Ultra Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

OMG! Watch out for flying pigs!  DUCK!

Pigs in Spaaace

Something I have been harping about for years was finally correctly set straight in - of all places - a throwaway, drug-company supported, pharmaceutical-advertisement infested psychiatry journal - Current Psychiatry. Frozen hell!

In an article by Joseph F. Goldberg M.D., a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, the following summary was highlighted as a "bottom line: "Ultra rapid cycling [bipolar disorder] has not been validated as a distinct clinical entitiy, and frequent mood swings should not be used as a criterion for diagnosing bipolar disorder."

In the diagnostic Bible, the DSM, a rapid cycling bipolar disorder is defined as an individual who has four episodes of depression or mania per year, not per hour.  Yet the "bipolar disorder is everywhere" crowd has insisted for decades that there was such a beast as an "ultra-rapid cycler."  Thus anyone who was moody, had a sudden mood change no matter how brief, or had  the unstable emotions characteristic of individuals with borderline personality disorder, was suddenly "bipolar" and in need of medication for his "bipolar spectrum disorder." 

"Psychotherapy? What's that?" they seem to say.

The supposed existence of rapid cycling was advanced as an argument against using anti-depressant medication in bipolar patients having a depressive episode, because the drugs allegedly induced it.  This argument was even picked up by Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic, as a possible reason to be cautious about using antidepressants in general.  An argument based on a phenomenon invented by some psychiatrists that does not even exist!

Funny how after having practiced for 35 years in two states, with a wide variety of clinical populations, and specializing in the treatment of borderline personality disorder, I have never seen rapid cycling, with the possible exception of one case in which sudden episodes of psychosis (not mood changes) would come and go without warning.  Maybe I've just been lucky.  Or rapid cycling could be so rare as to be nearly non-existant.

When I first saw the cover of Current Psychiatry under discussion, I must admit was prepared for the worst.  "Oh no, not again,"  I thought. At least, I figured, I would have more material for a new post with another scathing attack on the whole bipolar spectrum craze.

Then I read the article.  What a pleasant surprise.

Meanwhile, in other myths-about-bipolar-disorder news, a new small study seems to contradict a bit of current conventional wisdom about the disorder: A study published in the January issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders reported: "patients with bipolar I disorder show disease progression that is random or even 'chaotic.'" After following 128 patients with bipolar I disorder for about six years to assess "inter-episode intervals (cycle length)," researchers found that "most current bipolar I disorder patients are unlikely to show progressive shortening of recurrence cycles."


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