Bipolar Depression: Issues in Diagnosis and Treatment

Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.
Harvard Review of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 1.73). 09/2005; 13(5):257-71. DOI: 10.1080/10673220500326425
Source: PubMed


Although bipolar affective disorder is defined by the history of manic or hypomanic episodes, depression is arguably a more important facet of the illness. Depressive episodes, on average, are more numerous and last longer than manic or hypomanic episodes, and most suicides occur during these periods. Misdiagnosis of major depressive disorder delays initiation of appropriate therapy, further worsening prognosis. Distinguishing features of bipolar depression include earlier age of onset, a family history of bipolar disorder, presence of psychotic or reverse neurovegetative features, and antidepressant-induced switching. Bipolar I depressions should initially be treated with a mood stabilizer (carbamazapine, divalproex, lamotrigine, lithium, or an atypical antipsychotic); antidepressant monotherapy is contraindicated. More severe or "breakthrough" episodes often require a concomitant antidepressant, such as bupropion or a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The first treatment specifically approved for bipolar depression is a combination of the SSRI fluoxetine and the atypical antipsychotic olanzapine. For refractory depressive episodes, venlafaxine, the monoamine oxidase inhibitor tranylcypromine, and ECT are most widely recommended. The optimal duration of maintenance antidepressant therapy has not been established empirically and, until better evidence-based guidelines are established, should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

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    • "Even though the disorders are defined by the history of manic or hypomanic episodes, depressive episodes are seen more frequently and tend to last longer. Furthermore, most suicides occur during the depressive periods (Thase, 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: In this article, we discuss processes of recovery in bipolar disorder. We utilized a hermeneutical-phenomenological approach developed within a reflexive-collaborative framework to examine what individuals do to promote improvement and positive change in their own lives. The study was designed and carried out in collaboration with an expert-by-experience group of 12 coresearchers with firsthand experiences of mental distress and recovery. In-depth interviews were conducted with 13 participants who acknowledged having lived and dealt with a bipolar disorder. Four core themes were drawn from our analysis: (a) handling ambivalence about letting go of manic states; (b) finding something to hang on to when the world is spinning around; (c) becoming aware of signals from self and others; and (d) finding ways of caring for oneself. Interrelationships between the four themes, along with limitations, strengths, and implications of the study are discussed.
    Qualitative Health Research 06/2011; 22(1):119-33. DOI:10.1177/1049732311411487 · 2.19 Impact Factor
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    • "There are two subtypes, Bipolar I and Bipolar II, and depression is arguably a more important facet of both types [3,4]. Depressive episodes are more numerous, last longer, and most suicides occur during these periods [5]. "
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    ABSTRACT: The treatment of depressive phases of bipolar disorder is challenging. The effects of the commonly used antidepressants in bipolar depression are questionable. Electroconvulsive therapy is generally considered to be the most effective treatment even if there are no randomized controlled trials of electroconvulsive therapy in bipolar depression. The safety of electroconvulsive therapy is well documented, but there are some controversies as to the cognitive side effects. The aim of this study is to compare the effects and side effects of electroconvulsive therapy to pharmacological treatment in treatment resistant bipolar depression. Cognitive changes and quality of life during the treatment will be assessed. A prospective, randomised controlled, multi-centre six- week acute treatment trial with seven clinical assessments. Follow up visit at 26 weeks or until remission (max 52 weeks). A neuropsychological test battery designed to be sensitive to changes in cognitive function will be used. Setting: Nine study centres across Norway, all acute psychiatric departments. Sample: n = 132 patients, aged 18 and over, who fulfil criteria for treatment resistant depression in bipolar disorder, Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale Score of at least 25 at baseline. Intervention: Intervention group: 3 sessions per week for up to 6 weeks, total up to 18 sessions. Control group: algorithm-based pharmacological treatment as usual. This study is the first randomized controlled trial that aims to investigate whether electroconvulsive therapy is better than pharmacological treatment as usual in treatment resistant bipolar depression. Possible long lasting cognitive side effects will be evaluated. The study is investigator initiated, without support from industry. NCT00664976.
    BMC Psychiatry 02/2010; 10(1):16. DOI:10.1186/1471-244X-10-16 · 2.21 Impact Factor
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    • "However, none of these medications is renowned for having powerful antidepressant effects (Thase 2005) and – primarily for reasons of tolerability and safety – few clinicians would use carbamazepine as the fi rst step in a treatment algorithm. Even lithium salts, which arguably have the best evidence of effi cacy from placebo-controlled studies (Zornberg and Pope 1993; Thase and Sachs 2000), do not exert particularly robust antidepressant effects (Thase 2005). The search for an effective monotherapy for bipolar depression thus goes on. "
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    ABSTRACT: Bipolar depression is more common, disabling, and difficult-to-treat than the manic and hypomanic phases that define bipolar disorder. Unlike the treatment of so-called "unipolar" depressions, antidepressants generally are not indicated as monotherapies for bipolar depressions and recent studies suggest that -even when used in combination with traditional mood stabilizers - antidepressants may have questionable value for bipolar depression. The current practice is that mood stabilizers are initiated first as monotherapies; however, the antidepressant efficacy of lithium and valproate is modest at best. Within this context the role of atypical antipsychotics is being evaluated. The combination of olanzapine and the antidepressant fluoxetine was the first treatment to receive regulatory approval in the US specifically for bipolar I depression. Quetiapine was the second medication to be approved for this indication, largely as the result of two pivotal trials known by the acronyms of BOLDER (BipOLar DEpRession) I and II. Both studies demonstrated that two doses of quetiapine (300 mg and 600 mg given once daily at bedtime) were significantly more effective than placebo, with no increased risk of patients switching into mania. Pooling the two studies, quetiapine was effective for both bipolar I and bipolar II depressions and for patients with (and without) a history of rapid cycling. The two doses were comparably effective in both studies. Although the efficacy of quetiapine monotherapy has been established, much additional research is necessary. Further studies are needed to more fully investigate dose-response relationships and comparing quetiapine monotherapy to other mood stabilizers (lithium, valproate, and lamotrigine) in bipolar depression, both singly and in combination. Head-to-head studies are needed comparing quetiapine to the olanzapine-fluoxetine combination. Longer-term studies are needed to confirm the persistence of response and to better gauge effects on metabolic profiles across months of therapy. A prospective study of patients specifically seeking treatment for rapid cycling and those with a history of treatment-emergent affective shifts also is needed. Despite the caveats, as treatment guidelines are revised to incorporate new data, the efficacy and tolerability of quetiapine monotherapy must be given serious consideration.
    Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 03/2008; 4(1):11-21. DOI:10.2147/NDT.S1162 · 1.74 Impact Factor
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