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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2008;10(2):129-39.

Bipolar disorder--methodological problems and future perspectives.

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Zurich University, Psychiatric Hospital, Research Department, Zurich, Switzerland.


Since its "rebirth" in 1966, bipolar disorder (BPD) has rapidly come to occupy a central position in the research and treatment of mood disorders. Compared with major depressive disorder (MDD), BPD is a more serious condition, characterized by much more frequent recurrence, more complex comorbidity, and higher mortality. One major problem is the lack of valid definitions in adult and in child psychiatry; the current definitions are unsatisfactory, and heavily favor an overdiagnosis of MDD. Biological research is partially based on those definitions, which have a short half-life. An additional, dimensional, approach, quantifying hypomania, depression, and anxiety by self-assessment and symptom checklists is recommended. A further, related problem is the early recognition of the onset of BPD, especially in adolescence, and the identification of correlates in childhood. Early and timely diagnosis of BPD is necessary to enable prompt intervention and secondary prevention of the disorder. The paper describes the current status and future directions of developing clinical concepts of bipolarity.

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