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The concept of mixed state in bipolar disorder: From Kraepelin to DSM-5

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Abstract

Objectives: Herein the authors review the most important studies on the conceptualization and diagnosis of bipolar mixed states. Methods: A search in MEDLINE and PUBMED was performed using the following keywords: "bipolar disorder, mixed state/s, mixed episode/s, criteria, validation, mixed mania, dysphoric mania, mixed depression, agitated depression". Studies on mixed states were reviewed and selected emphasizing historical development, conceptualizations, proposed diagnostic criteria and their validation. Results: The origin of the concept of affective mixed state can be identified in ancient times. However, the development and systematization of mixed states occurred with the work of Emil Kraepelin and Wilhem Weygandt. After the Kraepelinian era, for several decades mixed states were largely neglected in both research and clinical practice. Even the restrictive criteria of DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10 do not fully account for the variable presentations of bipolar mixed states. Nevertheless, during the last 20 years, many studies have been published on this topic and several authors have proposed and validated less restrictive diagnostic criteria for mixed states. Conclusions: There is general consensus among clinicians and researchers that DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10 criteria do not capture the complexity of bipolar mixed states. Nevertheless, the debate on the boundaries of mixed states remains open.
Original article
287
Journal of Psychopathology 2013;19:287-295
Summary
Objectives
Herein the authors review the most important studies on the
conceptualization and diagnosis of bipolar mixed states.
Methods
A search in MEDLINE and PUBMED was performed using the
following keywords: “bipolar disorder, mixed state/s, mixed
episode/s, criteria, validation, mixed mania, dysphoric mania,
mixed depression, agitated depression”. Studies on mixed states
were reviewed and selected emphasizing historical develop-
ment, conceptualizations, proposed diagnostic criteria and their
validation.
Results
The origin of the concept of affective mixed state can be identi-
fied in ancient times. However, the development and systemati-
zation of mixed states occurred with the work of Emil Kraepelin
and Wilhem Weygandt. After the Kraepelinian era, for several
decades mixed states were largely neglected in both research
and clinical practice. Even the restrictive criteria of DSM-IV-TR
and ICD-10 do not fully account for the variable presentations
of bipolar mixed states. Nevertheless, during the last 20 years,
many studies have been published on this topic and several
authors have proposed and validated less restrictive diagnostic
criteria for mixed states.
Conclusions
There is general consensus among clinicians and researchers
that DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10 criteria do not capture the com-
plexity of bipolar mixed states. Nevertheless, the debate on the
boundaries of mixed states remains open.
Keywords
Mixed State Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis Mixed Mania Mixed
Depression
Introduction
In bipolar disorder, mixed states are essentially consid-
ered the co-presence of symptoms of opposite polarity.
This apparently simple concept, however, in reality poses
several problems in terms of psychopathology and diag-
nostic categorization, especially considering the high
grades of polymorphism of clinical entities referred to as
mixed states. Mixed states are therefore one of the most
controversial areas of psychiatry to which a great deal of
attention has been given. A renewed interest in mixed
states, which historically has undergone periods of great-
er and lesser intensity, is motivated in large part by the
inadequacy of current diagnostic definitions, and is con-
centrated on formulating alternative diagnostic models
that more accurately reflect the clinical reality.
As for any other psychiatric diagnosis, correct identifica-
tion of mixed states has important clinical relevance for
both timely diagnosis and planning adequate treatment.
In contrast, the inability to recognize this clinical entity
(still frequent in psychiatry) exposes the patient to signifi-
cant risks, and especially for the possible worsening of
symptoms due to iatrogenic damage as a consequence of
inappropriate therapy. In the present review, the authors
will focus on diagnosis of mixed states starting from the
work of Emil Kraepelin, who first conceived this diag-
nostic entity in a structured manner. Following this, the
diagnostic evolution of mixed states will be discussed
beginning with the most widely used classification sys-
tems [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Dis-
orders-Fourth Edition-Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) 1 and
the International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision
(ICD-10)2] and problems encountered, before consider-
ing alternative diagnostic proposals and the new criteria
in the DSM-5 and ICD-11.
“Pre-Kraepelinian” authors
Even if traces of what is considered to be a “mixed state”
are present in antique medical textbooks (especially Are-
Correspondence
Giuseppe Maina, via Cherasco 11, 10126 Torino, Italy • Tel. +39 011 6335425 • Fax: +39 011 673473 • E-mail: giuseppe.maina@unito.it
The concept of mixed state in bipolar disorder: from Kraepelin to DSM-5
Il concetto di stato misto nel disturbo bipolare: da Kraepelin al DSM-5
G. Maina, N. Bertetto, F. Domene Boccolini, G. Di Salvo, G. Rosso, F. Bogetto
Servizio per i Disturbi Depressivi e d’Ansia, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Torino
288
G. Maina et al.
and depressive phases, seemingly antithetical, in his view
confirmed the common association of two polarities of
the same underlying disease, supporting a hypothesis that
had been around since ancient times.
