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Prognosis of Bipolar Disorder

Without treatment with medications, the risk of having a recurrence of a Bipolar mood episode (Major Depressive, Hypomanic, Manic or Mixed) after a previous one has resolved is as high as 85% in the first year [ref].  With medication, this risk is about 20-50% in the first year [ref] but up to 80% in five years [ref]. 

Furthermore, the chances of having a recurrence are higher when an individual:

  • Has residual symptoms from their previous episode [ref, ref].
  • Is having inadequate amounts of sleep [ref, ref].
  • Is not taking their medications as prescribed [ref].
  • Is abusing illicit drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Is experiencing life stresses, such as problems at work, at school, in family, in relationships, etc. [ref, ref].
  • Has experienced Rapid Cycling in the past [ref].

Although it is nearly impossible to predict with complete accuracy the course of a person's Bipolar Disorder, the following items are known to predict a more severe course that is more difficult to treat and that requires more intensive treatment efforts:


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Course & Prevalence