Rapid cycling is not a fast ride on a unicycle, though it might certainly be close the experience. The fact is this is the most disabling type of bipolar disorder and the most difficult to treat. During such episodes people are more likely to need hospitalization and are most at risk for suicide.

Most people with bipolar disorder will have one episode of major depression or mania in a year. Some folks have episodes of mania, hypo-mania or depression four or more times with in a year. Cycling between them may occur as frequently as days or hours. Other conditions may seem like rapid cycling but without the full number of symptoms that define either depression or mania. Examples include withdrawal from alcohol or drugs, PTSD, emotional liability in response to life events, traumatic brain injury or even brain tumors.

Interestingly, rapid cycling is more likely to occur in those with bipolar II disorder. Fifty-per-cent of individuals with bipolar disorder will have at least one episode of rapid cycling in a lifetime. In most cases this condition is temporary and more typical frequency of highs and lows occurs. Ten per cent of bipolar patients will have this condition exclusively.

Rapid cycling is