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Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2001 Dec;2(12):1963-73.

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Sciences, University of Miami School of Medicine, D79, 1400 NW 10 Avenue, Ste 304A, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


Rapid cycling bipolar disorder (RCBD) is defined in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as a type of manic-depressive illness in which the patient experiences four or more episodes of mania and/or major depression per year. It was first reported as a consequence of the reduced effectiveness of lithium carbonate in the treatment and prophylaxis of this form of bipolar disorder (BD) in contrast to those with less frequent cycling. Among the anticonvulsants, there have been reports with different degrees of controlled data concerning carbamazepine, valproate, lamotrigine, topiramate, gabapentin and primidone. There is a paucity of double-blind studies, but what is available supports the use of lamotrigine. There is open data supporting the use of carbamazepine, valproate and topiramate. Regarding other classes, nimodipine may have specific utility in ultradian- (ultra-ultra-) or ultra-RCBD and there is double-blind data regarding the specific utility of olanzapine in RCBD. Low thyroid function may be a factor in development of RCBD; therapies aimed at elevating thyroid levels, even beyond the usual range, have frequently produced benefits in open trials. More research is needed into the possible therapeutic benefits of verapamil, bupropion, choline, light therapy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

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