The early phases of bipolar disorders are difficult to diagnose and have specific treatment issues. The initial polarity of the illness is more commonly depressive, yet in counterpoint, mania is required for diagnosis; consequently, there is often a substantial delay in the initiation of appropriate therapy. There is good evidence that lithium in particular is most effective early in the illness course, and that its efficacy declines after multiple episodes. The notion of neuroprotection reflects this, and furthermore suggests that appropriate therapy may prevent the neurostructural and neurocognitive changes seen in the disorder. Inappropriate therapy may worsen the course of the illness. Patients with a first episode have specific psychosocial needs, and adherence to medication is relatively poor. There is a need for early identification, and to develop treatments and services applicable to the specific needs of this population.
Berk, M., Hallam, K., Lucas, N., Hasty, M., McNeil, C. A., Conus, P., … McGorry, P. D. (2007). Early intervention in bipolar disorders: opportunities and pitfalls. The Medical Journal of Australia. https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.2007.tb01328.x