Acute presentations index

Acute alcohol withdrawal

Acute benzodiazepine withdrawal

Acute dystonic reactions

Acute grief reaction

Acute manic episode

Acute opiate withdrawal

Acute psychotic episode

Acute stress reaction ,


Anorexia nervosa admission criteria Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome Antipsychotic-induced parkinsonism Attemped overdose

Attempted hanging

Attempted suicide

Capacity assessment


Challenging behaviour 828b

Child protection issues

Culture-bound syndromes , 989b Deliberate self-harm


Delirium tremens

Delusional disorder

Emergency detention

Fitness to be interviewed

Fitness to plead

Lithium toxicity

Manipulative patients

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome

Panic attack 373b,

Paradoxical reactions to benzodiazepines Paranoia

Patient acting against medical advice Patient demanding admission

Patient demanding medication

Patient threatening suicide by telephone Patient wanting to leave the ward Postnatal depression

Postpartum psychosis


Rapid tranquillization

Serotonin syndrome

Severe behavioural disturbance

Suicide attempt

Tardive dyskinesia

Reference ranges Haematological values


Mean cell volume (MCV) Platelets

White cell count (WCC) Neutrophils Eosinophils Lymphocytes

Biochemistry values

♂ 13–18 g/dL ♀ 11.5–16 g/dL 76–96 fL

150–400×109/L 4–11×109/L 2.0–7.5×109/L 0.04–0.44×109/L 1.3–3.5×109/L





Calcium (total)



Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) Alkaline phosphatase

Bilirubin Gamma-glutamyl-transpeptidase (GGT)

Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) Thyroxine (T4)

Thyroxine (free)

Tri-iodothyronine (T3)

Vitamin B12 Folate

Glucose (fasting) Prolactin

Creatinine kinase (CK) Osmolality

135–145 mmol/L 3.5–5.0 mmol/L 70–150 μmol/L 2.5–6.7 mmol/L 2.12–2.65 mmol/L 35–50 g/L

60–80 g/L

5–35 iu/L 30–150 u/L

3–17 μg/L 411–51 iu/L 57–33 iu/L 0.5–5.7 mu/L 70–140 nmol/L 9–22 pmol/L 1.2–3.0 nmol/L 0.13–0.68 nmol/L 2.1 μg/L

3.5–5.0 mmol/L

♂ <450 u/L

♀ <600 u/L

♂ 25–195 iu/L

♀ 25–170 iu/L 278–305 mosmol/kg



Sodium Protein

Hydroxymethylmandelic acid (HMMA, VMA)

Reference ranges for selected drugs

350–1000 mosmol/kg

100–250 mmol/24h <150 mg/24h 16–48 mmol/24h


Valproate Carbamazepine

Clozapine Nortriptyline

0.8–1.2 mmol/L

0.6–0.8 mmol/L (as an augmentative agent)

50–125 mg/L

4–12 mg/L

(>7 mg/L may be more efficacious in bipolar disorder)

350–500 μg/L (0.35–0.5 mg/L) 50–150 μg/L


Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry

Published and forthcoming Oxford Handbooks

Oxford Handbook for the Foundation Programme 4e Oxford Handbook of Acute Medicine 3e

Oxford Handbook of Anaesthesia 4e

Oxford Handbook of Cardiology 2e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical and Healthcare Research

Oxford Handbook of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation 4e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Dentistry 6e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Diagnosis 3e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Examination and Practical Skills 2e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Haematology 4e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Immunology and Allergy 3e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine—Mini Edition 9e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine 10e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Pathology

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Pharmacy 3e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Specialties 10e

Oxford Handbook of Clinical Surgery 4e

Oxford Handbook of Complementary Medicine

Oxford Handbook of Critical Care 3e

Oxford Handbook of Dental Patient Care

Oxford Handbook of Dialysis 4e

Oxford Handbook of Emergency Medicine 4e

Oxford Handbook of Endocrinology and Diabetes 3e

Oxford Handbook of ENT and Head and Neck Surgery 2e

Oxford Handbook of Epidemiology for Clinicians

Oxford Handbook of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine 2e

Oxford Handbook of Forensic Medicine

Oxford Handbook of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2e

Oxford Handbook of General Practice 4e

Oxford Handbook of Genetics

Oxford Handbook of Genitourinary Medicine, HIV, and Sexual Health 2e Oxford Handbook of Geriatric Medicine 3e

Oxford Handbook of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology 2e

Oxford Handbook of Integrated Dental Biosciences 2e

Oxford Handbook of Humanitarian Medicine

Oxford Handbook of Key Clinical Evidence 2e

Oxford Handbook of Medical Dermatology 2e

Oxford Handbook of Medical Imaging

Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences 2e

Oxford Handbook for Medical School

Oxford Handbook of Medical Statistics

Oxford Handbook of Neonatology 2e

Oxford Handbook of Nephrology and Hypertension 2e

Oxford Handbook of Neurology 2e

Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics 2e

Oxford Handbook of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 3e Oxford Handbook of Occupational Health 2e

Oxford Handbook of Oncology 3e

Oxford Handbook of Operative Surgery 3e

Oxford Handbook of Ophthalmology 4e

Oxford Handbook of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 2e

Oxford Handbook of Orthopaedics and Trauma

Oxford Handbook of Paediatrics 2e

Oxford Handbook of Pain Management

Oxford Handbook of Palliative Care 3e

Oxford Handbook of Practical Drug Therapy 2e

Oxford Handbook of Pre-Hospital Care

Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry 3e

Oxford Handbook of Public Health Practice 3e

Oxford Handbook of Rehabilitation Medicine 3e

Oxford Handbook of Reproductive Medicine & Family Planning 2e Oxford Handbook of Respiratory Medicine 3e

Oxford Handbook of Rheumatology 4e

Oxford Handbook of Sport and Exercise Medicine 2e

Handbook of Surgical Consent

Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine 4e

Oxford Handbook of Urology 4e

Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry


David Semple, MBChB, FRCPsych

Consultant Psychiatrist,

University Hospital Hairmyres, East Kilbride and Honorary Fellow,

Division of Psychiatry,

University of Edinburgh

Roger Smyth, MBChB, MPhil,


Consultant Psychiatrist,

Department of Psychological Medicine, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, Division of Psychiatry,

University of Edinburgh

Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.

It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries

© Oxford University Press (ESC licenced) 2019 The moral rights of the authors have been asserted

First Edition published in 2005 Second Edition published in 2009 Third Edition published in 2013 Fourth Edition published in 2019

Impression: 1

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above

You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer

Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available

Library of Congress Control Number: 2018967784

ISBN 978–0–19–879555–1 eISBN 978–0–19–251497–4

Oxford University Press makes no representation, express or implied, that the drug dosages in this book are correct. Readers must therefore always check the product information and clinical procedures with the most up-to-date published product information and data sheets provided by the manufacturers and the most recent codes of conduct and safety regulations. The authors and the publishers do not accept responsibility or legal liability for any errors in the text or for the misuse or misapplication of material in this work. Except where otherwise stated, drug dosages and recommendations are for the non-pregnant adult who is not breast-feeding. Brand names of drugs mentioned in the text are included for historical context or correspond to those listed in the British National Formulary at the time of writing and do not represent any endorsement of specific products.

Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website

referenced in this work.


To Fiona (D.M.S.)

Preface to the first edition

Every medical student and doctor is familiar with that strange mixture of panic and perplexity which occurs when, despite having spent what seems like endless hours studying, one is completely at a loss as to what to do when confronted with a real patient with real problems. For doctors of our generation, that sense of panic was eased somewhat by the reassuring presence in the white coat pocket of the original Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. A quick glance at one of its pages before approaching the patient served to refresh factual knowledge, guide initial assessment, and highlight ‘not to be missed’ areas, allowing one to enter the room with a sense of at least initial confidence which would otherwise have been lacking.

The initial months of psychiatric practice are a time of particular anxiety, when familiar medical knowledge seems of no use and the patients and their symptoms appear baffling and strange. Every new psychiatrist is familiar with the strange sense of relief when a ‘medical’ problem arises in one of their patients—‘finally something I know about’. At this time, for us, the absence of a similar volume to the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine for psychiatrists was keenly felt. This volume attempts to fulfil the same function for medical students and doctors beginning psychiatric training or practice. The white coat pocket will have gone, but we hope that it can provide that same portable reassurance.

