The Expert Consensus Guidelines for Treating Depression in Bipolar Disorder


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We present expert consensus guideline recommendations for the treatment of bipolar depression. These were arrived at through the statistical aggregation of the survey responses of 61 leading clinical researchers to eight questions about the key decision points in the management of bipolar depression. The experts’ first-line recommendation for treating psychotic depression in bipolar disorder is to provide a combination of mood stabilizer, antidepressant, and neuroleptic medication. For severe, but nonpsychotic bipolar depression, the experts recommend the combination of a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant. For milder bipolar depression, a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant together or a mood stabilizer alone would be first line. The experts’ antidepressant dose and dosing schedule recommendations are equivalent for unipolar and bipolar depression, but the experts recommend a faster discontinuation of antidepressants during the maintenance phase in bipolar patients—probably to reduce the risk of rapid cycling. Among the antidepressants, the experts prefer bupropion and the serotonin reuptake inhibitors as first line. They also believe that bupropion is least likely among antidepressants to cause switches to mania. Among mood stabilizers, the experts rate lithium as most likely to have a direct antidepressant effect.

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59(suppl 4):73–79