OBJECTIVE: High rates of misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and lack of recognition and treatment of comorbid conditions often lead patients with bipolar illness to have a chronic course with high disability, unemployment rates, and mortality. Despite the recognition that long-term outcome of bipolar disorder depends on systematic assessment of both interepisodic dysfunctional domains and comorbid psychiatric and medical conditions, treatment of bipolar disorder still focuses primarily on alleviation of acute symptoms and prevention of future recurrences. We propose here to review the evidence offering a modern view of bipolar disorder defined as a chronic and progressive multisystem disorder, taking into account characteristics of each patient as well as biosignatures in order to help design personalized treatments. DATA SOURCES: We conducted a systematic PubMed search of all English-language articles, published between 2000 and 2010, focusing on the English and French literature with bipolar disorder cross-referenced with the following search terms: emotional dysregulation, sleep and circadian rhythm disturbances, cognitive impairment, age at onset, comorbid medical and psychiatric conditions, psychosocial and medical interventions, outcome, remission, and personalized medicine. The search was conducted between July 2009 and July 2010. The literature on bipolar disorder was reviewed to provide supporting evidence that the assessment of various symptom domains that are dysfunctional between episodes should all be considered as core dimensions of the disorder. STUDY SELECTION: Forty-one articles were identified through the PubMed search described above and selected on the basis of addressing any combination of the search terms in conjunction with bipolar disorder. DATA SYNTHESIS: Current guidelines advocate the use of more or less similar treatment algorithms for all patients, ignoring the clinical, pathophysiological, and lifetime heterogeneity of bipolar disorder. Systematic assessment of interepisodic dimensions, along with comorbid medical and psychiatric risk factors, should be performed along the life cycle in order to plan specific and personalized pharmacologic, medical, and psychosocial interventions tailored to the needs of each patient and ready-to-test biosignatures to serve as risk factors or diagnostic or prognostic tools. CONCLUSIONS: Medical and research findings, along with health economic data, support a more modern view of bipolar disorder as a chronic, progressive, multisystem disorder. This new comprehensive framework should guide the search to identify biomarkers and etiologic factors and should help design a new policy for health care, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and training.
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