2004 D.M.S. R.S.S. J.K.B. R.D. A.M.M.

Preface to the second edition

It is entirely unoriginal for authors to think of their books as their ‘children’. Nonetheless, during the process of creating the first edition of this handbook, we found ourselves understanding why the comparison is often made—experiencing the trials of a prolonged gestation and a difficult delivery, balanced by the pride of seeing one’s offspring ‘out in the world’. And of course, the rapid forgetting of the pain leading to agreement to produce a second a few years later.

We have updated the handbook to reflect the substantial changes in mental health and incapacity legislation across the UK, updated clinical guidance, the continuing service changes across psychiatric practice and the more modest improvements in treatments, and the evidence base for psychiatric practice.

The main audience for this handbook has been doctors in training. Unfortunately the most recent change experienced by this group has been profoundly negative, namely the ill-starred reform of medical training in the UK. This attempt to establish a ‘year zero’ in medical education is widely agreed to have been a disaster. A ‘lost generation’ of juniors has been left demoralized and bewildered— some have left our shores for good.

Despite this, we have been impressed and heartened by the cheerful optimism and stubborn determination shown by the current generation of trainees and we have been tremendously pleased when told by some of them that they have found our handbook useful. To them and their successors we offer this updated version.

2008 D.M.S. R.S.S.

Preface to the third edition

One of the ironies of writing books is that the preface, that part to which the reader comes first, is the very part to which the writers come last of all. Once the rest of the book is finished, composing the preface can allow the authors an opportunity for reflection and an attempt at summing up their initial aims and current hopes for the book as it leaves their hands for the final time.

While writing this third preface we found it interesting to examine its two predecessors, to see what they revealed about our thoughts at those times. Reading the first preface it’s clear we were writing to ourselves, or at least to our slightly younger selves, reflecting on the book we wished we’d had during our psychiatric training. The emotions conveyed are those of anxiety and hope. Moving on to the second, it is addressed to our junior colleagues and seems to us to convey a mixture of indignation and pride.

In this third edition we have continued to revise and update the book’s contents in line with new developments in clinical practice. While these changes reflect ongoing and incremental improvement, one cannot fail to be struck by how unsatisfactory the state of our knowledge is in many areas and how inadequate many of our current treatments are. On this occasion we finished the book with the hopes that it would continue to serve as a useful guide to current best practice and an aid in the management of individual patients, and that these current inadequacies would inspire, rather than discourage, the next generation of clinicians and researchers. Our feelings at the end of a decade of involvement with this handbook are therefore of realism mixed with optimism.

2012 D.M.S. R.S.S.

Preface to the fourth edition

We had rather hoped that this fourth edition would be a ‘fresh start’, incorporating the major revisions to both classifications of psychiatric disorders. DSM-5 did finally arrive in 2013 ( DSM-5 and all that …, p. 12), but unfortunately, although ICD-11 has been ‘launched’ in June 2018, it is unlikely to be fully ratified until 2019 and implementation will not be before 2022 ( Wait, what … ICD-11? p. 1120). We have tried to integrate DSM-5, while keeping one eye on the current proposals for ICD-11 and still retaining ICD-10 categories and codes as far as possible (as it is likely that we will all still be using these for the foreseeable future). Hopefully you will agree that we have struck a pragmatic balance between being useful and yet informative. Full assimilation of ICD-11 will have to wait until the fifth edition!

Nevertheless, we have undertaken a major revision of the overall text, and the scope of these changes has meant a reorientation of the content to reflect the evolution of ideas that directly and indirectly have influenced psychiatric thinking over those last few years such as global mental health and gender-related issues. Equally, advances in research have increased our understanding of the biological basis of mental disorder, hence our inclusion of a new neuropsychiatry section (and a lengthy explanation of what neuropsychiatry actually is; pp. 122–125).

When we first approached this project, over 15 years ago, we tried to produce the book we wished we had when starting training. Our core aim was to provide a practical guide for anyone entering this medical specialty, which would help them to gain a working knowledge of the diagnosis and management of mental disorders and a deeper understanding of the functioning of the brain in health and disease. While that experience will always be daunting and sometimes overwhelming, perhaps this fourth incarnation of the handbook can still act as a companion in the early days and a

familiar source of reassurance as experience is gained. At the same time, we hope it will encourage you to think more deeply about the wider reaching scientific, philosophical, ethical, social, and legal issues that you encounter in your medical practice.

2018 D.M.S. R.S.S.


First edition

In preparing this handbook, we have benefited from the help and advice of a number of our more senior colleagues, and we would specifically like to thank Prof E.C. Johnstone, Prof K.P. Ebmeier, Prof D.C.O. Cunningham-Owens, Prof M. Sharpe, Dr S. Gaur, Dr S. Lawrie, Dr J. Crichton, Dr L. Thomson, Dr H. Kennedy, Dr F. Browne, Dr C. Faulkner, and Dr A. Pelosi for giving us the benefit of their experience and knowledge. Also our SpR colleagues: Dr G. Ijomah, Dr D. Steele, Dr J. Steele, Dr J. Smith, and Dr C. McIntosh, who helped keep us on the right track.

We ‘piloted’ early versions of various sections with the SHOs attending the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for teaching of the MPhil course in Psychiatry (now reborn as the MRCPsych course). In a sense, they are all contributors, through the discussions generated, but particular thanks go to Dr J. Patrick, Dr A. Stanfield, Dr A. Morris, Dr R. Scally, Dr J. Hall, Dr L. Brown, and Dr J. Stoddart.

Other key reviewers have been the Edinburgh medical students who were enthusiastic in reading various drafts for us: Peh Sun Loo, Claire Tordoff, Nadia Amin, Stephen Boag, Candice Chan, Nancy Colchester, Victoria Sutherland, Ben Waterson, Simon Barton, Anna Hayes, Sam Murray, Yaw Nyadu, Joanna Willis, Ahsan-Ul-Haq Akram, Elizabeth Elliot, and Kave Shams.

Finally, we would also like to thank the staff of OUP for their patience, help, and support.

Second edition

In the preparation of the first edition of this handbook, we were joined by three colleagues who contributed individual specialist chapters: Dr R. Darjee (Forensic psychiatry, Legal issues, and Personality disorders), Dr J. Burns (Old age psychiatry, Child and adolescent psychiatry, and Organic illness), and Dr A. McIntosh

(Evidence-based psychiatry and Schizophrenia). They continue to contribute to this revised version.

For this second edition, we have been joined by four additional colleagues who revised and updated specialist sections: Dr L. Brown (Child and adolescent psychiatry), Dr A. McKechanie (Learning disability), and Dr J. Patrick and Dr N. Forbes (Psychotherapy). We are grateful to them for their advice and help.

We are also pleased to acknowledge the assistance of Dr S. MacHale, Dr G. Masterton, Dr J. Hall, Dr N. Sharma, and Dr L. Calvert with individual topics and thank them for their advice and suggestions.

Other helpful suggestions came from our reviewers and those individuals who gave us feedback (both in person or via the feedback cards).

Once again, we thank the OUP staff for their encouragement and help.

Third edition

The contributors named above were joined for this third edition by Dr S. Jauhar (Substance misuse), Dr S. Kennedy (Sexual disorders), Dr F. Queirazza (Therapeutic issues), Dr A. Quinn and Dr A. Morris (Forensic psychiatry), and Dr T. Ryan (Organic illness and Old age psychiatry). We are also pleased to acknowledge the assistance of Prof J. Hall and Prof D. Steele who provided helpful suggestions and engaged in useful discussions. We remain indebted to the staff at OUP for their support of this book and its authors over the last decade.