Kraepelin identified a total of six different basic types of
mixed states, depending on the combination of altera-
tions in the three different psychic domains that, in his
opinion, were involved in manic-depressive illness. The
three domains consisted of mood, course of thought and
psychomotory changes. Thus, there were the emerging
concepts (Table I) of “manic depression or anxiety” (de-
pressed mood, flight of ideas and hyperactivity), “excited
depression” (depressed mood, inhibition of thought and
hyperactivity), “unproductive mania” (euphoria, inhibi-
tion of thought and hyperactivity), “manic stupor” (eu-
phoria, inhibition of thought and apathy), “depression
with flight of ideas” (depressed mood, flight of ideas and
apathy) and “inhibited mania” (euphoria, flight of ideas
and apathy).
Later, Kraepelin and Weygandt partially overcame this
tripartite model of the psyche, and favoured a dimension-
al approach, which involved a broadening of the concept
of mixed states to the infinite possibilities that a mixture
of manic and depressive elements could manifest in the
same patient. In their opinion, apart from multiform phe-
nomenal appearances, the essential point for diagnosis
of a mixed state was the co-presence of manic and de-
pressive elements in a patient with clinical features that
reflected manic-depressive disorder, and in particular
a previous history of manic and depressive episodes. A
second concept in Kraepelin’s theory was the distinction
between two basic types of mixed states: “transitional”
forms, i.e. clinical pictures that frequently arise in the
transition from mania to depression and vice versa, and
“autonomous” forms, i.e. those that appear and manifest
as such. According to Kraepelin, the latter form consti-
tuted that of a mixed state, and was characterized by the
most unfavourable form of manic-depressive disorder,
presenting with a lengthy course and the tendency to
become chronic. The concept of mixed Kraepelin states
taeus of Cappadocia) and in some treatises on psychopa-
thology in the 1700s (Lorry, 1765)3, the first descriptions
that are close to current terminologies and concepts are
those dating to the nineteenth century. One of the first
psychiatrists to explore mixed states in detail was Hein-
roth, and in his treatise entitled “Disturbances of Mental
Life or Mental Disturbances”4 he used a German term
translatable as “mix or mixture” to define difficult to de-
fine psychopathological conditions in which discordant
elements coexisted. Another German psychiatrist, Gries-
inger, in his treatises 56 , described states of mental altera-
tion in which melancholic and maniac elements coex-
isted as well as forms that would be currently defined
as rapidly cycling affective disorders. Griesinger defined
such psychopathological conditions as “mid-forms”, such
as “melancholia with destructive impulses” and “melan-
cholia with long-lasting exaltations of volition”.
In addition to the above authors, several European psy-
chiatrists before Kraepelin described symptoms that had
characteristics similar to a mixed state, as summarized by
Karl Kahlbaum7. These authors, however, did not provide
a precise categorization of psychopathological condi-
tions in the manic-depressive area, which first appeared
with the work of Emil Kraepelin.
Kraepelin and the later periods
Considering the origin of the concept of mixed states, a
prominent place belongs to the German psychiatrist Emil
Kraepelin who, starting from the 5th edition of his Text-
book of Psychiatry 8, first used the term “mixed states”
(Mischzustände). In successive editions 9 10, together
with the significant contribution of his apprentice Wil-
helm Weygandt, author of a pioneering monograph on
the subject11, Kraepelin categorized and conferred noso-
graphic autonomy to mixed states in the context of man-
ic-depressive disorder. Kraepelin viewed mixed states as
a ‘third polarity’ of manic-depressive disorder, and used
this idea to consolidate his unified vision of this disor-
der. The possible co-presence of symptoms in the manic
TABLE I.
Kraepelin criteria for mixed states. Schema riassuntivo degli stati misti descritti da Kraepelin.
Mood Motor activity Ideation
1. Depressive mania - + +
2. Excited depression - +-
3. Unproductive mania + + -
4. Manic stupor + - -
5. Depression with flight of ideas - - +
6. Inhibited mania +-+
289
The concept of mixed state in bipolar disorder
depression were seen as concordant alterations of boost
and mood (increased energy and euphoric mood vs. de-
creased energy and deflected mood), while mixed states
were viewed as discordant alterations (e.g. increased en-
ergy and deflected mood). Moreover, Mentzos used a bi-
partition between ‘mixed states’ where the deviations in
boost and mood were discordant but stable, and “mixed
pictures”, where they were discordant and, importantly,
variable over time. Unfortunately, due to the complex-
ity of this psychopathologic model, clear criteria for the
identification of mixed states were not proposed, and the
terminology adopted was difficult to translate with the
nomenclature used on an international level 14.
The studies of Mentzos were also worthwhile, starting
from the beginning of the 1980s, in promoting a renewed
interest in research on diagnosis of mixed states, the initial
stages of which can be seen in the “Vienna Criteria”16,
named after the city from which the authors originated.
The Vienna School, in the wake of Mentzos, divided
mixed states into two subtypes, stable and instable, and
proposed precise diagnostic criteria for the identification
of both (TableII). These criteria were based on a well-
defined psychopathological model known as Janzarik’s
concept of structural-dynamic coherence 17. According
to this model, similar to the idea of Mentzos, mixed states
were perceived as the product of instable alteration of
the ‘dynamic’. The term dynamic referred to the mixture
of two components that normally form the individual’s
personality: one that forms the functional substrate of the
was the object of harsh criticism by other prominent
figures in European psychiatry. Among these critics are
Karl Jaspers12, who refused the concept of a mixed state
from a methodological standpoint, and Kurt Schneider13,
who negated the existence of this diagnostic category,
viewing it as a simple transitional phase (from mania to
depression and vice versa) in manic-depressive disorder.
