Bipolar disorder: What is rapid cycling?
Bipolar disorder involves extremes of both high and low moods and a range of other symptoms. In rapid cycling, moods change quickly, with at least 4 distinct mood episodes per year.
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that most commonly appears for the first time in young adults.
Symptoms may occur during adolescence, but it can be difficult to identify, because mood changes are common at this stage of development.
Apart from mood, bipolar disorder also causes changes in energy levels and behaviors known as cycles.
To have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a person must only experience one manic episode. Depression may never occur with bipolar disorder, despite the name.
Many people with bipolar disorder will experience two cycles per year, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
When someone has four or more manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes in a 12-month period, this is called rapid cycling.
Causes of rapid cycling
There is no clear trigger for rapid cycling, but bipolar changes occur due to changes in brain chemicals. Doctors and scientists have proposed a number of reasons why this might happen.
One theory is that changes in circadian rhythms underlie rapid cycling.