Fourth edition

This was a major revision and old friends, such as the EBMH chapter, have now gone. We created a new Neuropsychiatry chapter with the assistance of Dr L. McWhirter and Dr M. Oto. Gender- related issues have been brought into the twenty-first century by Dr D. Mogford for adults and Dr G. Wilkinson for children and adolescents. We are also grateful to Dr R. Devlin for casting a critical eye over Perinatal and Therapeutic issues. The Forensic chapter has benefited from a team approach by Dr R. Sibbett, Dr L. Steven, and Dr E. Pike, with Dr U. Okudo sorting out the Personality disorders chapter. The other specialties have undergone review and

revision too at the hands of Dr P. Andrew (Old age), Dr C. Blayney (Substance misuse), Dr Z. Davidson (Child and adolescent), Dr G. Scott (Intellectual disability), Dr K. Morton (Eating disorders), and Dr E. Richardson (Difficult and urgent situations). Dr D. Murdie updated the Therapeutics chapter, and Dr J. Ahrens revisited the Transcultural chapter in light of recent developments in global mental health. Additional assistance came from Dr H. Welsh and Dr L. Cameron (Intellectual disability), Prof H. Minnis (Child and adolescent), Dr E. Lockhart (Paediatric liaison), Dr A.S. Addo, (Paediatric intellectual disability), and Dr W. Ahmed (Forensic child and adolescent). Yet again we would like to thank the staff at OUP for their patience and support.


David Semple

Consultant Psychiatrist, University Hospital Hairmyres, East Kilbride, UK

Honorary Fellow,

Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Roger Smyth

Consultant Psychiatrist,

Department of Psychological Medicine, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh,

Edinburgh, UK


Symbols and abbreviations

1 Thinking about psychiatry

2 Psychiatric assessment

3 Symptoms of psychiatric illness

4 Neuropsychiatry

5 Schizophrenia and related psychoses

6 Depressive illness

7 Bipolar illness

8 Anxiety and stress-related disorders

9 Eating and impulse-control disorders 10 Sleep–wake disorders

11 Reproductive psychiatry, sexual health, and gender-related issues

12 Personality disorders

13 Old age psychiatry

14 Substance misuse

15 Child and adolescent psychiatry 16 Forensic psychiatry

17 Intellectual disability 18 Liaison psychiatry 19 Psychotherapy

20 Legal issues

21 Transcultural psychiatry

22 Therapeutic issues

23 Difficult and urgent situations

24 Useful resources

25 ICD-10/DSM-5 index


Symbols and abbreviations

Abbreviations can be a useful form of shorthand in both verbal and written communication (e.g. TLAs: Three Letter Acronyms). They should be used with care, however, as there is the potential for misinterpretation when people have different understandings of what is meant by the abbreviation (e.g. PD may mean personality disorder or Parkinson’s disease; SAD may mean seasonal affective disorder or schizoaffective disorder).

Cross reference Online reference Phone

Warning Important

Don’t dawdle ~ Approximately

≈ Approximately equal to Increased

Decreased Leads to Normal

> Greater than < Less than

± Plus/minus

° Degree

♂ Male

♀ Female

α Alpha

β Beta

δ Delta

ε Epsilon

κ Kappa

μ Mu

θ Theta

® Registered trademark TM Trademark

Controversial topic

5-HIAA 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid

5-HT 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin)

6CIT Six-item Cognitive Impairment Test

A&E Accident and Emergency

AA Alcoholics Anonymous

AASM American Academy of Sleep Medicine

ABC Airway/breathing/circulation; antecedents, behaviour, and consequences

ABG Arterial blood gas

ABI Acquired brain injury

ACAPS Anterior capsulotomy

ACC Anterior cingulate cortex

ACE Angiotensin-converting enzyme

ACE-III Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination, third edition ACE-III-R Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination, third edition—


ACh Acetylcholine

AChEI Acetylcholinesterase inhibitor

ACING Anterior cingulotomy

ACMD Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs

ACOM Anterior communicating (artery)

ACT Acceptance and commitment therapy

ACTH Adrenocorticotrophic hormone

ADD Attention deficit disorder

ADDISS Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service

ADH Alcohol dehydrogenase; antidiuretic hormone ADHD Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

ADI-R Autism Diagnostic Interview–Revised

ADL Activity of daily living

ADNFLE Autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy ADOS Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule

AF Atrial fibrillation

AIDS Acquired immune deficiency syndrome

AIMS Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale ALD Alcoholic liver disease

ALDH Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase

ALS Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

AMHP Approved mental health professional

AMP Approved medical practitioner

AMPA α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid

AMT Abbreviated Mental Test

ANA Anti-nuclear antibody

ANCA Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies ANF Anti-nuclear factor

ANPA American Neuropsychiatry Association AOX Aldehyde oxidase

AP Anteroposterior

APA American Psychiatric Association

APP Amyloid precursor protein

AQ Autism Spectrum Quotient

ARBD Alcohol-related brain damage

ARDS Acute respiratory distress syndrome ARFID Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder ARMS At-risk mental state

ASD Autism spectrum disorders

ASV Adaptive servo ventilation

ASW Approved social worker

ASWPD Advanced sleep–wake phase disorder ATT Attention training technique

AUDIT Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test AV Atrioventricular

AZT Azidothymidine (zidovudine)

B12 Vitamin B12

BA Behavioural activation

BAC Blood alcohol concentration

BAI Beck Anxiety Inventory

BAP British Association for Psychopharmacology bd Bis die (twice daily)

BDI Beck Depression Inventory

BDNF Brain-derived neurotrophic factor

BDZ Benzodiazepine

BECT Bilateral electroconvulsive therapy

BECTS Benign epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes

BID Body integrity dysphoria

BIID Body integrity identity disorder

BIMC Blessed Information Memory Concentration Scale BiPAP Bi-level positive airways pressure

BMD Bone mineral density

BMI Body mass index

BNF British National Formulary

BNPA British Neuropsychiatry Association

BP Blood pressure

BPD Borderline personality disorder

bpm Beat per minute

BPPV Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo

BPRS Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale

BPSD Behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia BSE Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

bvFTD Behavioural variant fronto-temporal dementia


CADASIL Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy


CAGE Cut down? Annoyed? Guilty? Eye opener CAMHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services cAMP Cyclic adenosine monophosphate

CARS Childhood Autism Rating Scale

CAT Cognitive analytic therapy

CATIE Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness

CBASP Cognitive–behavioural analysis system of psychotherapy

CBD Corticobasal degeneration

CBF Cerebral blood flow

CBM Cognitive bias model

CBT Cognitive behavioural therapy

CBT-E Cognitive behavioural therapy-Enhanced CCBT Computerized cognitive behavioural therapy CCD Cultural concept of distress

CCF Congestive cardiac failure

CCHS Congenital central hypoventilation syndrome CCK Cholecystokinin

CD Conduct disorder

CDD Childhood disintegrative disorder

CDI Children’s Depression Inventory

CDM Cognitive deficit model

CDT Carbohydrate-deficient transferrin

C-ECT Continuation electroconvulsive therapy

CFI Cultural Formulation Interview

CFS Chronic fatigue syndrome

CFT Compassion-focused therapy

CGH Comparative genomic hybridization CHF Congestive heart failure

CI Confidence interval

CJD Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease

CK Creatinine kinase

CKD Chronic kidney disease



CMT Compassionate mind training CMV Cytomegalovirus

CNS Central nervous system

CO Carbon monoxide

CO2 Carbon dioxide

COAD Chronic obstructive airways disease

COPD Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

COPE Calendar of Premenstrual Experiences

CPA Care programme approach

CPAP Continuous positive airway pressure CPMS Clozapine Patient Monitoring Service CPN Community psychiatric nurse

CR Conditioned response

CrCl Creatinine clearance

CRF Corticotropin-releasing factor

CRP C-reactive protein

CRSD Circadian rhythm sleep–wake disorder CS Conditioned stimulus

CSA Childhood sexual abuse, central sleep apnoea

CSB Cheyne-Stokes breathing

CSBD Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder CSF Cerebrospinal fluid

CT Computed tomography

CTE Chronic traumatic encephalopathy

CTO Community Treatment Order; Compulsory Treatment Order (Scotland)

CUtLASS Cost Utility of the Latest Antipsychotic drugs in Schizophrenia Study

CVA Cerebrovascular accident

CVS Cardiovascular system

CXR Chest X-ray

CY-BOCS Children’s Yale–Brown Obsessive–Compulsive Scale DA Dopamine

DAH Disordered action of the heart

DALY Disability-adjusted life year

DAMP Deficits in attention, motor control, and perception DAOA d-amino acid oxidase activator

DARI Dopamine reuptake inhibitor

DAT Dementia of the Alzheimer type; dopamine transporter DAWBA Development And Well-Being Assessment