Other authors, such as Eugen Bleuler, provided their own
description of mixed states and did not pursue their re-
search in this area in any detail.
Starting from the 1920s there was a relative lack of inter-
est in mixed states, defined by Marneros 14 as a “period
of ignorance”, during which the number of publications
on the subject was drastically reduced. One of the few
exceptions was a monograph by the German psychiatrist
Mentzos15, who utilized some concepts from Weygandt
and proposed a new classification of mixed states. Build-
ing upon the static conception and clinical descriptions
of Kraepelin and Weygandt, Mentzos added a dynamic
view. In fact, the classification of Mentzos referred to a
psychopathological model that he developed which was
not based on the description of a clinical picture as a
group of different symptoms; indeed, the mixed state was
interpreted using the so-called ‘mood boost’ system. Ac-
cording to this point of view, mood alterations in bipolar
disorder could be seen as pathological variations of the
‘boost’, or as the underlying force behind psychic pro-
cesses, and ‘mood’ as the prevalent affective tone that
affects thoughts of consciousness. In this light, mania and
TABLE II.
Vienna School criteria for stable and unstable mixed states (from Berner et al. 1983, mod.)16. Criteri della Scuola di Vienna per gli
stati misti instabili e stabili (da Berner et al., 1983, mod.)16.
Unstable mixed states
A. Appearance of at least one of the following rapidly cycling changes following a period of normal functioning:
1. Mood changes rapidly cycling between depression and/or anxiety, euphoric/expansive hostile mood
2. Rapid cycling and exaggerated emotional resonance in various affective states (depressive, anxiety, manic and hostile)
3. Rapid cycling between inhibition, agitation, increase in drive and occasional aggressiveness
B. Biorhythmic disturbances*
1. Diurnal variations of affectivity, emotional resonance, or drive
2. Sleep disturbances (interrupted, prolonged, or shortened sleep or early awakening)
Stable mixed states
A. Appearance of persistent variations in affectivity, emotional resonance or drive after a period of normal functioning
Requires symptoms 1 and/or 2 and 3:
1. Depressed, anxious, euphoric/expansive or hostile mood
2. Lack of emotional resonance or limited to depressive, manic, hostile or anxious response
3. Persistent presence of drive in contrast with the affective status and/or emotional resonance
B. Appearance of biorhythmic disturbances*
1. Daily changes in affectivity, emotional resonance or drive
2. Sleep disturbance (interrupted, prolonged, or shortened sleep or early awakening)
* Symptoms 1 and 2 are required.
290
G. Maina et al.
Alternative diagnostic proposals
To compensate for the shortcomings of current classifi-
cation systems, there are several recent publications in
which the authors propose alternative models for the
identification of mixed states. Generally, in these re-
ports, the rigid categorical approach of the DSM-IV-TR
is not used, but rather a categorical-dimensional mixed
system is adopted that is closer to that the original sys-
tem proposed by Kraepelin. Thus, the concept of mixed
state as a rigid diagnostic entity is replaced by a more
variable condition in which, in the context of an affec-
tive episode, symptoms of opposite polarity are present,
often to a lesser extent but which are not negligible for
diagnostic purposes. In this way, the concepts of mixed
manic state or mixed manic and mixed depressive state
or mixed depression are outlined. From a more practical
aspect, mixed manic and depressive states are described
separately in the following paragraphs. A model centred
around the role of affective temperament as a causal fac-
tor for mixed states, in part theorized by Kraepelin and
further developed by Hagop Akiskal and other authors,
will also be considered.
Mixed manic states
Over the last 20 years, the low sensitivity of DSM-IV-TR
criteria in the identification of the possible relevance of
the presence of depressive symptoms in the context of a
manic or hypomanic episode prompted many authors to
propose more adequate diagnostic criteria. At present, in
the absence of widely-accepted opinion, the literature is
filled with a variety of terms that are often interchangea-
ble and used inappropriately to indicate similar concepts:
these include mixed state, mixed mania, dysphoric mania
and mania with depressive symptoms.
For greater clarity, herein the term mixed mania will be
used, although this was not always the term used in the
original publication. McElroy et al. 24 were among the
first authors to propose a differentiation between ‘pure’
and ‘mixed’ mania (defined in that study as dysphoric
mania), which greatly influenced later clinical studies.
These authors carried out a revision of previous studies
and concluded that mixed mania was a clinical entity
which is separate from pure mania, and with distinguish-
ing features that include different clinical characteristics
such as prevalence and poorer prognosis. Considering
this, they proposed working criteria for the identification
of mixed mania, which were also valid for hypomania,
known as the Cincinnati criteria, that required the simul-
taneous presence of rapid cycling (within several min-
utes) of a variable number of depressive symptoms in the
context of a (hypo)manic episode diagnosed according
to DSM-III-R criteria25. The presence of symptoms for at
least 24 hours is also required to diagnose mixed mania,
temperament and a “structural” form that encodes both
innate and acquired behavioural patterns. Strict adher-
ence to this model, even if highly thought-provoking,
limited the use of the Vienna Criteria to research pur-
poses on an international level. Nonetheless, the Vienna
Criteria represented a turning point that influenced and
stimulated research in the forthcoming years, giving rise
to a large number of publications especially by authors
from the US.
