The concept of treatment resistance in bipolar disorder is clinically familiar but lacks a standard definition.1 Whether the term refers to nonresponse to 1 or more standard treatments, at what dosages, and for what phases of bipolar disorder is unclear. Treatment resistance in bipolar disorder should always be based on a specific phase of treatment: mania or depression and acute or maintenance.
Treatment resistance is extremely common. Even under optimal maintenance conditions, almost half of bipolar patients with symptom remission will have a recurrence in 2 years under standard care (including medication combinations).2
Optimizing phase-specific , s is crucial. This may include raising the dosage of an initial treatment according to response unless limited by adverse effects. Acute treatments are often continued into maintenance. Combinations are commonplace, and the number of potential combinations is large. Decisions about which medications to use first or in what combinations, as well as dosing issues, require good clinical judgment on the part of each clinician because there is little evidence to drive such decisions.
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