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How Does Bipolar Disorder Progress?
Most often, the initial onset of bipolar disorder occurs when the sufferer is in his or her late teens or early 20s, although both earlier and later onset can happen. A quarter of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder will experience a manic state as their first symptom, but many more–nearly half–will first experience a depressive state. Because of this, the disorder is often initially misdiagnosed as depression.
After the first episode, almost all sufferers will experience more episodes, and if the disorder is left untreated, episodes are likely to become more frequent and more severe. Every individual experiences the disorder differently, but a typical timeline has the second episode occurring within four years of the first and subsequent episodes occurring about once a year thereafter.
Episodes typically last 3-6 months, but some depressive states may linger for years. In some cases, sufferers may experience what is known as rapid cycling, in which they experience four or more episodes within a single year.
Medication may lessen the number or severity of episodes, and in some rare cases, episodes may cease altogether. There is no known cure for bipolar disorder, however, and in most cases, it must be treated as a life-long illness.
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