DBS Deep brain stimulation

DBT Dialectical behavioural therapy

DCD Developmental coordination disorder

DESS Discontinuation-Emergent Signs and Symptoms (inventory)





Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

Disseminated intravascular coagulation

Diagnostic Interview for DSM Personality Disorders

Diagnostic Interview Schedule

Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1

Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders

Diabetic ketoacidosis


Dementia with Lewy bodies Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder Designated medical practitioner Denzapine Monitoring System Dexamethasone suppression test Dimethyltryptamine

Deoxyribonucleic acid Dopamine–noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards 2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine

Daily Record of Severity of Problems Deliberate self-harm

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition Delayed sleep–wake phase disorder

Delirium tremens

DTTOS Drug testing and treatment orders DUP Duration of untreated psychosis DVLA Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency DZ Dizygotic

EBM Evidence-based medicine

EBV Epstein–Barr virus

ECA Epidemiological Catchment Area Programme (NIMH)

ECG Electrocardiogram

ECT Electroconvulsive therapy

ECTAS Electroconvulsive Therapy Accreditation Service

EDC Emergency Detention Certificate

EDS Excessive daytime sleepiness

EEA Environment of evolutionary adaptedness

EEG Electroencephalogram/electroencephalography

eGFR Estimated glomerular filtration rate

EIP Early intervention for psychosis

ELISA Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay

EMCDDA European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction

EMDR Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing EMG Electromyogram/electromyography

EMI Extended matching item

EMW Early morning wakening

ENDS Electronic nicotine delivery system ENT Ear, nose, and throat

EOG Electro-oculogram

EPA Enduring power of attorney

EPDS Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale

EPSE Extra-pyramidal side effect

ERIC Enuresis Resource and Information Centre

ERP Exposure and response prevention

ESES Electrical status epilepticus during slow sleep

ESR Erythrocyte sedimentation rate

ESS Epworth sleepiness scale

EUFEST European First-Episode Schizophrenia Trial

EUPD Emotionally unstable personality disorder

FAB Frontal assessment battery

FACTS Forensic adolescent consultation and treatment service

FAS Fetal alcohol syndrome

FASD Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

FAST Fast Alcohol Screening Test

FBC Full blood count

FCAMHS Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services FDG-PET Fludeoxyglucose positron emission tomography

FFI Fatal familial insomnia

FFT Family-focused therapy

FGA First-generation antipsychotic

fMRI Functional magnetic resonance imaging

FSH Follicle-stimulating hormone

FT Family therapy

FTD Fronto-temporal dementia

FTLD Fronto-temporal lobar degeneration FtM Female to male

g Gram

GABA Gamma-aminobutyric acid

GAD Generalized anxiety disorder; glutamic acid decarboxylase

GAF Global Assessment of Functioning Scale

GAG Glycosaminoglycan

GARS Gilliam Autism Rating Scale GBD Global Burden Disease (Study)

GBL Gammabutyrolactone

GCS Glasgow Coma Scale

GDS Geriatric Depression Scale

GENDEP Genome-based Therapeutic Drugs for Depression

GENPOD Genetic and Clinical Predictors of Treatment Response in Depression

GET Graded exercise therapy GFR Glomerular filtration rate GGT Gamma glutamyl transferase GH Growth hormone

GHB Gamma-hydroxybutyrate GHQ General Health Questionnaire GI Gastrointestinal

GID Gender identity disorder

GIT Gastrointestinal tract

GMC General Medical Council GMH Global mental health

GnRH Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone

GP General practitioner

GPI General paralysis of the insane

GSS Gerstmann–Sträussler–Scheinker syndrome GTN Glyceryl trinitrate

GWAS Genome-wide association studies

HAART Highly active antiretroviral therapy

HAD HIV-associated dementia; Hamilton anxiety and depression rating scale

HADS Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale HALO Hampshire Assessment for Living with Others HAM-A Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale

HAM-D Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression

HAND HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder

HAV Hepatitis A virus

Hb Haemoglobin

HBV Hepatitis B virus

HCl Hydrochloric acid

HCO3 Bicarbonate

HCR-20 Historical, Clinical, and Risk 20 HCV Hepatitis C virus

HD Huntington’s disease (chorea) HDL-C High-density lipoprotein cholesterol HDS HIV Dementia Scale

HDV Hepatitis D virus HGV Heavy goods vehicle

HII Hypoxic–ischaemic injury

HIV Human immunodeficiency virus

HLA Human leucocyte antigen

HPA Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (axis)

HPRT Hypoxanthine phosphoribosyl transferase

hr Hour

HRT Hormone replacement therapy

HSV Herpes simplex virus

HVA Homovanillic acid

HVS Hyperventilation syndrome

Hz Hertz (cycles per second)

IADL Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

IBCT Integrative behavioural couple therapy

IBS Irritable bowel syndrome

ICD Impulse-control disorder

ICD-10 International Classification of Diseases, tenth revision

ICD-11 International Classification of Diseases, eleventh revision

ICF International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health

ICP Intracranial pressure, integrated care pathway

ICSD International Classification of Sleep Disorders

ICSD-3 Third Edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders

ICU Intensive care unit

ID Intellectual disability

IED Intermittent explosive disorder

IGF-1 Insulin-like growth factor 1 IgG Immunoglobulin G

IgM Immunoglobulin M

IHD Ischaemic heart disease IL Interleukin

ILs Infant serum levels

IM Intramuscular

IMCA Independent Mental Capacity Advocate

INR International normalized ratio

IPCU Intensive psychiatric care unit

IPDE International Personality Disorder Examination IPT Interpersonal therapy

IQ Intelligence quotient

IQCODE Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline

IU International unit

IV Intravenous

JME Juvenile myoclonus epilepsy K+

kg Kilogram

K-SADS Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia

L Litre

LAAC Looked After and Accommodated Children (services) LD Learning disability (older terminology)

LDL Low-density lipoprotein

L-dopa Levodopa


LFT Liver function test

LH Luteinizing hormone

LHRH Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone

LOC Loss of consciousness

LP Lumbar puncture

LPA Lasting powers of attorney, logopenic progressive aphasia

LSD Lysergic acid diethylamide LTM Long-term memory

LTP Long-term potentiation

lx Lux

m Metre

MAD Mandibular advancement device

MADRas Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale

MAOI Monoamine oxidase inhibitor

MAPPA Multi-agency public protection arrangements

MARS Munich Antidepressant Response Signature

MARSIPAN Management of really sick patients with anorexia nervosa

MaSSA Melatonin agonist and specific serotonin antagonist MBCT Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

M-CAT Mephadrone

mcg Microgram

MCI Mild cognitive impairment

MCM Major congenital malformation

MCQ Multiple choice question

MCT Magneto-convulsive therapy, metacognitive therapy

MCV Mean corpuscular volume

MDD Major depressive disorder

MDI Manic–depressive illness

MDMA Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy) MDQ Mood Disorders Questionnaire

MDRD Modification of Diet in Renal Disease MDT Multidisciplinary team

ME Myalgic encephalomyelitis

M-ECT Maintenance electroconvulsive therapy MERRF Myoclonic epilepsy with ragged red fibres mg Milligram

mg% Milligram of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood



MHA Mental Health Act

MHAC Mental Health Act Commission

MHC Mental Health Commission (RoI), major histocompatibility complex

MHCNI Mental Health Commission for Northern Ireland mhGAP Mental Health Gap Action Programme

MHO Mental health officer

MHRT Mental Health Review Tribunal

MHRTNI Mental Health Review Tribunal for Northern Ireland MHTS Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland

MI Myocardial infarction

min Minute

mL Millilitre

mmHg Millimetres of mercury

mmol Millimole

MMPI Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory MMSE Mini Mental State Examination

MND Motor neuron disease

MnS Morvan syndrome

MNS Mental neurological substance misuse disorders MoCA Montreal Cognitive Assessment

mOsm Milliosmole

mPFC Medial prefrontal cortex

MR Modified release

MRI Magnetic resonance imaging

mRNA Messenger ribonucleic acid

ms Millisecond

MS Multiple sclerosis

MSA Multisystem atrophy

MSE Mental state examination

MSLT Multiple sleep latency test

MtF Male to female

mth Month

MUP Minimum unit pricing

mUPD Maternal uniparental disomy

MUS Medically unexplained symptoms

μV Microvolt

MWC Mental Welfare Commission (Scotland)

