Episode cycles with increasing recurrences in first-episode bipolar-I disorder patients. Academic Article uri icon


  • Preliminary review of a century of studies of the course of manic-depressive syndromes produced 40 reports, of which approximately one-third report evidence of shortening wellness intervals or cycle-lengths with more recurrences, and two-thirds did not.We evaluated inter-episode intervals (cycle-length) in 128 clinically-treated, DSM-IV bipolar-I disorder patients followed prospectively and systematically over 5.7 years, with 6.5 episodes/person.As expected, cycle-length varied inversely with total cycle-count/person; however, multivariate linear regression found only longer initial hospitalization and fewer total cycles to be associated with cycle-length, whereas cycle-number (1, 2, 3, etc.), sex, intake-age, and first-episode polarity were not. Regression of within-subject cycle-length versus cycle-number yielded individual slope-functions with pseudo-random distribution (28% fell within ±1 month/cycle of the null [zero-slope]). Mean duration of early and late euthymic intervals (cycles 2 vs. 5) in patients with matched recurrence-counts was nearly identical.The course of bipolar-I disorder from onset was largely random or chaotic over nearly 6 years from onset. Only a minority of patients showed either cycle-acceleration or slowing, without changes in wellness intervals. The findings may be influenced by treatment-effects, but seem to indicate that most current bipolar-I disorder patients are unlikely to show progressive shortening of recurrence-cycles.Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • January 2012