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I am experiencing rapid cycling with my bipolar, it's getting bad

By Anonymous January 31, 2009 - 11:30am
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I take 900 mg. of Lithium a day ...have now for 10 years. Also take 300 mg. of Wellbutrin a day ...have for the last 3 years. I see a psychiatrist every 3 months and check in with him...but nothing is helping. I'm 41 yrs. old, female and to be honest I'm hopeless that I will never get better.

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Hi, Anon, just wanted to come back and see how you're doing. We may have overwhelmed you with questions!

Please let us know if there's anything more we can research for you. Bipolar is a very manageable condition and you shouldn't have to feel the way you are.

February 10, 2009 - 11:23am

Anon 2, your reply is so enthusiastic that it makes me more curious about your own story.

You say you found out the really hard way that meds aren't the only way out; have you worked on other methods? Diet, exercise? Herbal remedies?

Your support of our original writer is wonderful. That's what Empowher is all about. Thanks so much for writing, and let us know more if you feel you can.

February 3, 2009 - 10:27am
EmpowHER Guest

Hello I would just like to thank the original writer as well as the Helpers!!!! I am 22 and have been dealing with Bipolar for 3 yrs now (diagnosed). I went through some really long and terrible manic cycles while on Zoloft and Seroquel. I think rather that add/subract any of your meds, i would definitely try some natural methods; I know it doesn't seem like you probably want to right now but you need to do something to make peace with life. Clean a clustered area in your home, take a drive to an area that has a beautiful landscape, do something that you enjoy! I found out the really hard way that meds aren't the only way out... Please know that they are so many of us out here and that your not alone, There are a ton of us going through the same thing and just remember to reach out whenever in need! Talking out your feelings or and getting the pain out will also help!!!

February 3, 2009 - 10:13am

Anon, I'm so glad you wrote. Dealing with bipolar and/or depression is a constant struggle for so many people.

So you were 31 when you were diagnosed? Or it's just been the last 10 years that you've been on this dose of Lithium?

I have a friend who is a rapid cycler, and she can go through her cycle in just a few days. She also has struggled with meds, but has recently had some improvement when her doctor added Abilify to her regular meds. Do you feel that your psychiatrist is interested in your symptoms and how they change, or has it become sort of just a routine visit where you go in, talk a bit, and he writes the same prescription over and over? Do you feel that he listens to you when you feel that things are changing?

It may be that since you feel your rapid-cycling is getting worse that you need to see him monthly for a while; is that possible?

Do you also have a therapist who helps you work through the everyday aspects of living with bipolar?

There's a wonderful, wonderful chat room called:


for bipolar and depression chat. They are a group of people who are all dealing with ups and downs, meds, doctors and everyday life, but they also don't forget to laugh once in a while. It is a forum where anyone can ask a question and get answers from others' experiences, and it sure feels good to know you aren't the only one dealing with an issue.

Here is a page about medicines and treatments used for rapid-cyclers; it may be that there is something here you could discuss with your psychiatrist:


How are you sleeping? Are you dealing with insomnia? If so, do you take any meds to help with that? Sleep patterns are very important to help stabilize a rapid cycler.

At 41, you are also almost certainly in perimenopause, and it may be that your hormone levels are changing -- and affecting your bipolar. Do you have a good ob/gyn who could test your hormone levels and see what they are doing? Thyroid levels, also? Here is a page that says some studies have found a correlation between thyroid hypofunction and rapid cycling. It's written for doctors, but it may be something you'd want to print out and ask about:


You mustn't feel alone -- at least 20% of all people who are bipolar experience rapid-cycling at some point.

Acupuncture practitioners work with many bipolar patients. Have you ever looked into this as part of your treatment?

Don't give up. I am sure that in the last 10 years you've come upon many books about bipolar, some which have helped and some which haven't, but there's a book called Bipolar 101 that was just released this month and might give you a more current view of medications and treatments. It was written by a psychologist and a mental health expert who has bipolar herself:


And the average review that customers give this next book is 4 1/2 stars: Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder: A 4-step plan For You And Your Loved Ones To Manage the Illness and Create Lasting Stability. It was written by Julie Fast, a woman who was also diagnosed at age 31, along with a specialist in bipolar disorder, John Preston. Here's the link:


Julie Fast also founded Bipolar Happens, an online resource where she also blogs. She's pretty honest about her ups and downs, which makes the blog very readable:


Take care, don't give up, and please write back and let us know what more we can find out for you.

February 1, 2009 - 1:01pm
HERWriter Guide


Thank you for posting and welcome to Empowher. I'm sorry you are experiencing this.

When you say you are experiencing rapid cycling with your bipolar disorder, can you explain that a little more?

Namely, if you are in a manic phase, do you cycle into a normal phase before depression, or do you go straight from a manic phase to a depressed phase and vice versa?

I know you said you have had bipolar disorder for 10 years (or thereabouts) but is experiencing rapid cycling a new issue? Have you been maintaining a fairly normal pattern until recently?

Rapid cycling is a term (for anyone else reading this) that refers to a person experiencing a change in mood (manic/depressive/normal) four or more times per year (or, strictly speaking, a 12 month period), on average.

What has changed in your life, recently. Anything? Think back and see if a change in medication or dosage has occurred, or if medication has been added or subtracted. Do you have another illness you are also dealing with? Are you drinking alcohol or experiencing extra stress?

Please update us a little more! Please don't feel hopeless - there IS help!

January 31, 2009 - 12:13pm
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