What are the mood cycles like in bipolar II disorder?

In 2003, Judd and colleagues found that over a 20 year period the average person with BPII disorder experiences 2-3 cycles per year (both with and without treatment). Over the long term, ‘lows’ are much more common than ‘highs’.

The average person with BPII disorder spends:

  • around 24 weeks of the year (46%) without any symptoms.
  • around 19 weeks of the year (36%) experiencing symptoms of depression.
  • around 1 week of the year (1-2%) experiencing symptoms of hypomania.
  • around 8 weeks of the year (17%) experiencing mixed or mild symptoms.

It is important to note that these symptoms are averages and do not reflect a person's individual experience.

Diagram shows the percentage of weeks per year that the average person with BPII spends with symptoms.

Mood cycles

For most people diagnosed with BPII disorder, mood cycles are recurrent, meaning they happen repeatedly over time. Between episodes, you may be mostly well and/or symptom free, or you may experience mild symptoms (subsyndromal symptoms) .

However, some people experience one cycle after another, which is a more long-term (chronic) pattern of illness. People who relapse four or more times in a year have what is known as rapid cycling bipolar disorder.