Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Prodromes, coping strategies, insight and social functioning in bipolar affective disorders

a1 From the Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, London


Background. Patients suffering from bipolar affective disorders are generally reported to be able to detect prodromes. Insight is also said to be desirable for a good outcome. However, very little is known about the effect of insight and patients' spontaneous strategies for coping with prodromes on their social functioning.

Method. In a cross-sectional study 40 bipolar patients, who were not in an acute episode, were interviewed about their prodromes of depression and mania, their coping strategies for these prodromes, their levels of insight and their levels of social functioning.

Results. A quarter of subjects reported that they could not detect any early warnings of depression compared with only 7·5% of subjects who reported that they could not detect prodromes of mania. Subjects reported both spontaneous cognitive and behavioural strategies for coping with prodromes of depression but only behavioural strategies for prodromes of mania. Subjects' current levels of depression, how they coped with prodromes of mania and their ability to recognize early warnings for depression contributed significantly to their level of social functioning. Insight also had a weaker but significant contribution.

Conclusion. No causal link was made in this study. However, it did show that patients' level of social functioning was related to their level of insight, and to how well they coped with the prodromes of mania and whether they could detect prodromes of depression. The results suggest that it is worth exploring ways of teaching patients to monitor their moods and to promote insight and good strategies for coping with their prodromes.


Address for correspondence: Dr Dominic Lam, Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF.