible.

Alta Loma Bipolar Treatment

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder involves frequent episodes of mania and depression. Having no control over your symptoms can lead to problems with your work, school and relationships. By taking the right medications and talking to a therapist, you can be on the right track to a successful treatment. At Alta Loma, we understand how bipolar disorder can affect your life, and we’re here to help you.

Located in Georgetown, Texas, Alta Loma can provide you with individualized therapy, support groups, medication management and more. Give us a call at (866) 457-3843 to learn more about our services.


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Healing on Your Terms

You understand your needs best. If you have found yourself at a crossroads in your treatment and feel like your program options don’t fully understand you or aspects of your recovery, it’s time to contact the specialists at Alta Loma. We will help you craft the ideal care plan and secure the support you need, quickly, to avoid unnecessary problems. At Alta Loma, that’s our mission — to provide each individual with optimum care for the wellbeing they deserve.