Six-Year Delay Between Onset of Bipolar Disorder and Diagnosis, Study Finds

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Credit to user mattwalker69. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

A new international study conducted by researchers in both Australia and Italy has found that there’s an average of six years between the onset of bipolar disorder and diagnosis of the disease. An analysis of 9,415 patients from 27 studies, the largest of its kind, the study notes that crucial opportunities to catch bipolar disorder at its onset, when mood episodes aren’t as severe, are being missed.


While patients with concurring disorders such as psychosis do generally receive timely treatment, most people suffer for years before being able to address their mental illness with proper medications and therapies.

Professor Large, a psychiatrist at Prince of Wales hospital, claims that the delay is most severe for young people, whose symptoms may be attributed to teenaged moodiness. Diagnosing a bipolar depressive episode is also difficult, as that is often mistaken for unipolar depression.

Doctors have to look to detailed medical histories of their patients, as well as symptoms triggered by external events, such as manic or hypomanic phases triggered by antidepressants.

Author: Cassandra Stout

Freelance writer Cassandra Stout blogs weekly at the award-winning Bipolar Parent, a comprehensive resource for parents with mental illnesses. She also blogs monthly at the International Bipolar Foundation website ( Her work has been published in the anthology, How the Light Gets In. Cassandra holds degrees from the University of Arizona in Creative Writing and Journalism. She has been a judge for the Pacific Northwest Writers' Association literary contest for nine years, where her memoir, Committed, recently placed as a finalist. She balances her literary work with raising her children, feeding her cat, and managing her bipolar disorder.

4 thoughts on “Six-Year Delay Between Onset of Bipolar Disorder and Diagnosis, Study Finds”

  1. First time I experienced mania, thought to be reaction to tricyclics. Took two decades for bipolar 2 diagnosis. Saw internists rather than psychiatrists. Big mistake. Thought since I was “only” dysthymic and had been diagnosed and stabilized on SSRI by a psychiatrist when 30, I could maintain medication seeing generalists.

    1. Ah, I understand how that could happen, Kitt. In a way, I was lucky to have had my psychotic break when I did, when I was in the position to be helped by professionals. I’m sorry it took so long for you to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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