All UK prescribers must screen for Bipolar before prescribing antidepressants

All UK prescribers must screen for Bipolar before prescribing antidepressants

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In 2017 to 2018, 17% of the UK adult population were prescribed antidepressants, that's 7.3 million people.

Between 3.3 and 21.6% of primary care patients with unipolar depression may have an undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

That means up to 1.5million people in the UK who could benefit from Bipolar treatment are not receiving it.

Bipolar 1 is a mental health condition characterised by significant mood swings including manic highs and depressive lows. The majority of individuals with bipolar 1 experience alternating episodes of mania and depression HOWEVER, many on the bipolar spectrum experience milder highs called hypomania which can often be mistaken for periods of 'good mood'.

1% to 2% of the population experience a lifetime prevalence of bipolar and recent research suggests as many as 5% of us are on the bipolar spectrum, meaning a larger population can experience more subtle symptoms that are often misdiagnosed.

Antidepressants in the absence of a mood stabiliser can be very harmful to those on the bipolar spectrum, often triggering rapid cycling and manic episodes. 

People with undiagnosed bipolar often seek help during an episode of depression and are routinely prescribed antidepressants as monotherapy, without being adequately screened for bipolarity.

It takes an average 10 years to get a correct diagnosis of bipolar and there is a misdiagnosis an average of 3.5 times, meaning delayed or incorrect and harmful treatment and more suffering.

To prevent harm, standard medical practice should include bipolarity screening and information leaflets provided to all patients before any prescription of antidepressants, regardless of symptom severity.

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