Identifying Psychiatrists’ Practice Patterns When Managing Depression in Patients With Bipolar I Disorder:

A Descriptive Study to Inform Education Needs

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Terry Ann Glauser, MD, MPH; Wendy Cerenzia, MS; Shereta Wiley, MPH; Alexandra Howson, PhD; Michael Thase, MD

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Postgraduate Medicine:

Volume 125 No. 1


Clinical Features

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DOI: 10.3810/pgm.2013.01.2606
Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe practice patterns of US psychiatrists with regard to the diagnosis and management of depression in adults with bipolar I disorder and to identify relevant gaps in clinical knowledge and competence. Methods: Two focus groups were conducted using nominal group technique via a web interface and teleconference to elicit barriers that psychiatrists face in managing depression in patients with bipolar I disorder. These results framed a case-based survey that was administered to 200 US-based psychiatrists to explore and quantitatively assess their knowledge and practice patterns with respect to the diagnosis and management of depression in patients with bipolar I disorder. We completed all statistical analyses with PASW Statistics 18 and used descriptive statistics to summarize survey responses. Results: To identify previously undiagnosed mania, 67% of clinician respondents said that they asked depressed patients if they had previously experienced all Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision mania-defining symptoms. To treat a patient with symptoms of depression and no other risk factors for bipolar I disorder, 85% of the respondents said that they would use an antidepressant; 55% of respondents were not concerned that their choice of treatment would lead to a manic episode; 5% thought that there was no greater risk of treatment-emergent mood disorder when treating depression in patients with bipolar I disorder compared with major depressive disorder. If the patient had depression and risk factors for bipolar I disorder, 54% of the respondents said that they would still prescribe an antidepressant as monotherapy. Conclusion: The clinician responses were not adherent to evidence-based practice based on clinical trial results or current guideline recommendations. There is an unmet need for education to enable psychiatrists to differentiate between unipolar and bipolar depression, to identify the risk of treatment-emergent mood disorders with the use of antidepressants, and to effectively manage patients at risk for bipolar I disorder.

Keywords: depression; bipolar disorder; practice patterns; psychiatrist; survey