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Longitudinal research on bipolar disorders

  • Paola Salvatore, Mauricio Tohen, Hari-Mandir Kaur Khalsa, Christopher Baethge, Leonardo Tondo and Ross J. Baldessarini...

Longitudinal assessment of the course of major psychiatric disorders has been advanced by studies from onset, but only rarely have large numbers of patients with a range of psychotic and major affective disorders been studied simultaneously and systematically from illness-onset. The decade-long McLean-Harvard First Episode Project & International Consortium for Bipolar Disorder Research has systematically followed-up large numbers of patients with DSM-IV bipolar or psychotic disorders from first hospitalization. Major findings among patients with bipolar I disorder include: [a] full functional recovery from initial episodes was uncommon, and full symptomatic recovery, much slower than early syndromal recovery; [b] risks of relapse, recurrence, and switching were very high in the first two years; [c] most early morbidity was depressive-dysphoric, as reported in mid-course; [d] initial depression or mixed-states predicted more later depressive and overall morbidity, whereas initial mania or psychosis predicted later mania and a better prognosis; [e] based on within-subject modeling, most patients did not show progressive cycling over time, and illness-course was rather chaotic within and among patients; [f] treatment-latency or episode-counts were unassociated with responsiveness to long-term mood-stabilizing treatment; [g] very high rates of suicidal behavior and accidents occurred early; [h] early substance-use comorbidity associated with anxiety; [i] factor-analysis of prodromal symptoms predicted bipolar disorder much better than non-affective psychotic disorders. Project findings indicate that the course of bipolar I disorder is much less favorable than had been believed formerly, despite clinical treatment with modern mood-stabilizing and other treatments.

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Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr. P. Salvatore, Centre Building, Office G07B, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill St., Belmont MA 02478 (USA). Fax: 1-617-855-3479 E-mail:
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Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
  • ISSN: 2045-7960
  • EISSN: 2045-7979
  • URL: /core/journals/epidemiology-and-psychiatric-sciences
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