Introduction: In December 2015, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists published a comprehensive set of mood disorder clinical practice guidelines for psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health professionals. This guideline summary, directed broadly at primary care physicians, is an abridged version that focuses on bipolar disorder. It is intended as an aid to the management of this complex disorder for primary care physicians working in collaboration with psychiatrists to implement successful long term management.
Main recommendations: The guidelines address the main phases of bipolar disorder with a particular emphasis on long term management, and provide specific clinical recommendations.
- All physicians should be able to detect its early signs so that treatment can be initiated promptly.
- At the outset, taper and cease medications with mood-elevating properties and institute measures to reduce stimulation, and transfer the patient to specialist care.
- Treatment is complicated and may require trialling treatment combinations.
- Monotherapy with mood-stabilising agents or second generation antipsychotics has demonstrated efficacy but using combinations of these agents along with antidepressants is sometimes necessary to achieve remission. Commencing adjunctive structured psychosocial treatments in this phase is benign and likely effective.
Long term management:
- Physicians should adjust treatment to prevent the recurrence of manic and/or depressive symptoms and optimise functional recovery.
- Closely monitor the efficacy of pharmacological and psychological treatments, adverse effects and compliance.
Changes in management as a result of the guidelines: The guidelines position bipolar disorder as part of a spectrum of mood disorders and provide a longitudinal perspective for assessment and treatment. They provide new management algorithms for the maintenance phase of treatment that underscore the importance of ongoing monitoring to achieve prophylaxis. As a first line treatment, lithium remains the most effective medication for the prevention of relapse and potential suicide, but requires nuanced management from both general practitioners and specialists. The guidelines provide clarity and simplicity for the long term management of bipolar disorder, incorporating the use of new medications and therapies alongside established treatments.
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