MZ Monozygotic

n Sample size, number of subjects


NA Noradrenaline

nAChR Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor

NARI Noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor

NART National Adult Reading Test

NaSSA Noradrenaline and specific serotonin antagonist

NBIA Neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation

NCG National Commissioning Group

NCS National Comorbidity Survey (1990–92)

NCS-R National Comorbidity Survey—Replication (2001– 2002)

NDDI-E Neurological Disorders Depression Inventory for Epilepsy

ND-PAE Neurobehavioural disorder due to prenatal alcohol exposure

NDRI Noradrenergic and dopaminergic reuptake inhibitor

NF1 Neurofibromatosis type 1

NF2 Neurofibromatosis type 2

NFLT Nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy

NFT Neurofibrillary tangle ng Nanogram

NHS National Health Service NI Northern Ireland

NICE National Institute for Health and Care Excellence NIDDM Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus

NIH National Institutes of Health (USA)


NIMH National Institute of Mental Health (USA) NHS National Health Service (UK)

NMD Neurosurgery for mental disorders NMDA N-methyl-D-aspartate

NMS Neuroleptic malignant syndrome NNO Nicotine N′-oxide

NO Nitric oxide

NP Nocturnal panic attack

NPA National Pharmacy Association NPH Normal pressure hydrocephalus NPS Novel psychoactive substance NPSA National Patient Safety Agency (UK) NR Nearest relative

NREM Non-rapid eye movement (sleep) NRM NMDA receptor modulator

NRT Nicotine replacement therapy NSAID Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug O2 Oxygen

O&G Obstetrics and gynaecology OASys Offender Assessment System OCD Obsessive–compulsive disorder OCF Outline for cultural formulation OCP Oral contraceptive pill

OCRD Obsessive–compulsive and related disorders OCST Out-of-centre sleep testing

od Omni dei (once daily)

OD Overdose

ODD Oppositional defiant disorder

OFC Olanzapine–fluoxetine combination

OGRS Offender Group Reconviction Scale

OHS Obesity–hypoventilation syndrome

OPG Office of the Public Guardian

OR Odds ratio

ORD Olfactory reference disorder

ORS Olfactory reference syndrome

OSA Obstructive sleep apnoea

OT Occupational therapy

OTC Over the counter

PACE Police and Criminal Evidence Act

PaCO2 Partial pressure of carbon dioxide in arterial blood

PAG Periaqueductal grey matter

PAN Polyarteritis nodosa

PANDAS Paediatric autoimmune neurological disorder associated with Streptococcus

PANS Paediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome PANSS Positive and Negative Symptom Scale

PaO2 Partial pressure of oxygen in arterial blood

PAT Paddington Alcohol Test

PCL-R Psychopathy Checklist–Revised

PCP Phencyclidine

PD Personality disorder

PDD Pervasive developmental disorder; premenstrual

dysphoric disorder

PDD-NOS Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified

PDE5 Phosphodiesterase 5

PE Pulmonary embolism

PECS Picture Exchange Communication System

PET Positron emission tomography

pg Picogram

pHVA Plasma homovanillic acid

PKAN Pantothenate kinase-2-associated neurodegeneration PL Prolactin

PLMD Periodic limb movement disorder

PLMS Periodic limb movements in sleep

PMDD Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

PMS Premenstrual syndrome

PMT Premenstrual tension

PNFA Progressive non-fluent aphasia PNRP Prion protein

PO Per os (by mouth, orally)

PO4 Phosphate

PoA Power of attorney

PPA Primary progressive aphasia

PRIME-MD Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders

PRISM Prospective Record of the Impact and Severity of Menstruation

PRL Prolactin

PRN Pro re nata (as required) PrP Prion protein

PSA Prostate-specific antigen

PSEN1 Presenilin 1

PSEN2 Presenilin 2

PSG Polysomnography

PSNP Progressive supranuclear palsy

PTA Post-traumatic amnesia

PTH Parathyroid hormone

PTSD Post-traumatic stress disorder

pUPD Paternal uniparental disomy

PV Personal vaporizer

PWS Prader–Willi syndrome

qds Quarter die sumendus (four times daily)

QOLI Quality of Life Interview

QTc Corrected QT interval (on ECG)

RA Retrograde amnesia

RAD Reactive attachment disorder

RAGF Risk assessment guidance framework

RAMAS Risk assessment, management, and audit systems RAS Reticular activating system

RBC Red blood cell

RBD REM sleep behaviour disorder

RCP(sych) Royal College of Psychiatrists RCT Randomized controlled trial RDC Research diagnostic criteria

RDoC Research Domain Criteria

REM Rapid eye movement (sleep)

RERA Respiratory effort-related arousal

RFT Relational frame theory

RIMA Reversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase RLS Restless legs syndrome

RMD Sleep-related rhythmic movement disorder

RMN Registered mental health nurse

RMO Responsible medical officer

RNLD Registered nurse in learning disability

ROI Republic of Ireland

ROR Risk of Reconviction (score )

RPS Reconviction Prediction Score

RRASOR Rapid Risk Assessment of Sex Offender Recidivism RSVP Risk of Sexual Violence Protocol

RT Rapid tranquillization

RTA Road traffic accident

RTI Respiratory tract infection

rTMS Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation

Rx Recipe (treat with)

s Second

SAA Sex Addicts Anonymous

SAD Seasonal affective disorder

SADQ Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire SANS Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms SAPS Scale for the Assessment of Positive Symptoms

SAQOR Systematic Assessment of Quality in Observational Research

SAQOR- SAQOR adapted for use in cultural psychiatric CPE epidemiology

SARA Spousal Assault Risk Assessment

SARI Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor

SASQ Single Alcohol Screening Questionnaire

SBE Subacute bacterial endocarditis

SBS Sexual behaviour in sleep

SC Subcutaneous

SCARED Anxiety Screen for Child Anxiety-Related Emotional Disorders

SCH Secure children’s home

SCID-II Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV personality disorder

SCID-5-PD Structured Interview for DSM-5 Personality Disorders SCN Suprachiasmatic nuclei

SCT Supervised community treatment

SD Standard deviation; semantic dementia

SDG Sustainable Development Goal

SDH Subdural haematoma

SDQ Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire SE Sleep efficiency

SEAN Scottish ECT Accreditation Network SERT Serotonin transporter

SGA Second-generation antipsychotic sgACC Subgenual anterior cingulate cortex

SIADH Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion

SIDS Sudden infant death syndrome

SIGN Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network SJW St John’s wort

SLE Systemic lupus erythematosus

SLL Stereotactic limbic leucotomy

SMR Standardized mortality ratio

SMS Serotinin modulator and stimulator

SNOAR Sleep and nocturnal obstructive apnoea redactor SNP Single nucleotide polymorphism

SNRI Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor SOAD Second opinion appointed doctor

SOL Space-occupying lesion

SONAR Sex Offender Needs Assessment Rating SORAG Sexual Offending Risk Appraisal Guide SOREMP Sleep-onset REM period

SOTP Sexual Offender Treatment Programme

SPECT Single-photon emission computed tomography SR Slow release

SRED Sleep-related eating disorder

SRT Social rhythm therapy

SRV Sleep-related violence

SS Serotonin syndrome

SSPE Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis

SSRI Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

SST Stereotactic subcaudate tractotomy

ST Schema therapy

STAR*D Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression

stat Statim (immediately)

STC Secure training centre

STD Sexually transmitted disease

STDO Short-Term Detention Order

STI Sexually transmitted infection

STM Short-term memory

SUDEP Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy SVR-20 Sexual Violence Risk-20

SWA Scotch Whisky Association

SWS Slow-wave sleep

t1/2 Biological half-life

T3 Tri-iodothyronine

T4 Thyroxine

TB Tuberculosis

TBI Traumatic brain injury

TCA Tricyclic antidepressant

TD Tardive dyskinesia

tds Ter die sumendus (three times daily)

TENS Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation TFT Thyroid function test