Current classification systems
The most widely-used classification systems for psychi-
atric pathologies in clinical practice and research are the
DSM-IV-TR1 and ICD-102, and both provide a definition
of the mixed state. The vision of plurality of mixed states
is not used in either system, and depending on the com-
bination of manic and depressive symptoms, a mixed
episode is seen with a unitary vision. Thus, the presence
of third polarity in bipolar mood disorders is anticipated.
According to DSM-IV-TR criteria, it is possible to diagnose
a mixed episode in the co-presence of criteria to diagnose
either a manic or major depressive episode (except for the
time criterion) for at least one week. In the ICD-10, how-
ever, the term “mixed episode” indicates the co-presence
or rapid cycling of prominent depressive and manic or hy-
pomanic symptoms for at least 2 weeks. If on one hand
these classification systems simplify the concept of “mixed
states” and groups them in a single diagnostic category,
on the other they bring about a series of problems, espe-
cially in terms of sensitivity in revealing psychopathologic
symptoms that the majority of clinicians would judge as
belonging to that category, but which do not reach suf-
ficient threshold criteria to make a diagnosis.
Considering the DSM-IV-TR, the possibility that mixed
states can coexist in the context of type II bipolar disor-
der is excluded, except when commonly encountered in
clinical practice1819. Moreover, this means that the pres-
ence of symptoms with opposite polarity in the context of
a manic or depressive episode is not considered, unless
the diagnostic threshold for a mixed episode is reached.
Lastly, diagnosis of a mixed episode correlated with the
use of mood-altering substances, pharmacological thera-
pies or general medical conditions is not allowed, which
are all rather common20. The major limitations in ICD-10
criteria concern the low precision and reliability of the di-
agnostic definition itself, since the number of symptoms
needed for diagnosis is not specified. Moreover, the poor
sensitivity relative to temporal criteria requires a duration
of two weeks, which many consider to be excessive2021.
Due to the above-mentioned limitations, at present, the
majority of experts consider both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10
criteria for ‘mixed episodes’ to be inadequate 1419-23.
291
The concept of mixed state in bipolar disorder
lowing is required: emotional lability, lowered threshold
for anger/hostility, abrupt changes in the libidinal drive,
marked disturbances of the sleep-wake cycle and circa-
dian fluctuations of symptoms referable to the above-
mentioned areas. Lastly, as exclusion criteria, adequate
interpersonal and affective responses adequate during
symptom-free periods are needed. Such criteria allow for
diagnosis of a broad spectrum of mixed states, includ-
ing manic and depressive, which is more in line with the
concepts of Kraepelin (e.g. unproductive mania, inhib-
ited mania, etc.). Thus, these diagnostic criteria for mixed
mania are less restrictive than those in the DSM-IV-TR,
and allow a greater degree of differentiation with greater
sensitivity of pure states and mixed states.
Mixed depressive states
Over the last 20 years there has been a renewed inter-
est in mixed depression due to the important diagnos-
tic and therapeutic implications. Several authors with
long-standing experience in bipolar disorders concur that
mixed depression should be differentiated from ‘pure’ de-
pression29-34. In 2005, Koukopoulos et al.34 published an
in-depth revision that highlighted the inadequacy of diag-
nostic criteria for identification of mixed depression (de-
fined as agitated depression), and reiterated the urgency
of defining new, broadly-accepted criteria. Several years
earlier, the same author33 had proposed diagnostic crite-
ria for identification of mixed depression, which required
the presence of a major depressive episode (according to
DSM-III-R criteria) with agitation and at least three of the
following symptoms: racing thoughts, irritability or senti-
ments of unmotivated anger, absence of signs of slowing
down, talkativeness, dramatized description of suffering
and frequent crying spells, emotional lability and marked
emotional reactivity, and initial insomnia. According to
the author, the presence of these symptoms indicates
an excitatory disequilibrium in mood, non-depressive,
which in the context of a major depressive episode would
manifest as a mixed state.
The nosographic autonomy of mixed depression is also
supported by several lines of evidence, as highlighted in
a recent review 32. From the available information, mixed
depression (defined as the co-presence of at least 2-3 man-
ic or hypomanic symptoms is differentiated from pure de-
pression on the basis of its particular characteristics, which
in some ways are very similar to bipolar disorder. Firstly,
mixed depression appears more frequently in bipolar dis-
order than in major depression. In particular, mixed de-
pression is a condition that is especially frequent in type
II bipolar disorder, and as reported in large cohorts of pa-
tients, almost one-half (48.7%) of patients with episodes
of major depression also have at least three hypomanic
symptoms 35. Secondly, mixed depression generally pre-
and the criteria also dictate, depending on the number of
depressive symptoms present, different diagnostic thresh-
olds: certain diagnosis of dysphoric mania or hypomania
(presence of 3 or more depressive symptoms), probable
diagnosis (presence of two symptoms) and possible diag-
nosis (one symptom present). The list of possible depres-
sive symptoms includes those for diagnosis of a major
depressive episode according to the DSM-III-R except
for psychomotor agitation, insomnia and loss of appetite/
weight loss. In a later revision of mixed mania, McElroy
et al. 26 stabilized that the diagnostic threshold consists in
the presence of at least any three depressive symptoms,
or only two symptoms comprising at least one of the fol-
lowing: depression, anhedonia, guilt, loss of hope or re-
curring ideation of death or suicide.
