Polarity at illness onset in bipolar I disorder and clinical course of illness


  • The authors of this paper do not have any commercial associations that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with this manuscript.

Professor Nick Craddock, Department of Psychological Medicine, Henry Wellcome Building for Biomedical Research, Wales School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XN, UK. Fax: +44 (0)2920 687068; e-mail: craddockn@cf.ac.uk


Objectives:  Studies have suggested that episode polarity at illness onset in bipolar disorder may be predictive of some aspects of lifetime clinical characteristics. We here examine this possibility in a large, well-characterized sample of patients with bipolar I disorder.

Methods:  We assessed polarity at onset in patients with bipolar I disorder (N = 553) recruited as part of our ongoing studies of affective disorders. Lifetime clinical characteristics of illness were compared in patients who had a depressive episode at first illness onset (n = 343) and patients who had a manic episode at first illness onset (n = 210).

Results:  Several lifetime clinical features differed between patients according to the polarity of their onset episode of illness. A logistic regression analysis showed that the lifetime clinical features significantly associated with a depressive episode at illness onset in our sample were: an earlier age at illness onset; a predominantly depressive polarity during the lifetime; more frequent and more severe depressive episodes; and less prominent lifetime psychotic features.

Conclusions:  Knowledge of pole of onset may help the clinician in providing prognostic information and management advice to an individual with bipolar disorder.