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Psychiatr Serv. 1999 Feb;50(2):201-13.

A review of bipolar disorder among adults.

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University of California, Davis, Sacramento 95817, USA.



This paper reviews the epidemiology, etiology, assessment, and management of bipolar disorder. Special attention is paid to factors that complicate treatment, including noncompliance, comorbid disorders, mixed mania, and rapid cycling. Advances in biopsychosocial treatments are briefly reviewed, including new health service models for providing care.


A MEDLINE search was done for the period from January 1988 through October 1997 using the key terms of bipolar disorder, diagnosis, and treatment. Papers selected for further review included those published in English in peer-reviewed journals. Preference was given to articles reporting randomized, controlled trials.


Bipolar disorder is a major public health problem. The etiology of the disorder appears multifactorial. Diagnosis often occurs years after onset of the disorder. Comorbid conditions are common. Management includes a lifetime course of medication and attention to psychosocial issues for patients and their families. Standardized treatment guidelines for the management of acute mania have been developed. New potential treatments are being investigated.


Assessment of bipolar disorder must include careful attention to comorbid disorders and predictors of compliance. Randomized trials are needed to further evaluate the efficacy of medication, psychosocial interventions, and other health service interventions, particularly as they relate to the management of acute bipolar depression, bipolar disorder co-occurring with other disorders, and maintenance prophylactic treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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