Another classification system proposed, which in many
aspects is similar to that of McElroy et al., is that of Cas-
sidy et al. 27 which distinguishes mixed mania from pure
mania according to the presence of at least two of six de-
pressive symptoms (depressed mood, anhedonia, anxiety,
guilt, suicidal ideation and asthenia). This classification is
obtained using data from a study on 247 patients with a
diagnosis of mania according to DSM-III-R criteria. The
optimal cut-off of at least two symptoms was obtained
by statistical analysis using a ROC (receiving operating
characteristic) curve, and was validated with criteria for
a mixed episode according to DSM-III-R criteria.
An analogous definition was used in the epidemiologi-
cal multicentre investigation published by Akiskal et al.28
known as EPIMAN. This study compared the prevalence
of mixed states in patients recruited according to DSM-IV-
TR criteria for mixed episodes to that observed using less
restrictive criteria (manic episode + at least two depres-
sive symptoms). The authors noted a substantial differ-
ence between the two definitions, in that the prevalence
was 6.7% in the former and 37.5% in the latter. The study
also reported a higher prevalence of depressive tempera-
mental forms in patients with a mixed state compared to
those with pure mania. It was concluded that the mixed
state can be defined using three different approaches:
from a categorical point of view through identification of
at least two depressive symptoms, from a psychometric
standpoint with a score >10 on the Hamilton Depression
Rating Scale and from a dimensional viewpoint through
identification of a dominant depressive temperament.
Another important study led to the definition of the “Pi-
sa-San Diego criteria”29, which differ from the previous
ones by proposing a more dimensional approach. In this
diagnostic algorithm, mixed states are defined as the
simultaneous presence of manic and depressive symp-
toms, for at least 2 weeks, in at least two psychic areas
comprising mood, train of thought, content of thought,
misperceptions and psychomotor behaviour. In addition,
the presence of two additional symptoms among the fol-
292
G. Maina et al.
Lastly, the fact that, at least in theory, mixed depression
can be diagnosed as unipolar major depressive disorder
leads to the concept that it might act as a ‘bridge’ be-
tween unipolar and bipolar disorders; furthermore, this
is in agreement with the hypothesis of a ‘spectrum’ of
bipolar disorders proposed by Akiskal 37-39. According to
this idea, among mood disorders there is a continuum
in which the clinical states of pure depression and pure
(hypo)mania are at the extremes; correlated disorders are
then located along the continuum as follows: major de-
pressive disorder, agitated depression, depression with
flight of ideas, bipolar II disorder, bipolar I disorder1940.
The role of temperament
The most important studies on the role of temperament in
bipolar disorder carried out during the last three decades
revolve around Hagop Akiskal. Considering mixed states,
this author built upon the concept already postulated by
Kraepelin and developed an innovative classification
system. According to this system, mixed states are not
a mere overlap of depressive and manic elements, but
rather the combination of an episode of affective altera-
tion with a dominant temperament of opposing polarity.
Akiskal proposed31 three types of mixed states depend-
ing on the type of interaction of temperament/affective
interaction:
Type B-I: depressive temperament + psychotic mania;
Type B-II: cyclothymic temperament + major depres-
sion;
Type B-III: hyperthymic temperament + major depres-
sion.
The presence of a dominant temperament is identified by
the administration of specific psychometric scales.
According to this opinion, therefore, the presence of hy-
perthymic temperament would render manic episodes
‘pure’, while the manifestation of some aspects of such
a temperament in the case of a major depressive episode
would ‘contaminate’ it with mixed elements. A cyclo-
thymic temperament is considered by the author to be a
specific predictor of bipolarity in major depression, con-
ferring mixed, strongly instable characteristics to the epi-
sode. The role of temperament has been documented in
several studies in which Akiskal also benefited from Ital-
ian colleagues at the Pisa and French schools28303941-43.
From a symptomatological/phenomenological point of
view, type I mixed states I (type B-I) comprise psychotic
episodes that are similar to the concept defined by the
French school as “bouffèes dèlirantes”. These are char-
acterized by productive, solid psychotic symptoms, and
strong emotional perplexity with sudden mood swings
that are almost indistinguishable from the acute phases of
schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
sents at an earlier age than pure depression, and is more
frequent in individuals who present with a family history
for mood disturbances and in those who present with non-
mixed depression (see above). This latter aspect, at present,
is the strongest evidence to sustain that mixed depression
is an independent nosographic entity.
