We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Rapid Cycling?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 20, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Rapid cycling is defined in many manuals of psychiatry as four or more mood episodes in the same year for a patient with bipolar disorder. This is not a separate form of bipolar disorder, but rather a distinctive, symptomatic pattern that can come and go, depending on the patient. Some people with bipolar disorder never experience these mood episodes, others may regularly experience them, and some experience them intermittently. It can be challenging to treat patients while they are in a rapid cycling phase.

People with bipolar disorder can experience mania, an extremely elevated mood, and depression. In a mixed episode, both are experienced at the same time, but more commonly, patients transition between these two states and may also have periods of stability where they feel relatively neutral. This psychiatric disorder can be treated with medications like lithium, along with psychotherapy to help the patient address issues as they come up.

With rapid cycling, people have episodes of mania and depression more commonly than other patients with bipolar disorder. Some patients may cycle four or five times in a year, while others can experience much more rapid changes in their mood. In some cases, doctors use terms like “ultra-rapid cycling” and “ultra ultra-rapid cycling” to refer to patients who experience changes in a matter of days or within the same day. It is important to distinguish diagnostically between rapid cycling and mixed episodes in these cases.

For reasons not fully understood by psychiatric professionals, rapid cycling bipolar disorder tends to be more resistant to medication. If a patient was successfully using medication to manage the disorder, it may no longer be effective, and new medications may not work as well. Patients can try a variety of medications to see if there is a drug that will help them bring the rapid cycling under control, and psychotherapy can be used to explore possible triggers that might have acted as a catalyst to cause this condition in the patient.

For patients, these swings between mood episodes can be traumatic and frustrating. Family members, partners, and friends may also have difficulty surviving their loved ones' mood episodes, and adjusting as they work on managing their bipolar disorder. Patients and loved ones may find it helpful to meet in group therapy with a mental health professional who can provide advice and suggestions on helping loved ones with mood episodes. Group therapy with other bipolar patients can also be beneficial for some people.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By MuffinMan — On May 03, 2012

I'm in the midst of this 'rapid cycling' thing right now...I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about four years ago and the doctor put me on seroquel which did nothing but put me straight to sleep.

I stopped taking the seroquel and haven't received any treatment since. I've had an abusive childhood being bullied by "friends" as well as parents often.

I've noticed that every time someone shows up from my past to hang out with me or whatever, about two days later, it tosses me into this rapid cycling state of mind for like a week straight. It takes a toll on my entire life. I have two sons ages 9 and 7 and I'm worried that my 9 year old is going to have the same thing I have.

I'm far too poor to afford treatment, too. Please help!

By anon264792 — On Apr 29, 2012

I can attest that rapid cycling is harder to treat. Meds changed me barely at all so I basically have learned to recognize the symptoms and triggers and manage them accordingly.

By Monika — On Nov 04, 2011

@KaBoom - Rapid cycling does sound very difficult to deal with. I've actually heard of bipolar rapid cycling before, but I've never heard of a mixed episode.

As the article said, a mixed episode is when a person is manic and depressed at the same time. I just don't understand how this is possible! How can you have an extremely elevated mood but then be depressed at the same time? I guess I could understand if the persons mood fluctuated extremely quickly, like minute by minute or something. But it doesn't make any sense to me that a person would experience two such different moods simultaneously.

By KaBoom — On Nov 03, 2011

As I was reading the article, I was thinking that rapid cycling actually sounds like it would be a little bit better than having regular bipolar disorder. At least you would experience depression for less time consecutively, you know?

However, once I read that rapid cycling mood disorder is harder to medicate, I changed my mind. I think this is worse than regular bipolar disorder. Dealing with psychological disorders of any kind can be rough (I should know, I have anxiety), but dealing with a disorder that's difficult to medicate? I think that would be really difficult.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.