Phenomenology of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder: Data from the first 500 participants in the systematic treatment enhancement program

Christopher D. Schneck, David J. Miklowitz, Joseph R. Calabrese, Michael H. Allen, Marshall R. Thomas, Stephen R. Wisniewski, Sachiko Miyahara, Melvin D. Shelton, Terence A. Ketter, Joseph F. Goldberg, Charles L. Bowden, Gary S. Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Objective: This study compared demographic and phenomenological variables between bipolar patients with and without rapid cycling as a function of bipolar I versus bipolar II status. Method: The authors examined demographic, historical, and symptomatic features of patients with and without rapid cycling in a cross-sectional study of the first 500 patients with bipolar I or bipolar II disorder enrolled in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder, a multicenter project funded by the National Institute of Mental Health designed to evaluate the longitudinal outcome of patients with bipolar disorder. Resylts: Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder occurred in 20% of the study group. Rapid-cycling patients were more likely to be women, although the effect was somewhat more pronounced among bipolar I patients than bipolar II patients. In addition, rapid-cycling bipolar patients experienced onset of their illness at a younger age, were more often depressed at study entry, and had poorer global functioning in the year before study entry than nonrapid-cycling patients. Rapid-cycling patients also experienced a significantly greater number of depressive and hypomanic/manic episodes in the prior year. A lifetime history of psychosis did not distinguish between rapid and nonrapid-cycling patients, although bipolar I patients were more likely to have experienced psychosis than bipolar II patients. Conclusions: Patients with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder demonstrate a greater severity of illness than nonrapid-cycling patients on a number of clinical measures. This study highlights the need to refine treatments for rapid cycling to reduce the overall morbidity and mortality of patients with this illness course modifier.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1902-1908
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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