What is rapid cycling bipolar disorder and how can you treat it?
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Mental health disorders are rarely straightforward. People can have a combination of several disorders, varying degrees of severity and symptoms that change over time. It’s important to know about the various subtypes of different disorders. Then you’re able to better identify which ones align with your symptoms, like when you take a bipolar disorder quiz.

Bipolar disorder is a common mental health disorder that affects about 2.8% of the U.S. population in a given year. Bipolar disorder isn’t a one-size-fits all diagnosis, as there are multiple forms of the disorder. One of those forms is rapid cycling bipolar disorder. But what does that actually mean and how can it be treated? 

Read on to learn about the basics of bipolar disorder and rapid cycling bipolar disorder. You’ll also learn about treatment options that are utilized by mental health providers.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic-depressive disorder, is a mood disorder characterized by unusual shifts in mood and energy. These periods of emotional changes are known as episodes, and they alternate between manic highs and depressive lows. Manic episodes refer to abnormally high levels of energy and elation, while depressive episodes involve overwhelming negative emotions and fatigue.

There are two main types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar 1 has the highest level of acuity. It consists of episodes that shift between manic episodes, which can last up to one week, and depressive episodes, which can last more than two weeks. Bipolar 2 has longer periods of emotional stability between episodes than bipolar 1. It also has hypomanic episodes as opposed to manic episodes, which means that the symptoms are less intense.

What is rapid cycling bipolar disorder?

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder, or RCBD, isn’t a formal diagnosis, but rather a facet of bipolar disorder that can be seen in any type of the mood disorder. It means that there are frequent transitions back and forth between manic and depressive disorders. On average, people with bipolar disorder experience two cycles per year. RCBD is defined as having four or more episodes within a 12-month period. 

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder isn’t always evident during diagnosis. For some people, it develops gradually over time or is temporary. For others, rapid cycling is a regular occurrence. According to a research study, up to 24% of people with bipolar disorder experience rapid cycling.

5 ways to treat rapid cycling bipolar disorder

When it comes to treating rapid cycling bipolar disorder, the goal is to reduce the symptoms so that they have less interference with your quality of life. With proper treatment, people with bipolar disorder can complete their daily responsibilities and maintain healthy relationships with others.

Mental health providers may recommend a variety of treatment options based on your specific symptoms, but they mostly center around two essential treatments: medication and psychotherapy.

Here are five treatment options for rapid cycling bipolar disorder:


  • Mood stabilizers — These medications help to balance out your moods. A mental health provider will prescribe a mood stabilizer to reduce the chance of you experiencing a manic or depressive episode. The most common mood stabilizer is lithium.

  • Atypical antipsychotics — Another common medication for bipolar disorder is an atypical antipsychotic. These block the effects of dopamine to decrease psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy — One of the most common types of talk therapy utilized for bipolar disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. The goal of this therapy is to help identify and adjust how your thoughts, actions and emotions work together during an episode.

  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy — ISRT, or interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, focuses on the idea that there are triggers in your daily routine that lead to a manic or depressive episode. The goal is to stabilize your lifestyle and improve your relationships with others by making changes to your social and biological routines.

  • Family therapy — Bipolar disorder affects everyone around you. When you go through an episode, your family may experience guilt and worry. They also have to deal with the consequences of your unpredictable or risky behavior. The goal of family therapy is to help your family understand your disorder and help with conflict resolution.


Lightfully Behavioral Health can help treat your rapid cycling bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder can make you feel completely out of control of your emotions. It can be difficult to have consistent manic or depressive episodes. But there are many treatment options that can help rapid cycling bipolar disorder. 

We offer four programs at our treatment centers to assist with your bipolar disorder symptoms: Residential Treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program. 

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step to help your rapid cycling bipolar disorder, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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