An earlier diagnosis of depression is related to a longer delay in conversion to bipolar disorder, according to a study published in Bipolar Disorders.

Kristina Fritz, from the Academic Department of Psychiatry, Northern Sydney Local Health District in Australia, and colleagues sought to analyze the time that it takes for a clinician to diagnose a patient with bipolar disorder after an initial diagnosis of major depressive disorder had been made. The study authors wanted to further understand the patient characteristics and psychological factors that are associated with the delay.

A total of 382 patients were clinically evaluated by a psychiatrist and completed a series of questionnaires. Ninety patients were initially diagnosed with depression and were later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with a mean delay in diagnostic conversion of 8.74 years. On average, patients who were later diagnosed with bipolar disorder had been diagnosed with depression at a younger age, had more manic symptoms, and had a more open personality style and better coping skills.

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After performing a Cox regression analysis, the researchers found that depressed patients with diagnoses that ultimately converted to bipolar disorder had been diagnosed with depression earlier, which was related to a longer delay to conversion and a greater likelihood of dysfunctional attitudes.


  1. Fritz K, Russell AMT, Allwang C, Kuiper S, Lampe L, Malhi GS. Is a delay in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder inevitable? Bipolar Disord. 2017 May 22. doi: 10.1111/bdi.12499 [Epub ahead of print]