Researcher Seeks Bipolar Revolution

A leading researcher has called for a revolution in how bipolar disorder is diagnosed and treated. Professor Nick Craddock of Cardiff University believes that diagnosis and treatment should be based on a better understanding of the genetic, biological and psychological factors that determine a person’s susceptibility to the illness.

Speaking to Pendulum – the journal of MDF (The Bipolar Organisation) – Professor Craddock outlined his vision of how research into the pathogenesis of the disorder will lead to better diagnosis and more precise tailoring of existing treatments to the specific needs of the individual.

Research conducted by the Mood Disorders Research Team at Cardiff University, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, found that bipolar disorder can manifest itself very differently in different people and that the symptoms may change over time.

Professor Craddock believes that the current labels – such as bipolar 1, bipolar 2 and major depression – can lead to confusion and misdiagnosis, with patients showing identical symptoms being diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or depression.

He said, “We might move towards talking, for example, about bipolar spectrum disorder which would mean that the person is susceptible to ups and downs – but it might include people at the moment who are variously diagnosed as having bipolar 1 disorder, severe depressions and schizophrenia.

“We would have to look very closely at the person’s own individualised experience of the illness in order to get a full understanding of what is required to treat them effectively.”

Prof Craddock, whose work is funded by the Wellcome Trust, added that a better understanding of the specific biological, psychological and environmental factors that trigger mood-swing disorders will lead to a wider, more tailored range of treatments.