Rapid cycling bipolar disorder occurs in an individual when the symptoms of bipolar disorder occur on an increased frequency. Generally, an individual with this type of disorder experiences episodes of depression or mania four or more times within a twelve month time frame.

It has been estimated that almost six million people within the United States suffer from this disorder, and approximately 10 to 20 percent of those with the disorder have rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Those who have been diagnosed with a bipolar II disorder have an increased chance of experiencing rapid cycling.

The symptoms of rapid cycling bipolar disorder, or any type of bipolar disorder, generally begin to occur when the individual is between the ages of 18 to 24, although these numbers are only an approximation. The two most defining characteristics of the disorder include at least one episode of mania in the patient’s lifetime and frequent, recurring bouts of depression. With bipolar disorder, frequent bouts of depression are interspersed with periods of mania or an elevated mood. Rapid cycling can be particularly difficult to diagnose in individuals. Because these individuals spend the majority of their time depressed, they are often misdiagnosed with simple depression.

When it comes to rapid cycling bipolar disorder, most treatment regimens are aimed towards treating and alleviating the depression. Common drugs that are prescribed for this disorder include Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. However, in a small percentage of individuals, the use of these drugs can often aggravate the symptoms of the rapid cycling. If this occurs, then mood stabilizers will often be prescribed in conjunction with the antidepressants. The most serious side effect of this type of bipolar disorder is suicide. With this disorder, an individual’s chances of attempting suicide increase 10 to 20 percent more than the average person.

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