, Volume 28, Issue 12, pp 1648-1656

The Presentation, Recognition and Management of Bipolar Depression in Primary Care

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Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by episodes of major depression and mania or hypomania. Most patients experience chronic symptoms of bipolar disorder approximately half of the time, most commonly subsyndromal depressive symptoms or a full depressive episode with concurrent manic symptoms. Consequently, patients with bipolar depression are often misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder. Individual patient characteristics and population screening tools may be helpful in improving recognition of bipolar depression in primary care. Health risk behaviors including tobacco use, sedentary activity level and weight gain are highly prevalent in patients with bipolar disorder, as are the comorbid chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Patients with bipolar illness have about an eight-fold higher risk of suicide and a two-fold increased risk of death from chronic medical illnesses. Recognition of bipolar depression and its associated health risk behaviors and chronic medical problems can lead to the use of appropriate interventions for patients with bipolar disorder, which differ in important ways from the treatments used for major depressive disorder. The above topics are reviewed in detail in this article.