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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 214

Ultradian pattern bipolar affective disorder and chronic antidepressant use

Dept. of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029, India

Correspondence Address:
S T Varghese
Dept. of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0022-3859.33870

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How to cite this article:
Varghese S T, Kumar A, Sagar R. Ultradian pattern bipolar affective disorder and chronic antidepressant use. J Postgrad Med 2007;53:214

How to cite this URL:
Varghese S T, Kumar A, Sagar R. Ultradian pattern bipolar affective disorder and chronic antidepressant use. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2007 [cited 2023 Jun 3];53:214. Available from:


Rapid cycling bipolar affective disorder is defined as four or more affective episodes per year and is associated with significant morbidity and treatment resistance. [1] Ultra ultra rapid cycling (ultradian pattern) is defined as significant mood episodes within a 24h period. We describe a patient with ultradian pattern of bipolar affective disorder with chronic antidepressant use.

A 53-year-old farmer with no family history of psychiatric illness presented to us with complaints of insomnia for the past 35 years. He had an episode of hypomania at the age of 16 which lasted for a year followed by an episode of major depression. The patient was prescribed Tab. Amitryptiline 75 mg once a day by the primary care physician which was later increased to 75 mg thrice a day. He had one episode of hypomania and depression each in the next two years. He continued to take Amitryptiline and each episode of illness became shorter in duration. He had five affective episodes in a year when he was 25 years of age. These episodes started occurring more frequently and in 1979 he noted around 13 episodes in a year. The patient continued the medication and the episodes continued to occur at greater frequencies. He gradually started having mood episodes every three days with hypomania alternating with depression.

Since the last six years he has been having the episodes over a 24h period. During forenoon and afternoon he would have depressive symptoms with suicidal ideations and in the evening he would have hypomanic symptoms with grandiose ideations and increased activity. A daily VAS (visual analogue score) by the patient for his mood symptoms showed +60 in the evenings and -30 in the forenoon. The patient was gradually tapered off Amitryptiline and was started on Carbamazepine 600 mg per day with a diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder Type II ultradian cycling pattern. The mood swings and his VAS ratings gradually decreased and after three weeks of hospital stay he had few days of euthymia. The patient was euthyroid and CT scan of the brain was normal. He was discharged with an advice for close follow-up.

It is not known whether ultradian cycling bipolar disorder represents a separate entity or a quantitatively different mood disorder. [1] This patient has been continuously taking antidepressants for 35 years despite the numerous mood episodes and had never been on any mood stabilizers. It is also not known whether antidepressants can cause ultradian cycling in bipolar illness. [1] This pattern is more common in women and thyroid dysfunction may contribute to this pattern of cycling. Various explanations that have been suggested include chaos theory and kindling phenomenon, but no conclusive explanations are currently available. [2] Low activity of catecholamine methyl transferase allele has been hypothesized as a predisposing factor for ultradian pattern rapid cycling bipolar illness. [3] Other diagnoses to be considered in a patient presenting for the first time with similar symptoms would include mixed episode bipolar illness, borderline personality disorder and cyclothymia. [4] Ultradian cycling bipolar affective disorder is difficult to treat and various mood stabilizer combinations of lithium, carbamazepine and sodium valproate have been tried. [1] A few case reports suggest a role for the calcium channel blocker nimodipine in the treatment of these patients. [5] Although rare, the physician should consider this diagnosis in a patient complaining of rapid mood swings.

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1.Kramlinger KG, Post RM. Ultra-rapid and ultradian cycling in bipolar affective illness. Br J Psychiatry 1996;168:314-23.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  
2.Tillman R, Geller B. Definitions of rapid, ultrarapid and ultradian cycling and of episode duration in pediatric and adult bipolar disorders: A proposal to distinguish episodes from cycles. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol 2003;13:267-71.  Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
3.Papolos DF, Veit S, Faedda GL, Saito T, Lachman HM. Ultra-ultra rapid cycling bipolar disorder is associated with the low activity catecholamine-O-methyltransferase allele. Mol Psychiatry 1998;3:346-9.  Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]  
4.Craney JL, Geller B. A prepubertal and early adolescent bipolar disorder-I phenotype: Review of phenomenology and longitudinal course. Bipolar Disord 2003;5:243-56.  Back to cited text no. 4  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
5.Davanzo PA, Krah N, Kleiner J, McCracken J. Nimodipine treatment of an adolescent with ultradian cycling bipolar affective illness. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol 1999;9:51-61.  Back to cited text no. 5  [PUBMED]  


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Online since 12th February '04
2004 - Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
Official Publication of the Staff Society of the Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India
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