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Treatment of bipolar depression

This is a republished version of an article previously published in MJA Open

Bipolar disorders (BDs) are chronic and progressive mood disorders characterised by manic, hypomanic or mixed episodes that typically occur in conjunction with depressive episodes.1 Globally, BDs are a leading cause of disability, with consequences that include long-term unemployment, comorbid medical illness, and suicide.25 Because of its recurrent pattern, people with BD are symptomatic for about half their lives, with the bulk of the psychosocial disability resulting from the depressive pole of the disorder.1,6 Despite this, much of the research for BD focuses on the manic phase of the illness, while most depression-related research focuses on unipolar depression. However, BD — and therefore bipolar depression — is a distinct illness that requires a specific treatment approach, tailored to individual needs. Here, we outline the distinct features of bipolar depression and present evidence-based treatment options.