A later study 19, carried out on 320 patients with bipolar
II disorder and an on-going episode of major depression,
confirmed the high prevalence of mixed depression in
the disorder. In fact, the results showed that 62.5% pa-
tients presented with mixed depression or with a major
depressive episode with the co-presence of at least three
hypomanic symptoms for at least two days. Compared
to patients with non-mixed episodes, patients presented
with a significantly lower age of onset of the disorder,
and there was a higher proportion of women, more fre-
quent episodes with atypical symptoms and a higher rate
of positive family history for bipolar disorder. Through
multivariate logistic regression analysis of hypomanic, in-
traepisode signs and symptoms, there was evidence that
the two subtypes of mixed depression can be differenti-
ated, which is in agreement with the concepts outlined
by Kraepelin over a century ago. The first subtype is de-
fined as ‘excited depression’ (the core symptomatology of
which is psychomotor agitation, whose accessory symp-
toms are logorrhoea, irritability and easy distractibility),
while the second type is referred to as ‘depression with
flight of ideas’ (with a core symptomatology consisting in
flight of ideas, associated with lack of impulse control,
including sexual control due to increased libido).
Another difference that seems to distinguish mixed de-
pression from pure depression is the poorer response to
antidepressant pharmacotherapy, which may even con-
tribute to worsening of symptoms in some cases with a
mixed state (see above). Koukopoulos et al. 36, in a cohort
of 212 patients who presented with agitated depression,
in accordance with the above-mentioned criteria pro-
posed by the same authors, reported that in over one-half
(53%) of cases the episode did not manifest as such, but
rather developed from pure depression. Among these,
the vast majority were in treatment with antidepressants,
which was associated with worsening of clinical condi-
tions, with overlapping symptoms of opposite polarity.
It should be noted that the percentage of cases of mixed
depression ‘induced’ by therapy was particularly high for
those affected by bipolar II disorder; in 71% of cases the
episode appeared after treatment with an antidepressant
or other stimulants, compared to 48% of bipolar I cases
and 50% of patients with unipolar depression. The latter
aspect is clinically relevant, especially considering the
fact that DSM-IV-TR criteria do not allow for identifica-
tion of mixed depression, equating it to pure major de-
pression with consequences for treatment that have given
rise to doubts among clinicians and researchers.
293
The concept of mixed state in bipolar disorder
these new criteria have introduced considerable changes
to the diagnosis of mixed states, which are in agreement
with many of the aforementioned studies.
The ICD-11 45 criteria are substantially similar to those
in the DSM-5, with the difference that the term “mixed
episode” is maintained, which is further divided into six
subtypes depending on the current predominant episode
and presence of psychotic symptoms. For example, the
possible diagnoses are “actual mixed episode, current
mania with depressive symptoms, psychotic (or non-psy-
chotic)”; a similar scheme is used for hypomanic and de-
pressive episodes. In our opinion, it would also be useful
to maintain the nosographic category for mixed episodes:
firstly to allow greater diagnostic sensitivity and favour
research on mixed states, and secondly since a distinct
diagnosis would facilitate specific treatment decisions for
mixed states, which would otherwise be influenced by
the “dominant” episode.
Conclusions
In the present review, the complex problem of diagno-
sis of mixed states was examined in detail. Beyond psy-
chopathological considerations, which in itself represent
an interesting stimulus for further research in this area,
identification of reliable and valid criteria for diagnosis
of mixed states would have important clinical implica-
tions, in terms of both prognosis and therapy. Consider
the classic example of mixed depression, which cannot
be diagnosed with the DSM-IV-TR: in this case, what dif-
ference would correct identification make for the over-
all psychopathological picture? If one thinks about the
fact that several lines of evidence indicate that, in similar
cases, antidepressant therapy is likely to be without any
clinical benefit or even dangerous due to the increased
risk of suicide46, the advantage is enormous. In the case
of mixed mania, the possible consequences of diagno-
sis are perhaps less evident, but nonetheless important
from a clinical standpoint. For example, it has been re-
ported that the presence of depressive symptoms during
the course of mania (which would be the definition of
mixed mania) is a negative predictor for response to lithi-
um, which is these cases is inferior to valproate, and thus
would be considered as first-line treatment 47.
What appears obvious is that, following a historical
phase in which clinicians and researchers progressively
lost interest in the concept of a mixed state, over the last
three decades this tendency has been reversed, with a
recovery of classic ideas (and especially those of Kraepe-
lin) to extend knowledge on the subject with the goal
of improving diagnostic sensitivity and specificity. Mixed
states have now gained increased attention, and it should
be kept in mind that they are relevant for the clinical
practice of every psychiatrist.
Type II mixed states are generally non-psychotic and clas-
sically require the manifestation of a cyclothymic tem-
perament in the context of inhibited depression. Thus, to-
gether with mood deflection, hyperphagia, hypersomnia
and asthenia, other symptoms appear intermittently such
as racing thoughts, excessive joking, fits of rage, emo-
tional tension, restlessness, impulsivity, disinhibition and
dramatic suicide attempts. The abuse of stimulants and
sedatives is also particularly frequent 3943.
