Are there subtypes of bipolar depression?

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To investigate for subtypes of bipolar depression using latent class analysis (LCA).


Participants were recruited through a bipolar disorder (BD) clinic. LCA was undertaken using: (i) symptoms reported on the SCID-IV for the most severe lifetime depressive episode; (ii) lifetime illness features such as age at first depressive and hypo/manic episodes; and (iii) family history of BD and unipolar depression. To explore the validity of any demonstrated ‘classes’, clinical, demographic and treatment correlates were investigated.


A total of 243 BD subjects (170 with BD-I and 73 with BD-II) were included. For the combined sample, we found two robust LCA solutions, with two and three classes respectively. There were no consistent solutions when the BD-I and BD-II samples were considered separately. Subjects in class 2 of the three-class solution (characterised by anxiety, insomnia, reduced appetite/weight loss, irritability, psychomotor retardation, suicidal ideation, guilt, worthlessness and evening worsening) were significantly more likely to be in receipt of government financial support, suggesting a particularly malign pattern of symptoms.


Our study suggests the existence of two or three distinct classes of bipolar depression and a strong association with functional outcome.

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