The DSM-5’s mixed features specifier reflects the spectrum of mood disorders. It is diagnosed when a patient has at least three non-overlapping symptoms that differ from their normal behavior of either mania/hypomania or major depressive disorder (MDD) and present nearly every day,1 explained Professor Yatham.
An opportunity to tailor treatment to the patient’s behaviors
For patients with mania/hypomania, such symptoms include:
- dysphoria or depressed mood
- psychomotor retardation
- fatigue or loss of energy
- feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- death or suicidal ideation
For patients with MDD, the symptoms might be:
- expansive or elevated mood
- grandiose ideas
- pressured speech
- flight of ideas
- increased activity or energy
- excessive involvement in enjoyable activities
- decreased need for sleep
How should treatment be tailored for patients with the mixed features specifier?
Nearly one-third of patients with mood disorders have the mixed features specifier2
The mixed features specifier provides an opportunity to tailor treatment to the patient’s behaviors. However, the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) and International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) 2018 guidelines for the management of patients with bipolar disorder2 do not provide guidance on how to do this.
Nearly one-third of patients with mood disorders meet the criteria for the mixed features specifier3 but evidence on how best to manage them is missing, representing a huge gap, said Professor Yatham.
CANMAT in collaboration with the ISBD has therefore assembled a group of experts to develop treatment recommendations for people with bipolar disorder with mixed features.
An urgent need for much more evidence to inform treatment
Post-hoc analyses using proxy criteria of efficacy, safety and tolerability and risk of treatment-emergent switch have been carried out on the limited evidence that is available. Most of this evidence reports improvements in the primary mood episode and not in the mixed features or even overall improvement.
In the absence of primary data, this very limited review has led to some preliminary guidance, which will be published by the end of 2020, concluded Professor Yatham.
To read more on the mixed features specifier and its implications for treatment see here and here.