Continuum of depressive and manic mixed states in patients with bipolar disorder: quantitative measurement and clinical features.

Publication Date



World Psychiatry


Bipolar mixed states combine depressive and manic features, presenting diagnostic and treatment challenges and reflecting a severe form of the illness. DSM-IV criteria for a mixed state require combined depressive and manic syndromes, but a range of mixed states has been described clinically. A unified definition of mixed states would be valuable in understanding their diagnosis, mechanism and treatment implications. We investigated the manner in which depressive and manic features combine to produce a continuum of mixed states. In 88 subjects with bipolar disorder (DSM-IV), we evaluated symptoms and clinical characteristics, and compared depression-based, mania-based, and other published definitions of mixed states. We developed an index of the extent to which symptoms were mixed (Mixed State Index, MSI) and characterized its relationship to clinical state. Predominately manic and depressive mixed states using criteria from recent literature, as well as Kraepelinian mixed states, had similar symptoms and MSI scores. Anxiety correlated significantly with depression scores in manic subjects and with mania scores in depressed subjects. Discriminant function analysis associated mixed states with symptoms of hyperactivity and negative cognitions, but not subjective depressive or elevated mood. High MSI scores were associated with severe course of illness. For depressive or manic episodes, characteristics of mixed states emerged with two symptoms of the opposite polarity. This was a cross-sectional study. Mixed states appear to be a continuum. An index of the degree to which depressive and manic symptoms combine appears useful in identifying and characterizing mixed states. We propose a depressive or manic episode with three or more symptoms of the opposite polarity as a parsimonious definition of a mixed state.