• bipolar disorder;
  • psychosocial;
  • outcome

Objective: The aim of this paper is to review outcome in patients with bipolar disorder as assessed by interepisode level of functioning, as until recently this dimension of outcome has been relatively under-emphasized.

Method: Studies that examined psychosocial outcome in bipolar disorder were reviewed on the basis of rating measurements employed, length of follow-up, number of subjects followed and degree of impairment reported. Studies were included only if results from patients with bipolar and unipolar disorder were reported in such a way that the groups could be distinguished.

Results: When studies of psychosocial outcome in bipolar disorder are examined in aggregate, it appears that 30–60% of individuals with this disorder fail to regain full functioning in occupational and social domains.

Conclusion: This review highlights the fact that inter-episode functional recovery is incomplete in some patients, suggesting that comprehensive rehabilitative assessment and intervention may be essential to reduce the morbidity associated with this disorder.