The third type of mixed states manifests as major depres-
sive episodes in the context of stabile hyperthymic tem-
perament: according to the author37, this type of mixed
state is characterized by persistent dysphoria together
with irritability, agitation, asthenia and marked racing of
thoughts, panic attacks and insomnia, obsessive ideas of
suicide associated with suicidal impulses and discomfort-
ing sexual hyperarousal. Substance abuse with alcohol
or drugs is frequent. In the author’s opinion, such a clini-
cal picture is typically seen in hyperthymic patients who
have suffered multiple major depressive episodes over a
lifetime and undergone numerous antidepressant thera-
pies. While such a condition may have been considered
as ‘unipolar’, it should actually be considered as part of
bipolar II disorder 39. Therefore, in this type of classifica-
tion, while the first type of mixed state is similar to the
idea of ‘mixed episode’ in the DSM-IV-TR, the other two
types are identified as mixed states in the context of type
II bipolar disorder or in ‘pseudounipolar’ patients, and in
categorical terms comparable to the definition of mixed
depression as described above.
Future considerations: DSM-5 and ICD-11
The inadequacy of the DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10 in iden-
tifying mixed states together with the results from recent
studies has prompted investigators to re-evaluate criteria
for mixed episodes, also considering the newly released
and forthcoming additions. The DSM-5 was released dur-
ing the APA’s 2013 Annual Meeting in May 2013 44.
In the DSM-5, the new criteria have eliminated the cat-
egory “mixed episode” and replaced it with the specifica-
tion “with mixed features”, which should be applied to in-
dividual episodes of major depression, either hypomanic
or manic, together with or in close juxtaposition with at
least three symptoms with opposite polarity among those
listed. Whenever a patient presents with symptoms that
satisfy criteria for both mania and depression (which ac-
cording to the DSM-IV-TR is defined as a mixed episode),
this is now considered “mania with mixed features”, thus
favouring the greatest functional compromise and clinical
severity of mania over depression. For diagnosis of major
depressive episodes with mixed aspects, this is possible
in the context of bipolar disorders (I, II and NOS) and
in unipolar major depressive disorder. It is evident that
294
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24 McElroy SL, Keck PE, Pope HG, et al. Clinical and research
Following the publication of the most frequently used
psychiatric diagnostic manuals (DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10),
it can be confirmed that, in the area of mixed states, the
vast majority of criticisms were centred around the fact
that that diagnostic criteria for mixed states were inad-
equate since they were too rigid. As a consequence, new
proposals focus on more inclusive diagnostic models. In
this regard, clinical studies appear to confirm the fact that
compared to more traditional models the use of broad-
er criteria is more adequate for correct identification of
mixed states. Moreover, the available data support the
utility of differentiating between manic mixed states and
mixed depressive states, or at any rate to acknowledge the
existence of a plurality of different types of mixed states
instead of the single diagnostic entity in the ICD-10 and
DSM-IV-TR. Nonetheless, it should be kept in mind that
while such a distinction may appear useful to increase di-
agnostic sensitivity, there is a still large overlap between
manic and depressive mixed states with regards to course
of disease, prognosis and response to treatment 20; this
would suggest that it is useful to consider mixed states as
a single clinical entity, regardless of their phenomeno-
logical polymorphism.
Herein, we have focused our attention on diagnostic
models in the area of mixed states that can help the
clinical psychiatrist from a practical standpoint. For this
reason, we have given preference to categorical diag-
nostic models, which are not widely adopted in clini-
cal practice. It is obvious that this leads to some limi-
tations, and one may have the impression that correct
diagnosis depends only on an uninteresting summary
of conflicting symptoms. By understanding such limits,
the application of these models is fundamental to pro-
mote the use of universally accepted and clear terminol-
ogy that does not refer to theoretical models, but rather
provides a broad synopsis. Moreover, a categorical ap-
proach can always be integrated with a dimensional ap-
proach, which will further help the clinician in diagno-
sis; in this regard, it should be mentioned that there are
several reports in the literature proposing dimensional
models that be applied to mixed states 2248. In conclu-
sion, mixed states are now a research area of primary
importance in bipolar disorder. Undoubtedly, genetic
and neurophysiological studies of mixed states will be
fundamental in further delineating diagnostic criteria
and new therapies.
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... Substance abuse with alcohol or drugs is frequently found. [31] Even though the person suffering with mania shows pressure of speech (more talkative than usual due to racing thoughts), he may become less talkative during mixed episode, or hypomania or when associated with OCD (religious or miscellaneous obsessions like excessive concern with right/wrong, fear of not saying just the right thing, concerned with sacrilege and blasphemy etc). ...
... Specifically, he suggested that fluctuations occurring within 3 central psychic domains, namely mood, thought, and psychomotor activity, give rise to 6 subtypes of mixed states: excited depression, depressive mania, depression with flight of ideas (FOI), unproductive mania, inhibited mania, and manic stupor (see Table 1 and Figure 1). 2 Expanding this model further, Kraepelin adopted a dimensional approach, which allowed various combinations of manic and depressive symptoms to occur in an individual. 3 Importantly, these domains distinguished between patients transitioning between manic and depressive states (mixed phase) and those who experience lasting symptoms from both manic and depressive phases concurrently, 2-4 manifesting as a chronic illness (mixed state). 3 Thus, Kraepelin's view of mixed presentations is perhaps best conceptualized on an axis orthogonal to that of mania and depression, intersecting at the point at which mania and depression overlap and sometimes transition. ...
