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Bipolar Disord. 2007 Jun;9(4):318-23.

Diagnosing bipolar disorder in trauma exposed primary care patients.

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Howard University School of Medicine, Washington, DC 20011, USA.



Bipolar disorder (BD) is often under-recognized in non-psychiatric settings, especially in African Americans. The Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) is a screening instrument proposed to show adequate sensitivity and specificity for bipolar spectrum disorders. The current study is an examination of the usefulness of this instrument in a trauma exposed subgroup of mainly African American patients attending primary care clinics.


The sample is a part of a larger study exploring traumatic stress exposure and psychopathology. Consenting patients in 3 academically affiliated primary care clinics were asked to complete the MDQ. Ninety percent of the participants were African American. Diagnostic performance was determined in a trauma exposed subgroup by employing the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID) as a gold standard.


Of the total group of 579 participants, 178 (30.7%) screened positive for BD along with 77 (33.7%) of the 228 trauma exposed subjects who were SCID interviewed. Only 13 (27%) of the MDQ positives met SCID criteria for BD and were true positives. The sensitivity was 61.9% and the specificity was 69%, with a positive predictive value of 16.8% and a negative predictive value of 94.7%.


The MDQ was found to have low specificity in a predominately African American group of trauma exposed patients attending primary care.

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