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Bipolar Disorder Prevalence Hidden by Diagnostic Thresholds

(PSYCHIATRIC TIMES) - MedPage Today Action Points

o Explain to interested patients that bipolar disorder that does not quite meet diagnostic criteria appears to be common.

o Caution patients that subthreshold bipolar disorder is not well defined and does not have clear treatment guidelines.

BETHESDA, Md., May 8 -- There may be twice as many patients with bipolar spectrum disorders as generally suspected, according to a national survey.

The survey found that 4.4% of Americans have had a form of bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetime, whereas the prevalence of bipolar I and II combined over a lifetime is typically cited at about 1.9%.

The difference was attributed to the 2.4% prevalence of "subthreshold" bipolar disorder, Kathleen R. Merikangas, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health here, and colleagues, reported in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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