Treatment of rapid cycling bipolar disorders

Ljubomir Hotujac
Neuro Endocrinology Letters 2005, 26: 67-73
Rapid cycling (RC) bipolar disorder is defined as four or more affective episodes within one year. RC bipolar disorder constitutes one of the most difficult forms of the illness to treat effectively. According to several studies, RC bipolar patients have more severe symptoms than non-rapid cycling bipolar patients. Most studies indicate that only 10% to 20% of patients with bipolar disorders experience rapid cycling, but this is of great concern to psychiatrists because of its association with treatment refractoriness. Second generation antipsychotics are increasingly being used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. A first step in the management of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is the thorough assessment of possible medications or environmental factors that may destabilize the disorder and contribute to the recurrence of episodes, increasing cycle frequency, or both. All currently approved antidepressant drugs pose some risk of mood destabilization, but the risk is highest for tricyclic antidepressants. Discontinuation of antidepressants should be the first step in the management of RC patients.

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