AsianScientist (Jul. 29, 2016) – Crucial opportunities to manage bipolar disorder early are being lost because individuals are waiting an average of almost six years after the onset of the condition before diagnosis and treatment. That is the key finding of a study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
Many patients experience distressing and disruptive symptoms for many years until receiving proper treatment for bipolar disorder, which was previously known as manic depressive illness. The delay is often longer for young people—moodiness is sometimes mistaken by parents and doctors as the ups and downs of the teenage years rather than the emergence of bipolar disorder, which can be effectively treated with mood-stabilizing medication.
“This is a lost opportunity because the severity and frequency of episodes can be reduced with medication and other interventions,” said clinical psychiatrist and Conjoint Professor Matthew Large from the University of New South Wales’ School of Psychiatry, who carried out a meta-analysis of over 9,400 patients from 27 studies.
Large also noted that while some patients, particularly those who present with psychosis, probably do receive timely treatment, the diagnosis of the early phase of bipolar disorder can be difficult for a couple of reasons. Firstly, mental health clinicians are sometimes unable to distinguish the depressed phase of bipolar disorder from other types of depression. Secondly, diagnosis relies on a detailed life history and corroborative information from carers and family—information that takes time and care to gather.
“Clinicians should look more closely at a patient’s history of mood symptoms, looking for distinct changes in mood and other risk factors; for example, a family history and mood swings caused by external events such as treatment with antidepressants, overseas travel and taking drugs,” he said.
The researchers are calling for a consistent approach to the recording of the onset of symptoms of bipolar disorder. Further studies on the early symptoms and predictors of bipolar disorder, as well as the reasons for treatment delay, may also be helpful, they say.
The article can be found at: Large et al. (2016) Meta-analysis of the Interval between the Onset and Management of Bipolar Disorder.
Source: University of New South Wales; Photo: Pexels.
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