Researchers have developed a simple three-question screening test to sort bipolar depression from unipolar depression.

There are important reasons to distinguish between the two, such as that different treatments are necessary, the symptoms of bipolar depression are slightly different, and mood stabilizers and other preventative measures can help with future depressions – which otherwise tend to get worse and worse in the course of untreated bipolar disorders.

Most people with bipolar disorders are first misdiagnosed with unipolar depression, so the new Screening Assessment of Depression-Polarity (SAD-P) scale can help them get the correct diagnosis without going though what can often be many years of misdiagnosis and treatments that can actually be harmful (such as receiving antidepressants without a mood stabilizer, which can trigger mania and hypomania).

In their report in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the researchers conclude, “This brief screen is simple and easy to use and does not impose an additional burden upon clinicians.”

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