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Keywords:

  • antidepressants;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • bipolar spectrum;
  • diagnosis;
  • mood stabilizers;
  • treatment

The relative misdiagnosis and underdiagnosis of bipolar disorder is due in part to the ‘soft’ symptoms of bipolarity that characterize patients with non-classical bipolar disorder. While no agreement has been reached on the term for this group of patients, the most common classification used is ‘bipolar spectrum’, which shifts the emphasis in diagnosis away from polarity and toward other diagnostic validators. In order to recognize and properly treat patients with bipolar disorder, clinicians should focus on careful evaluation of patients with mixed anxiety/depressive symptoms or impulsivity conditions (substance abuse, borderline personality, bulimia, and attention deficit disorder). Furthermore, in the treatment of bipolar disorder, clinicians should also recognize that antidepressants can have a negative effect on patients by increasing the likelihood of more severe rapid cycling. While antidepressants may be useful in particularly difficult cases, emphasis should be placed on mood stabilizers for treatment of the bipolar spectrum.