TG Triglycerides

TGA Transient global amnesia

THC Tetrahydrocannabinol

TIA Transient ischaemic attack

TLE Temporal lobe epilepsy

TMS Transcranial magnetic stimulation

TNF Tumour necrosis factor

ToRCH Toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus

TRH Thyrotropin-releasing hormone

TRS Treatment-resistant schizophrenia

TSC Tuberous sclerosis

TSH Thyroid-stimulating hormone

TST Total sleep time

tvFTD Temporal variant of fronto-temporal dementia U Unit

U&Es Urea and electrolytes

UCSD University of California San Diego

UECT Unilateral electroconvulsive therapy

UHR Ultra high risk

UK United Kingdom

UPPP Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty

UR Unconditioned response

URTI Upper respiratory tract infection

US Unconditioned stimulus

USA United States

USS Ultrasound scan

UTI Urinary tract infection

UV Ultraviolet

VaD Vascular dementia

vCJD Variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease

VDRL Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (test for syphilis)

VGKC Voltage-gated potassium channel VHL von Hippel–Lindau

VMA Vanillyl mandelic acid

vmPFC Ventromedial prefrontal cortex VNS Vagus nerve stimulation

V/Q Ventilation/perfusion

VRAG Violence risk appraisal guide

VRE Virtual reality exposure

VSD Ventricular septal defect

WAIS Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale

WBC White blood count

WCC White cell count

WD Wilson’s disease

WED Willis–Ekbom disease

WHO World Health Organization

WHODAS World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule

WHO WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control FCTC

WISPI Wisconsin Personality Inventory wk Week

WM Working memory

WPA World Psychiatric Association

XR Extended release

Y-BOCS Yale–Brown Obsessive–Compulsive Scale YLL Years of expected life lost

YMRS Young Mania Rating Scale

YOI Young offender institution

YOT Young offending teams

Yr Year

ZTAS Zaponex Treatment Access System

Chapter 1

Thinking about psychiatry

First thoughts

What is disease?

The role of the psychiatrist

Diagnosis in psychiatry

DSM-5 and all that …

Why do psychiatrists not look at the brain? Can psychotherapy change the brain? The power of placebo

Treating patients against their will Perceptions of psychiatry Psychomythology



Trust me, I’m an epidemiologist Evolutionary psychiatry

A brief history of psychiatry

The future

First thoughts

In the stanzas (see Box 1.1), the satirist Alexander Pope captured the essence of the then ongoing European Enlightenment, inspiring his readers to use their sense of reason to replace irrationality in their exploration of the world. This period also saw the re-emergence of attempts to use the same methods of thinking to study mental illness, whose sufferers had then spent more than a thousand years as objects of fear and superstition. Pope’s words resonate even today, nearly three centuries later, when—confronted with patients thinking ‘too little or too much’ or in ‘chaos of thought and passion all

confused’—we are still struggling to use science to guide the exploration of this ‘riddle of the world’.

Psychiatry has often been derided as the Cinderella specialty— poorly funded, exiled to outside hospitals, a victim of rushed political experiments, castigated by anti-psychiatrists, its intellectual basis ridiculed, and the self-confidence of its practitioners lowered. As a trainee psychiatrist, you will have to cope with questions like ‘are you a real doctor?’ In addition, the general public (and sometimes other medical professionals) frequently misunderstand the types and severity of illnesses that you deal with. Either they picture you spending all of your time tending to Woody Allen-like self-obsessed, befuddled neurotics or guarding Hannibal Lecter-like murdering psychopaths. The reality is that psychiatrists deal with the most common human disorders which cause the greatest morbidity worldwide.

Psychiatry considers all aspects of human experience over the whole of the lifespan: elation, grief, anxieties, flights of fancy, confusion, despair, perception and misperception, and memory and its loss. We see the mother with a healthy baby, perplexed and frightened by her tearfulness and inability to cope, and terrified by her thoughts of harming her child. We see the family of a young man who have watched him become a stranger, muttering wild accusations about conspiracies, and we aim to be the doctors who know what best to do in these circumstances. The specialty of psychiatry is (or should be) the most ‘human’ specialty—devoted to the understanding of the whole person in health and illness. Indeed, it is the only medical specialty without a veterinary counterpart.

It is certainly true that the level of knowledge about causation and treatment of mental disorders is less advanced than for other branches of medicine. In some ways, however, this is an attraction. In other specialties, much of what was formerly mysterious is now understood, and interventions and diagnostic methods once fantastic are now quotidian. Psychiatry offers a final frontier of diagnostic uncertainty and an undiscovered country of aetiology to explore. Perhaps the lack of progress made in psychiatry, compared with the other specialties, is not because of lack of will or intelligence of the practitioners, but due to the inherent toughness of the problems. To

put this another way, all scientists ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’—in psychiatry, we have no fewer and no shorter giants, just a higher wall to peer over.

Box 1.1 The proper study of mankind

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan The proper study of mankind is man

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state

A being darkly wise, and rudely great

With too much knowledge for the sceptic side With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride He hangs between, in doubt to act, or rest

In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast

In doubt his mind or body to prefer

Born but to die, and reasoning but to err

Alike in ignorance, his reason such

Whether he thinks too little, or too much

Chaos of thought and passion, all confused

Still by himself abuse, or disabuse

Created half to rise, and half to fall

Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all

Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled

The glory, jest, and riddle of the world

Go, wondrous creature!

Mount where Science guides

Go, measure earth, weigh air and state the tides Instruct the planets in what orbs to run

Correct old time, and regulate the sun

Go, soar with Plato to the empyreal sphere

To the first good, first perfect, and first fair

Or tread the mazy round his followers trod

And quitting sense call imitating God

As Eastern priests in giddy circles run

And turn their heads to imitate the Sun

Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule

Then drop into thyself, and be a fool

What is disease?

Most mental diagnoses have had their validity questioned at several points in their history. Diagnosed by doctors on the basis of symptoms alone, some people find their presence difficult to accept in a field which has been almost universally successful in finding demonstrable physical pathology or infection.

Disease in medicine as a whole was not always based on pathology. The microscope was developed long after doctors began to make disease attributions. Thomas Sydenham developed the medico-pathological model based on symptoms, but it has grown to incorporate information obtained from post-mortem and tissue examination. This model of disease has become synonymous in

Superior being, when of late they saw

A mortal man unfold all Nature’s law

Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape

And showed a Newton as we show an Ape

Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind Describe or fix one movement of his mind

Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend, Explain his own beginning, or his end?

Alas what wonder! Man’s superior part

Unchecked may rise, and climb from art to art

But when his own great work is but begun

What reason weaves, by passion is undone

Trace science then, with modesty thy guide

First strip off all her equipage of pride

Deduct what is but vanity, or dress

Or learning’s luxury, or idleness

Or tricks to show the stretch of human brain

Mere curious pleasure, ingenious pain

Expunge the whole, or lop the excrescent parts

Of all, our vices have created arts

Then see how little the remaining sum

Which served the past, and must the times to come!

From Alexander Pope (1688–1744). An Essay on Man. As reproduced in Poetical Works, ed. Cary HF (London: Routledge, 1870), 225–6.

many people’s minds with a model based solely on demonstrably abnormal structure. Thomas Szasz ( Box 1.6, p. 29) has criticized psychiatry in general by suggesting that its diseases fail when this model is applied.

Table 1.1 Models of disease


Medical- pathological definition (Sydenham, 1696; Szasz, 1960)

Biological disadvantage (Scadding, 1972)

Plan of action (Linder, 1965)

Syndrome with characteristic symptoms/outcome (Kendell, 1975)

Disease as imperfection (Cohen, 1943; 1953)

Disease as ‘concept’ (Aristotle)

Summary of assumptions

Assumes diseases are associated with a necessary cause (e.g. bacterial infection) or have a replicable morbid anatomy

Assumes that sufferers from a disease have a common characteristic to place them at a biological disadvantage

Assumes disease labels are justifications for treatments and further investigations

Assumes diseases represent circumscribed concepts distinguished from others by a bimodal distribution of scores on a discriminant function

Assumes diseases are quantitative or qualitative deviations from a desirable norm

Assumes diseases are man-made abstractions with no independent existence

This argument that psychiatric diagnoses are invalid still strikes a chord with many doctors and non-medical academics. When the

BMJ conducted a survey of non-disease1,2 (see Fig. 1.1), many people thought depression to be a non-disease, although schizophrenia and alcoholism fared somewhat better. It is clear from

the graph that many conditions rated as real diseases have a characteristic pathology, although some do not (alcoholism, epilepsy). Similarly, many people regard head injury and duodenal ulcer as non-disease, although their pathology is well described. There are several models of disease in existence (see Table 1.1). No single model is adequate by itself, and diseases may move from one group to another. Models based on aetiology or pathology have been found to be the most useful, but the reality may be that ‘disease’ is a concept which will tend to change over time and has no real existence in itself.

