Early intervention for bipolar disorder - Do current treatment guidelines provide recommendations for the early stages of the disorder?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Ming Fang Chia
  • Sue Cotton
  • Kate Filia
  • Mark Phelan
  • Philippe Conus
  • Sameer Jauhar
  • Patrick D McGorry
  • Christopher Davey
  • Michael Berk
  • Aswin Ratheesh

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, University of Melbourne and Melbourne Health
  • Orygen Youth Health, North Western Mental Health Service, Melbourne, Australia
  • Lausanne University and Hospital (CHUV)
  • King's College London


BACKGROUND: Interventions early in the course of bipolar disorder (BD) may have the potential to limit its functional and symptomatic impact. However, the implementation of specific early interventions for BD has been limited which may at least partly be due to the lack of guidelines focused on the early illness stages. We therefore aimed to review the current recommendations for early stage BD from clinical practice guidelines.

METHODS: We searched PubMED and PsychINFO for clinical guidelines for BD published in the ten years prior to 1 November 2018. Recommendations from identified guidelines that addressed early stage BD or first episode mania were consolidated and compared. We also reviewed the guidelines relating to adolescents with BD to complement the guidelines related to those in the early illness course.

RESULTS: We identified fourteen international and national guidelines on BD or affective psychoses. Most guidelines contained a separate section on adolescents, but only a few referred specifically to early stage BD. There were no consistent recommendations for early stage disorder, except with respect to the indications for maintenance medication treatments. For adolescents, there was a consistent recommendation for the use of second generation antipsychotics for treating acute mania.

LIMITATION: The main limitation is that the identified guidelines did not include primary data that clearly separated illness and developmental stages.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a lack of emphasis on early BD among widely-respected current clinical guidelines, likely reflecting the dearth of primary data. Future evidence or consensus-based recommendations could significantly inform clinical practice for this population.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-677
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Adolescent, Adult, Antipsychotic Agents/standards, Bipolar Disorder/drug therapy, Early Medical Intervention/standards, Female, Humans, Male, Practice Guidelines as Topic, Young Adult