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Bipolar nation

A big shift in our understanding of mood disorders is under way, with many depressed people now being reclassified as bipolar. But is trading antidepressant drugs for mood stabilisers a sign of progress, or just the latest diagnostic fad?

Discuss this article on First Drafts, Prospect’s blog The recent Hull University report, which suggested that antidepressant drugs were no more effective than placebos for mild depression, was greeted as a welcome antidote to the age of pills. Yet missing from the media debate was an awareness of a new and fundamental shift in our understanding of mood disorders. Many of those who wrote articles lamenting their experiences on Prozac and Seroxat are, in fact, still taking psychiatric pills—but mood stabilisers rather than antidepressants. They have simply traded in one diagnosis for another. Formerly depressed, they are now officially bipolar.

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