Fig. 1.1 Percentage of respondents classifying a condition as a disease.

Reproduced from Smith R (2002) In search of ‘non-disease’. Br Med J 324: 883–5 with

permission of BMJ Publishing Group.

The role of the psychiatrist

What is illness?

Doctors, being generally practical people, busy themselves with the diagnosis and treatment of various types of illness. They rarely ask

‘what is illness?’ or ‘what is health?’ For several reasons, this type of questioning is more germane for psychiatrists:

• While all illnesses have subjective components, psychiatric

disorders are usually completely diagnosed by the patient’s

subjective experiences, rather than objective abnormalities.

• There is a non-absolute value judgement involved in the diagnosis of mental disorder, e.g. wheeze and dyspnoea are abnormal and signs of disease, but some degree of anxiety at times is a common

experience and the point at which it is pathological is debatable.

• Mental illnesses have legal consequences.

• It is important psychiatrists are clear about which behaviours and

abnormalities are their province. Psychiatrists have been involved in human rights abuses in states around the world when definitions of mental illness were expanded to take in political insubordination.

Disease, sickness, and illness behaviour

The distinction between disease (or disorder) and sickness should be understood. Disease encompasses either a specific tissue lesion or a characteristic constellation of symptoms. Sickness, on the other hand, encompasses the suffering and functional deficit consequent on symptoms. One may exist without the other, e.g. a patient with undiagnosed, asymptomatic breast cancer undoubtedly has disease but is not sick; a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome may see themselves (and be considered) as sick but does not have an identifiable lesion.

Patients generally present complaining of symptoms, and this process is called illness or illness behaviour. Patients need not be suffering from a disease or disorder in order to do this, and sometimes illness behaviour may be abnormal (even when the patient does have a disease). Subject to certain social conventions (e.g. attending a doctor), they are then afforded the ‘sick role’, which allows them to relinquish some of their normal obligations. This is a man-made concept, encompassing the special rights and expected behaviour of both someone who is sick and the doctor who is treating them (see Table 1.2). Difficulties arise when a person adopts the sick role to gain the rights afforded to them, while neglecting their duties. Another concern relates to the process of diagnosis—causing

someone who is not currently ill to adopt the ‘sick role’. Doctors should understand their special responsibility to act in the patient’s best interests and not to stray outside their area of expertise.

Clarity of roles

It is all too easy for psychiatrists to slip into other roles than that which is properly theirs—an expert in mental disorder. These may include: substitute parent, ‘friend’, guardian of public morals, predictor of future criminality, arbiter of normal behaviour. Psychiatrists have special training and experience in mental disorder and should avoid being drawn outside this remit in their professional role. Psychiatrists are properly occupied in the business of diagnosing and treating significant psychiatric disorders. As gatekeepers to mental health resources, there are often pressures to validate distress or medicalize normal experience. Saying someone does not satisfy the criteria for a specific mental disorder does not mean that they do not have significant problems; rather, the problems do not fall within the scope of psychiatry and would be best dealt with by help or advice elsewhere.

Table 1.2 The rights and duties of patients and doctors



Exemption from blame

Exemption from normal duties while in the sick role

To expect the doctor to act in their best interests


To seek help

To be open and honest

To comply with treatment

To give up the sick role once well


To be considered an expert

To have privileged access to patient information and person

To direct (and sometimes insist on) a course of action To validate the sick role

To act in the patient’s best interests

To maintain confidentiality

To keep up-to-date

To act, where possible, in society’s interests

Good mental health is more than simply the absence of mental disorder; it requires:

• A sense of self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and self-worth.

• The ability to put one’s trust in others.

• The ability to give and receive friendship, affection, and love.

• The ability to form enduring emotional attachments.

• The ability to experience deep emotions.

• The ability to forgive others and oneself.

• The ability to examine oneself and consider change.

• The ability to learn from experience.

• The ability to tolerate uncertainty and take risks.

• The ability to engage in reverie and fantasy.

Diagnosis in psychiatry


People prefer to be seen as individuals, rather than members of a class: ‘I’m a person, not a label’. This desire to recognize uniqueness is a part of the public reaction against race-, class-, and gender- related value judgements. Doctors, on the other hand, seem to love labels and classification and, in their enthusiasm, can appear like the Victorian butterfly collector who is only able to deal with life when it is named, categorized, and safely inert behind glass. Medical labels are based on characteristic combinations of symptoms and signs, but patient and doctor view these differently. Symptoms are important to patients because of their individual nature; this strange and atypical thing is happening to them. Symptoms are important to doctors because they indicate diagnosis and are features which make this patient similar to others we have seen or about whom we read.


The naming of a thing is the first step towards understanding it. We seek to identify disorders (diagnosis) in order to be able to suggest treatments (management) and predict their course (prognosis). Ultimately, the aim is to identify the physical abnormality (pathology) and the cause of the disease (aetiology) and so develop means of prevention and cure. The ideal diagnostic system labels diseases according to aetiology. The aetiology of most mental disorders is unknown, and so we tend towards a diagnostic system based upon common clinical features, shared natural history, common treatment response, or a combination of all three. Diagnosis leads to the consideration of individual diseases as members of groups contained within a hierarchy—a form of classification system.

Why make a diagnosis?

Why allocate the patient, with his individual and unique history, experience, and range of signs to a single label, with the inevitable compromises and loss of information this entails? Diagnosis must be justified on a general and an individual basis. Generally, the process of establishing a diagnosis is essential to allow succinct communication with colleagues, to help predict prognosis, and to carry out valid research on pathological mechanisms and treatments.

Remember, however, that allocation of a patient to a diagnostic category can only be justified if it will bring them benefit, not harm.

Classification in psychiatry

Over the past century, within psychiatry, there has been a debate about the value and method of psychiatric classification. On one hand, academic and biological psychiatrists worried that psychiatric diagnosis was insufficiently reliable and valid, with terms being used in imprecise or idiosyncratic ways; on the other hand, psychodynamic practitioners emphasized the importance of unique patient factors and the degree of detail lost by reductionism in diagnostic methods. The first concern was tackled by developing operational criteria—clearly defined clinical descriptions of the disorders, together with explicit inclusion and exclusion criteria and details of the number and duration of symptoms required for diagnosis. The second concern was met by multi-axial diagnosis where, in addition to the primary mental disorder coded on axis-I, additional axes code the patient’s psychosocial problems, personality factors, medical health, and degree of disability (see Box 1.2).

Box 1.2 International classification

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10)

( The ICD-10 multi-axial system, p. 1118)

Published in 1992 by the WHO, the ICD-10 is a general medical

classification system intended for worldwide multi-specialty use. It includes 21 chapters, identified by a roman numeral and a letter. Psychiatric disorders are described in Chapter V and are identified by the letter F. An index of the disorders described in this book, together with their ICD-10 coding, is given on pp. 1088–1116.

Coding Disorders are identified using an open alpha-numeric system in the form Fxx.xx. The letter ‘F’ identifies the disorder as a mental or behavioural disorder; the first digit refers to the broad diagnostic grouping (e.g. psychotic, organic, substance-induced), and the second digit refers to the individual diagnosis. The digits that follow the decimal point code for additional information specific to the disorder, e.g. subtype, course, or type of symptoms.

When used as second or third digits, ‘8’ codes for ‘other’ disorders, while ‘9’ codes for ‘unspecified’.

Versions Four versions of the ICD-10 classification of mental disorders exist, suitable for different purposes. ICD-10: Clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines (‘the blue book’) is used by psychiatric practitioners and gives clinical descriptions of each disorder, together with the diagnostic criteria. ICD-10: Diagnostic criteria for research (‘the green book’) contains more restrictive and clearly defined clinical features with explicit inclusion, exclusion, and time course criteria and is suitable for identification of homogenous patient groups for research purposes. The primary care version focuses on disorders prevalent in primary care settings and contains broad clinical descriptions, diagnostic flow charts, and treatment recommendations. A short glossary containing the coding and brief descriptions can be used as a quick reference by practitioners and administrative and secretarial staff.

