What is Bipolar I Disorder?

Introduction

Bipolar I disorder (BD-I; pronounced “type one bipolar disorder”) is a type of bipolar spectrum disorder characterised by the occurrence of at least one manic episode, with or without mixed or psychotic features.

Most people also, at other times, have one or more depressive episodes, and all experience a hypomanic stage before progressing to full mania.

It is a type of bipolar disorder, and conforms to the classic concept of manic-depressive illness, which can include psychosis during mood episodes.

Refer to Bipolar II Disorder and Mixed Affective State.

Bipolar mood shifts.

Diagnosis

The essential feature of bipolar I disorder is a clinical course characterised by the occurrence of one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes. Often, individuals have had one or more major depressive episodes. One episode of mania is sufficient to make the diagnosis of bipolar disorder; the person may or may not have a history of major depressive disorder. Episodes of substance-induced mood disorder due to the direct effects of a medication, or other somatic treatments for depression, drug abuse, or toxin exposure, or of mood disorder due to a general medical condition need to be excluded before a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder can be made. Bipolar I disorder requires confirmation of only 1 full manic episode for diagnosis, but may be associated with hypomanic and depressive episodes as well. Diagnosis for bipolar II disorder does not include a full manic episode; instead, it requires the occurrence of both a hypomanic episode and a major depressive episode. Serious aggression has been reported to occur in one of every ten first-major episode BD-I patients with psychotic features, its prevalence in this group being particularly high in association with a recent suicide attempt, alcohol-abuse, learning disability, or manic polarity in the first episode.

Bipolar I disorder (and bipolar II disorder) is often comorbid with other disorders including PTSD, substance use disorders and a variety of mood disorders. Up to 40% of people with bipolar disorder also present with PTSD, with higher rates occurring in women and individuals with bipolar I disorder. In addition, the episodes must not be better accounted for by schizoaffective disorder or superimposed on schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, delusional disorder, or a psychotic disorder not otherwise specified.

Medical Assessment

Regular medical assessments are performed to rule-out secondary causes of mania and depression. These tests include complete blood count, glucose, serum chemistry/electrolyte panel, thyroid function test, liver function test, renal function test, urinalysis, vitamin B12 and folate levels, HIV screening, syphilis screening, and pregnancy test, and when clinically indicated, an electrocardiogram (ECG), an electroencephalogram (EEG), a computed tomography (CT scan), and/or a magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) may be ordered. Drug screening includes recreational drugs, particularly synthetic cannabinoids, and exposure to toxins.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV-TR)

Dx Code #DisorderDescription
296.0xBipolar ISingle manic episode
296.40Bipolar IMost recent episode hypomanic
296.4xBipolar IMost recent episode manic
296.5xBipolar IMost recent episode depressed
296.6xBipolar IMost recent episode mixed
296.7Bipolar IMost recent episode unspecified

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5)

In May 2013, American Psychiatric Association released the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). There are several proposed revisions to occur in the diagnostic criteria of Bipolar I Disorder and its subtypes. For Bipolar I Disorder 296.40 (most recent episode hypomanic) and 296.4x (most recent episode manic), the proposed revision includes the following specifiers: with psychotic features, with mixed features, with catatonic features, with rapid cycling, with anxiety (mild to severe), with suicide risk severity, with seasonal pattern, and with postpartum onset. Bipolar I Disorder 296.5x (most recent episode depressed) will include all of the above specifiers plus the following: with melancholic features and with atypical features. The categories for specifiers will be removed in DSM-5 and criterion A will add or there are at least 3 symptoms of major depression of which one of the symptoms is depressed mood or anhedonia. For Bipolar I Disorder 296.7 (most recent episode unspecified), the listed specifiers will be removed.

The criteria for manic and hypomanic episodes in criteria A & B will be edited. Criterion A will include “and present most of the day, nearly every day”, and criterion B will include “and represent a noticeable change from usual behaviour”. These criteria as defined in the DSM-IV-TR have created confusion for clinicians and need to be more clearly defined.

There have also been proposed revisions to criterion B of the diagnostic criteria for a Hypomanic Episode, which is used to diagnose For Bipolar I Disorder 296.40, Most Recent Episode Hypomanic. Criterion B lists “inflated self-esteem, flight of ideas, distractibility, and decreased need for sleep” as symptoms of a Hypomanic Episode. This has been confusing in the field of child psychiatry because these symptoms closely overlap with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Note that many of the above changes are still under active consideration and are not definite. For more information regarding proposed revisions to the DSM-5, please visit their website at dsm5.org.

ICD-10

  • F31 Bipolar Affective Disorder.
  • F31.6 Bipolar Affective Disorder, Current Episode Mixed.
  • F30 Manic Episode.
  • F30.0 Hypomania.
  • F30.1 Mania Without Psychotic Symptoms.
  • F30.2 Mania With Psychotic Symptoms.
  • F32 Depressive Episode.
  • F32.0 Mild Depressive Episode.
  • F32.1 Moderate Depressive Episode.
  • F32.2 Severe Depressive Episode Without Psychotic Symptoms.
  • F32.3 Severe Depressive Episode With Psychotic Symptoms.

Treatment

Medication

Mood stabilisers are often used as part of the treatment process.

  • Lithium is the mainstay in the management of bipolar disorder but it has a narrow therapeutic range and typically requires monitoring.
  • Anticonvulsants, such as valproate, carbamazepine, or lamotrigine.
  • Atypical antipsychotics, such as quetiapine, risperidone, olanzapine, or aripiprazole.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy, a psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in anesthetised patients for therapeutic effect.

Antidepressant-induced mania occurs in 20-40% of people with bipolar disorder. Mood stabilisers, especially lithium, may protect against this effect, but some research contradicts this.

A frequent problem in these individuals is nonadherence to pharmacological treatment; long-acting injectable antipsychotics may contribute to solving this issue in some patients.

A review of validated treatment guidelines for bipolar disorder by international bodies was published in 2020.

Education

Psychosocial interventions can be used for managing acute depressive episodes and for maintenance treatment to aid in relapse prevention. This includes psycho education, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), family-focused therapy (FFT), interpersonal and social-rhythm therapy (IPSRT), and peer support.

Information on the condition, importance of regular sleep patterns, routines and eating habits and the importance of compliance with medication as prescribed. Behaviour modification through counselling can have positive influence to help reduce the effects of risky behaviour during the manic phase. Additionally, the lifetime prevalence for bipolar I disorder is estimated to be 1%.

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