Research on life stress in bipolar disorder largely fails to account for the possibility of a dynamic relationship between psychosocial stress and episode initiation. The kindling hypothesis (Post, 1992) states that over the course of recurrent affective disorders, there is a weakening temporal relationship between major life stress and episode initiation that could reflect either a progressive sensitization or progressive autonomy to life stress. The present study involved a comprehensive and precise examination of the kindling hypothesis in 102 participants with bipolar II disorder that allowed for a direct comparison of sensitization and autonomy models. Polarity-specific tests were conducted across the continuum of event severity with respect to impact and frequency of life events. Hypotheses were polarity- and event-valence specific and were based on the stress sensitization model. Results were only partially consistent with the sensitization model: Individuals with more prior mood episodes had an increased frequency of minor negative events before depression and of minor positive events before hypomania. However, the number of past episodes did not moderate relationships between life events and time until prospective onset of mood episodes. These results are more consistent with a sensitization than an autonomy model, but several predictions of the sensitization model were not supported. Methodological strengths, limitations, and implications are discussed regarding putative changes in stress reactivity that may occur with repeated exposure to mood episodes in bipolar II disorder.