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OBJECTIVE: This study compared demographic and phenomenological variables between bipolar patients with and without rapid cycling as a function of bipolar I versus bipolar II status. METHOD: The authors examined demographic, historical, and symptomatic features of patients with and without rapid cycling in a cross-sectional study of the first 500 patients with bipolar I or bipolar II disorder enrolled in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder, a multicenter project funded by the National Institute of Mental Health designed to evaluate the longitudinal outcome of patients with bipolar disorder. RESULTS: Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder occurred in 20% of the study group. Rapid-cycling patients were more likely to be women, although the effect was somewhat more pronounced among bipolar I patients than bipolar II patients. In addition, rapid-cycling bipolar patients experienced onset of their illness at a younger age, were more often depressed at study entry, and had poorer global functioning in the year before study entry than nonrapid-cycling patients. Rapid-cycling patients also experienced a significantly greater number of depressive and hypomanic/manic episodes in the prior year. A lifetime history of psychosis did not distinguish between rapid and nonrapid-cycling patients, although bipolar I patients were more likely to have experienced psychosis than bipolar II patients. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder demonstrate a greater severity of illness than nonrapid-cycling patients on a number of clinical measures. This study highlights the need to refine treatments for rapid cycling to reduce the overall morbidity and mortality of patients with this illness course modifier.

Original publication

DOI

10.1176/ajp.161.10.1902

Type

Journal article

Journal

Am J Psychiatry

Publication Date

10/2004

Volume

161

Pages

1902 - 1908

Keywords

Adult, Age of Onset, Bipolar Disorder, Cohort Studies, Comorbidity, Cross-Sectional Studies, Depressive Disorder, Diagnosis, Differential, Diagnosis, Dual (Psychiatry), Female, Humans, Male, Prevalence, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Severity of Illness Index, Sex Factors, Substance-Related Disorders