Assessment and diagnosis

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder is not straight-forward, as symptoms often vary across individuals. This category contains information about diagnosis of bipolar and related disorders, and assessment tools for measuring symptoms.

Diagnosis and screening

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed? Bipolar disorder is characterised by episodes of mania or less severe hypomania, and depression. A depressive episode is a period of at least two weeks in which a person has primarily intense sadness or despair and/or feelings of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness. There may also be loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, feelings of guilt, restlessness or agitation, sleep problems, slowed speech or movements, changes in appetite, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions, and/or thoughts of death or suicide. A manic episode is a period of at least one week when…

Early detection

Why is early detection of bipolar disorder important? Detection of the early stages of bipolar disorder may help develop interventions that prevent or delay the onset of the disorder. Early intervention can also result in improved clinical outcomes should the disorder develop. To achieve early detection, accurate identification of individuals at highest risk of onset of symptoms is paramount. What is the evidence for early detection of bipolar disorder? Moderate quality evidence suggests large effects of having psychotic symptoms or a family history of bipolar disorder as risk factors for transition to bipolar disorder in people with major depression. There…

Outcome assessment tools

What are outcome assessment tools? Standardised assessment tools are vital for assessing a range of variables including symptoms, functioning and quality of life. They are often used within a controlled research environment, but high-quality assessment tools are also useful in practice for both clinical management and outcome prediction. The quality of assessment tools can be measured in various ways. ‘Reliability’ refers to the reproducibility of an instrument’s results across different assessors, settings and times. ‘Construct validity’ is the extent to which an instrument measures the theoretical construct it was designed to measure. This involves ‘convergent validity’, which is the degree…

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