A rapid cycling bipolar experiences extreme emotional ups, followed closely by equally severe depressive lows. Although all bipolars cycle between extremes, those who cycle rapidly are usually easier to diagnose with the disorder.
A rapid cycling bipolar will not have a prolonged “lull” in the so-called “middle” before moving from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. This differentiates the rapid cycler from other bipolar patients who may take an extended period to shift extremes.
That delay in cycling between emotional states can make it difficult to correctly diagnose someone with bipolar disorder. A medical professional may see someone exhibiting a series of symptoms such as exhaustion, despondency and suicidal ideations and then proclaim the individual is depressed. That diagnosis may be correct only in the moment if the person under consideration is bipolar. Until a manic episode is recognized or displayed, the true nature of the disease may be concealed. That is not the case when one has a habit of rapid cycling.
Bipolar disorders that feature rapid cycling are somewhat easy to spot. That is because the person seeking assistance or under evaluation will have moved through a very different emotional experience only a short time earlier. After weeks of exuberance and manic euphoria, the individual may immediately “nosedive” into a state of deep depression. Likewise, a seriously depressed person may suddenly find him or herself overjoyed without any observable cause. In these cases, the rapid cycling bipolar will probably have some understanding of their sudden mood shift that can be self-reported. In other cases, the behavioral shift will have been noted by someone close to the individual or an observant medical professional.
If there is an “upside” to being a rapid cycling bipolar disorder victim, it is the fact that one may be more likely to receive an accurate diagnosis of his or her condition than may the manic depressive whose experiences on either extreme of the emotional spectrum are spaced further apart. Although diagnosis may be easier, however, one’s condition can be more difficult to treat if it features rapid cycling.
Bipolar patients who “bounce” between extremes offer a unique challenge to clinicians. They often require a great deal of attention and it can be very difficult for the patients to maintain a proper pharmaceutical regimen. In many cases, the extreme fluctuation in emotional states can be more traumatic than might be a slower shift. The overall toll on someone who cycles through emotional extremes so quickly can be quite devastating. If you or someone you know exhibits potential signs of having a bipolar disorder, seeking immediate professional medical assistance is strongly advised.
Bipolar disease is relatively common and, in many cases, is very responsive to treatment. Although the move from manic to depressed may take a longer time in some individuals, another may make the moves quickly, making him or her a rapid cycling bipolar.