Faster diagnosis of bipolar disorder


To establish a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you typically need around 10 years. That’s 10 years of confusion not only for the patients but also their loved ones, during which they have to fend for themselves, with no treatment to speak of.

Bipolar sufferers lurch from phases of excitement to periods of depression. Sometimes they suffer manic episodes, a type of excited mental and physical state accompanied by heightened mood and megalomania. These episodes often create chaos in patients’ lives, and can bring on suicidal thoughts in certain cases.

Yet this lengthy diagnosis process may all be about to change now thanks to a team of Canadian researchers who think they have found a way to establish a diagnosis in just one hour. Their study1 published in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry presents a new method that could enable bipolar disorder to be distinguished from depression, a distinction that is frequently difficult to make.

They do this by using electrovestibulography, placing electrodes in a patient’s ears to measure the nervous activity of the vestibular system, part of the inner ear mechanism involved in balance and considered to play a significant role in psychiatric disorders. The activity detected in depression sufferers is different, indicating a different disorder. The next step will be to identify criteria specifically characterising bipolar disorder…

1) Lithgow, Brian J, Moussavi, Zahra, Fitzgerald, Paul B. Quantitative separation of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder using electrovestibulography. Apr 2019.