... 3 Importantly, these domains distinguished between patients transitioning between manic and depressive states (mixed phase) and those who experience lasting symptoms from both manic and depressive phases concurrently, 2-4 manifesting as a chronic illness (mixed state). 3 Thus, Kraepelin's view of mixed presentations is perhaps best conceptualized on an axis orthogonal to that of mania and depression, intersecting at the point at which mania and depression overlap and sometimes transition. ...
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Bipolar mixed states combine depressive and manic features, presenting diagnostic and treatment challenges and reflecting a severe form of the illness. DSM-IV criteria for a mixed state require combined depressive and manic syndromes, but a range of mixed states has been described clinically. A unified definition of mixed states would be valuable in understanding their diagnosis, mechanism and treatment implications. We investigated the manner in which depressive and manic features combine to produce a continuum of mixed states. In 88 subjects with bipolar disorder (DSM-IV), we evaluated symptoms and clinical characteristics, and compared depression-based, mania-based, and other published definitions of mixed states. We developed an index of the extent to which symptoms were mixed (Mixed State Index, MSI) and characterized its relationship to clinical state. Predominately manic and depressive mixed states using criteria from recent literature, as well as Kraepelinian mixed states, had similar symptoms and MSI scores. Anxiety correlated significantly with depression scores in manic subjects and with mania scores in depressed subjects. Discriminant function analysis associated mixed states with symptoms of hyperactivity and negative cognitions, but not subjective depressive or elevated mood. High MSI scores were associated with severe course of illness. For depressive or manic episodes, characteristics of mixed states emerged with two symptoms of the opposite polarity. This was a cross-sectional study. Mixed states appear to be a continuum. An index of the degree to which depressive and manic symptoms combine appears useful in identifying and characterizing mixed states. We propose a depressive or manic episode with three or more symptoms of the opposite polarity as a parsimonious definition of a mixed state.
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Objective: To validate and clinically characterize mixed bipolar states derived from the concepts of Kraepelin and the Vienna School and defined as sustained instability of affective manifestations of opposite polarity — that usually fluctuate independently of one another — in the setting of marked emotional perplexity. Method: Our criteria for mixed states represent a modified “user-friendly” operationalization of these classical concepts. We compared 143 mixed state patients, so defined, with 118 DSM III-R manic patients, systematically evaluated with the Semistructured Interview for Depression (SID) in our in-patient and day-hospital facilities. Results: The two groups were comparable from demographic and familial standpoints (including family history for bipolar disorder). Mixed states were predominant in the past history of index mixed patients who were more likely to have experienced stressors and to have attempted suicide; manic and hypomanic episodes were more common in the past history of the index manic patients who, in addition, had more episodes and hospitalizations. Although rates of chronicity and rapid cycling were not significantly different in the two groups, the modal episodes in the mixed states were 3–6 months, and in mania they were less than 3 months. Two thirds of both groups arose from a dysregulated baseline temperamental dysregulation, which, in manics, was largely hyperthymic, and in mixed patients, was both hyperthymic and depressive. Of our 143 mixed states, only 54% met the DSM III-R criteria for mixed states (which conformed to “dysphoric mixed mania”); of the remaining, 17.5% could be described as “mixed agitated psychotic depressive states” with irritable mood and flight of ideas, and 26% as “unproductive–inhibited manic” with fatigue and indecisiveness. The family history and course of these “non-DSM III-R” mixed states were essentially similar to DSM III-R mixed states. Limitation: Family history could not be obtained blind to clinical status in patients with severe psychotic mood states. Clinical Relevance: These data favor the classical European approach to mixed states over the grossly under-inclusive current official diagnostic systems. Conclusion: The phenomenology of mixed states is more than the mere superposition of opposite affective symptoms and, in many instances, it represents an expansive–excited phase intruding into a depressive temperament, and a melancholic episode intruding into a hyperthymic temperament.
Article
Data on 108 hospitalized bipolar I women were analyzed to characterize those whose course was marked with at least one mixed episode (i.e. an episode with concomitant manic and depressed features) on the basis of various anamnestic and cross-sectional clinical features in comparison with those without mixed episodes. Our data revealed a later age of appearance of the first mixed episode in the course of bipolar illness with a tendency to recur true to type; greater prevalence of mood incongruent psychotic features; lower frequency of hyperthymic temperament; and familial depressive, rather than bipolar, disorders. These characteristics tend to identify the mixed state as a distinct longitudinal pattern of manic-depressive illness.
Article
Mixed affective episode is a prevalent mood disorder characterized by the coexistence or rapid alternation of manic and depressive symptoms, which is associated with significant suffering and high risk of suicide. Unfortunately, the current diagnostic classification of mixed affective episodes in the ICD-10 lacks a detailed definition with relevant subtypes. This inconsistency has significant negative implications for both research into the disorders in the bipolar spectrum and for clinical practice. For this reason there is a need for special attention on this diagnosis in the revisions of the diagnostic manuals. In this manuscript we suggest a set of clear diagnostic criteria and exhaustive subtypes for the mixed affective episodes aimed at the upcoming ICD-11. The defined syndrome and its subtypes are in close congruence with the suggested DSM-5 "mixed episode specifier", which is an advantage for common understanding and for research across the ICD/DSM border.