Bimbofication occurs in six distinguishable stages. The symptoms of those affected by progressive bimbofication can move back and forth between stages depending on factors such as tiredness, exertion of willpower, and even situational specifics. Subjects of bimbofication rarely range over more than three stages in a given period of time. At stage four, symptoms become acute; returns to former stages become rarer and tend to be shorter in duration, and progression towards later stages tend to be more rapid than progression through the first three. Early treatment is possible through the judicious application of intellectual programming which allows the patient to fight the progression themselves, but care providers are urged to take extra care to ensure that patients not overexert their willpower in this respect. A frequent pitfall in treatment involves a patient who has progressed to stage 3 passing with only stage 1 symptoms with an exceptional application of effort, only for them to slip back to stage 3 and then 4 in a matter of hours, a notable exception to the 'three stages' rule of thumb. This situation is exceptionally perilous given that a stage 1 bimbo can pass for an unaffected member of the community to the untrained eye.
Misclassification of stage 1 bimbos as unaffected or 'cured' is thought to drive the majority of bimbofication recurrence. Restorative treatment of those who have progressed to stage 4 or beyond is still technically possible, but is far less effective and requires specialist attention. For bimbos who have entered stage 5 there are only a handful of success cases from even fewer highly trained treatment specialists, and only a single case of full restoration of cognitive ability from stage 6 at the time of this publication. For a bimbo who has solidly entered stage 4 or beyond, the rule changes from 'three stages' to 'two forward, one back', as a treatment provider can generally only expect restoration to the previous stage over weeks or months, whereas the patient is constant threat of progression to the end-stage of 6 in a matter of days. For those who have reached these last stages, more realistic than a full recovery is stabilization at a level one lower than the highest stage reached. Creating stability around mental processes at that level and providing the patient with the resources to adapt to living with them is the recommended treatment plan. The exception is stage 6 bimbos who have been in that state consistently for an extended period; they generally cannot be restored to stage 5 for longer than a minute or two, and are generally considered a lost cause.
At this stage, bimbofication is subtly influencing perception, though not necessarily subject actions. Subject may appear 'spacey' or 'out-of-it' and less active or decisive, as filters between thought and action prevent bimbo-characteristic acts, but pick up those normally performed by the subject as well.
Occasional bimbo acts may occur but are generally played off or not fully committed to by the subject. Patterns of subject attention will also change subtly but durably during this stage, and many theorists believe these attention changes underlie progression through all successive stages. Bimbofication that can be identified in this early stage can generally be easily cured.
This stage is generally considered the 'accelerant' stage of bimbo progression, and tends to be the first stage at which patients are diagnosed. Subjects at this stage, with their attention and perception retooled, usually experience a period of 'experimentation' under the influence of that difference, performing acts which are uncharacteristic for them, but suddenly of great interest to them. Although apparently reasonable and in full possession of mental faculties, stage 2 bimbos have a predisposition to bimbo action that presents similar to an addiction. Spaciness and indecisiveness may persist, but less often in the face of bimbo activity.
Patients at this phase are generally uncooperative and/or defensive, claiming that they are undergoing 'self-discovery', that 'they just wanted to try [X] out', or simply that they 'are having a lot of fun'. Intelligent and/or creative minds are especially susceptible to this, and the timely provision of intellectual programming techniques is crucial for a successful treatment.
This stage is characterized by the propensity for bimbo action overtaking the subject's ability to rationalize. It's characterized by the perpetration of bimbo actions which do not fit within the subject's own narratives and are often described as involuntary. Subjects at this stage will often either invent an alternate persona responsible for bimbo acts or spend the vast majority of their time rationalizing their bimbo actions as pleasurable, desirable, or imperative.
Subjects are often notably distracted from normal, non-bimbo areas of life, but maintain most of their capability in these areas if their attention is called to them. Patients at this stage will sometimes submit themselves for treatment in order to 'take back control'. Outcomes for patients at this stage are highly variable, and consultation with an expert on bimbofication could be advisable, though intellectual programming alone still has some chance of success.
This is the dreaded stage that marks the both a failed treatment for most care providers and the threshold for what the general public considers a 'bimbo'. It's marked by the full integration and rationalization of bimbo acts in the subjects narrative. If the subject invented a persona in stage 3, they will often choose to go by the invented persona's name instead of their own in this stage. A significant portion of the subject's life is now dedicated to bimbo action.
Their non-bimbo capabilities are generally still present, though usually reduced. Because of both the relative functionality of stage 4 bimbos and the difficulty of curing them, stabilizing patients at stage 4 is often an attractive option for care providers.
Stage 5 is marked by a loss of non-bimbo ideology and capability. Subjects at this stage are still obviously thinking and feeling humans, and maintain most of their language capability, but are uninterested in and generally unable to perform non-bimbo tasks.
The predominant method of distinguishing stage 4 and 5 is gauging the ability to carry out a conversation. Stage 4 bimbos are often not only conversant but effusive, while stage 5 bimbos will generally hold conversations only on a very narrow range of bimbo-related subjects. Improvement and stabilization of bimbos from stage 5 onto stage 4 is thought to be possible by durably tying success in bimbo areas to success in non-bimbo areas.
Stage 6 is marked by the almost total loss of non-bimbo capability. Some theorists believe that stage 6 bimbos maintain complex, though single-minded, cognitive ability, able to solve complex puzzles and general problem solving when the result is durably tied to a bimbo activity. Results corroborating this, however, are controversial, and experimentation halted due to ethics concerns. Some consider stage 6 bimbos feral or brain damaged, and either are plausible.
Though stage 6 bimbos maintain, and can even learn, a limited number of words, they tend to be strictly related to bimbo activity and are applied in a formulaic enough way that the use no longer necessarily qualifies as linguistic. The improvement and stabilization of bimbos from stage 6 to 5 is possible for patients who have not been in stage 6 for an extended period of time, through application of an extensive course of carefully guided affirmations by a specialist.