Rapid cycling mood disorder

Rapid cycling is found almost exclusively in bipolar disorder. It is defined by the presence of four or more affective episodes in 12 months, and is more frequent in females and in the bipolar II subtype. Rapid cycling does not appear to represent a chronic endstage form of bipolar disorder; it is often a transient non-familial manifestation of bipolar disorder. (42) A prospective follow-up study conducted over approximately 3 years showed diagnostic stability in about half the cases and the other half had fewer than four further episodes per year; in a control group 10 per cent of the non-rapid-cycling patients converted to rapid cycling. (43)

Rapid cycling does occur in unipolar depression, but is usually a transient and unstable phenomenon. Bipolar rapid cycling takes a very autonomous course and is very hard to treat.

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