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The impact of being newly diagnosed with a bipolar disorder and the short-term outcome of disorder-specific management




The aim of the study was to determine the impact of a first-time diagnosis of bipolar disorder in patients previously generally managed as having a unipolar disorder, and to quantify the impact of disorder-specific management strategies for such newly diagnosed patients over the following three months.


A total of 157 patients receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder for the first time by a psychiatrist at a specialist depression clinic completed a research interview and questionnaires, with 106 (68%) also completing 12-week quantitative and qualitative evaluations. Assessing psychiatrists undertook baseline and follow-up assessments recording management changes, reactions to the diagnosis and global changes in functioning over time.


The majority of patients had a positive response to receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and most implemented a number of clinician-suggested bipolar management strategies. Patients showed improvement on five of the six self-report measures over the three-month study period. Multivariate analyses quantified lamotrigine as making the most distinctive contribution to ‘improver’ status, particularly for the bipolar II disorder subset.


Results are encouraging in identifying a generally positive acceptance of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, improved outcome following the introduction of diagnostic-specific management components, and a distinctive contribution of lamotrigine to improved three-month outcome.