Psychological Medicine

Diagnostic depressive symptoms of the mixed bipolar episode

F. CASSIDY a1c1, E. AHEARN a1, E. MURRY a1, K. FOREST a1 and B. J. CARROLL a1
a1 Duke-Umstead Bipolar Disorders Program, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham and John Umstead Hospital, Butner, North Carolina, USA


Background. There is not yet consensus on the best diagnostic definition of mixed bipolar episodes. Many have suggested the DSM-III-R/-IV definition is too rigid. We propose alternative criteria using data from a large patient cohort.

Methods. We evaluated 237 manic in-patients using DSM-III-R criteria and the Scale for Manic States (SMS). A bimodally distributed factor of dysphoric mood has been reported from the SMS data. We used both the factor and the DSM-III-R classifications to identify candidate depressive symptoms and then developed three candidate depressive symptom sets. Using ROC analysis we determined the optimal threshold number of symptoms in each set and compared the three ROC solutions. The optimal solution was tested against the DSM-III-R classification for cross-validation.

Results. The optimal ROC solution was a set, derived from both the DSM-III-R and the SMS, and the optimal threshold for diagnosis was two or more symptoms. Applying this set iteratively to the DSM-III-R classification produced the identical ROC solution. The prevalence of mixed episodes in the cohort was 13·9% by DSM-III-R, 20·2% by the dysphoria factor and 27·4% by the new ROC solution.

Conclusions. A diagnostic set of six dysphoric symptoms (depressed mood, anhedonia, guilt, suicide, fatigue and anxiety), with a threshold of two symptoms, is proposed for a mixed episode. This new definition has a foundation in clinical data, in the proved diagnostic performance of the qualifying symptoms, and in ROC validation against two previous definitions that each have face validity.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Fredrick Cassidy, Duke University Medical Center, Box 3414, Durham, NC 27710, USA.