Axial diagnosis The multi-axial version of ICD-10 uses three axes to broaden the assessment of the patient’s condition. Axis 1 describes the mental disorder (including personality disorder and mental handicap), Axis 2 the degree of disability, and Axis 3 current psychosocial problems.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

In May 2013, the APA launched the most recent version of the DSM. While ICD-10 is a wider general medical classification, DSM-5 describes only mental disorders. The two classifications are broadly similar, having undergone a degree of convergence and cross-fertilization in more recent revisions. Relevant DSM-5 terminology and old DSM-IV codes corresponding to ICD-10 disorders are given on pp. 1088–1116. DSM-IV used a closed numeric coding system of the form xxx.xx (mostly in the range 290–333.xx). DSM-IV was a multi-axial diagnostic system, using five axes: 1—the clinical disorder or the current clinical problem; 2 —any personality disorder and any mental handicap; 3—general medical conditions; 4—current psychosocial problems; and 5—

DSM-5 and all that …

‘The strongest system currently available for classifying disorders.’

David Kupfer, Chair of DSM-5 Task Force, May 3, 2013

‘Patients with mental disorders deserve better.’

Thomas Insel, Director NIMH, Apr 24, 2013

After nearly 10yrs, a series of white papers, 13 scientific conferences, with 400 contributors to monographs and peer- reviewed journal articles, Diagnositic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5) Task Force and Work Groups comprising >160 world-renowned clinicians and researchers, oversight by Scientific Review and Clinical and Public Health Committees, and an estimated cost of $20–25 million, the DSM-5 was officially launched at the American Psychiatric Association (APA)’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco in May 2013. But was it worth it?

Concerns over dramatic changes proved premature, and many of the more contentious proposals were consigned to ‘Section III’ where ‘emerging measures and models’ are to be found, including: assessment measures, guidance on cultural formulation, an alternative model for diagnosing personality disorders (a hybrid dimensional–categorical model), and conditions for further study (see Box 1.3). The final product involved mostly modest alterations of the previous edition, based on new insights emerging from research since 1990 when Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fourth edition (DSM-IV) was published.

There are some changes, e.g. the multi-axial system has gone ( The ICD-10 multi-axial system, p. 1118), schizophrenia subtypes have been replaced by a dimensional approach to rate symptom severity (found in Section III), and some new chapters have been added to allow disorders with similar underlying vulnerabilities or

global assessment of functioning. This multi-axial approach has been abandoned in DSM-5 ( DSM-5 and all that …, p. 12).

symptom characteristics to go together [e.g. obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders; trauma- and stressor-related disorders; disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders]. There are some new categories [e.g. mood dysregulation disorder ( Bipolar disorder in children and adolescents, p. 700); hoarding disorder ( Hoarding disorder (DSM-5), p. 389], and some previous categories have been dropped [e.g. Asperger’s syndrome ( Asperger’s syndrome, p. 820)] and/or reorganized along a continuum [e.g. substance use disorder ( Box 14.2, p. 570), autism spectrum disorder ( Autism spectrum disorders, p. 674)]. Disorders may now be framed in the context of age, gender, cultural

expectations, and developmental lifespan.3

APA’s goal in developing DSM-5 was to create an evidence-based

manual that was useful to clinicians in helping them accurately diagnose mental disorders and that reflected the scientific advances in research underlying those disorders. While DSM-5 is reliable in that it does provide a common language for describing psychopathology, it does little to advance the validity of the disorders described. Even in the APA press release, David Kupfer comments: ‘We’ve been telling patients for several decades that we are waiting for biomarkers. We’re still waiting.’

One unexpected consequence of the whole DSM-5 endeavour has been to lead prominent scientists in the field to question the whole approach and try to devise something better. Efforts like the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC)

project4 aim to do just that, by using biological (genetic, imaging, physiological), cognitive, and social information to build more precise classifiers for each patient and develop rational treatments.

In the meantime, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals will continue to rely upon categorical diagnoses, as prescribed by DSM-5 and International Classification of Diseases, tenth revision (ICD-10), despite understanding the real limitations of such systems. With the impending release of International Classification of Diseases, eleventh revision (ICD-11) (latest estimate, some time in 2018), it is hoped that there will at least be structural harmonization of these two

classification systems. DSM-5’s organization was actually designed to reflect the anticipated structure of ICD-11, and the diagnoses are

listed with both ICD-9-CM* and the ICD-I0-CM* codes (not distinct DSM-5 codes). In fact, as of October 2014, the official coding system in use in the United States, for insurance purposes, is ICD-10-CM.

While the promise of the science of mental disorders is great, it is clinical experience and evidence, as well as growing empirical research, which should guide us in the present. In the future, our hope must be to diagnose disorders using precise biological and genetic markers delivered with complete reliability and validity.

‘At the end of the 19th century, it was logical to use a simple diagnostic approach that offered reasonable prognostic validity. At

the beginning of the 21st century, we must set our sights higher.’5

Box 1.3 Conditions for further study

• Attenuated psychosis syndrome.

• Depressive episodes with short-duration hypomania.

• Persistent complex bereavement disorder.

• Caffeine use disorder.

• Internet gaming disorder.

• Neurobehavioural disorder due to prenatal alcohol exposure


• Suicidal behaviour disorder.

• Non-suicidal self-injury.

* ICD-9-CM and ICD-10-CM denote the American adapted ‘clinical modification’, versions of the ninth and tenth revisions of the ICD.

Why do psychiatrists not look at the brain?

Psychiatrists, with the exception of those doing academic research projects, are the only medical specialists who rarely directly examine the organ they treat. The chances that a patient with a serious psychiatric disorder (e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression) has ever had a brain scan are fairly slim. Psychiatrists prescribe antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers,

electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)—all of which have a major impact on brain function—but do not know beforehand which areas of the brain are working well and which are not functioning properly. Why is this?

As a medical student, a medical practitioner, or even as a trainee psychiatrist, this situation does seem somewhat at odds with the medical training we receive. Imagine the outcry if an orthopaedic surgeon were to set fractures without first taking an X-ray, or a cardiologist diagnosing coronary artery disease without an electrocardiogram (ECG), angiography, or computed tomography (CT). Imagine if, based on your description of the problem, a car mechanic replaced the radiator in your car (at great expense to you) without even bothering to look under the bonnet first. How can it be that the state of the art in psychiatry is not to look at the brain?

Looking at this issue another way, it is perhaps not surprising. If I were a patient who presented to a psychiatrist with a catalogue of recent losses (including both my parents and a recent redundancy), low mood, sleep problems, loss of appetite, and a feeling of general hopelessness about the future, I would probably be somewhat perturbed if my psychiatrist declared that they could not help me until they had taken half an armful of blood, performed a painful lumbar puncture (LP), and arranged a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan of my brain (which might take a few months). I might be impressed at their thoroughness, but over the following weeks, as I fretted even more about the results of my brain scan, I might contemplate the wisdom of approaching someone who just seems to have added to my worries. When the final results came in and the psychiatrist declared that I was suffering from depression, I might seriously question their abilities, when I could have told them that 3mths ago!

In the main, psychiatrists base diagnosis and treatment on symptom clusters, not brain imaging or other investigations. This is not to say that it is not good clinical practice to perform a physical examination and some routine blood tests [or even an electroencephalograph (EEG) or CT/MRI when indicated by the history or clinical signs]. Rather, these are generally investigations of exclusion (sometimes a negative result can be useful—a point that is

often lost on other clinicians when psychiatrists do request investigations which are reported as ‘normal’). Psychiatric disorders (with the exception of organic brain disorders, e.g. dementia) are predominantly disorders of brain function; there are rarely observable changes in brain structure which would aid diagnosis. At present, there are no gold standard diagnostic tests for psychiatric disorders. This is not to say that, in the future, functional imaging of the brain might not play a role in psychiatric diagnosis, but at present [and despite the fact that high-resolution SPECT and positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the brain have been available for more than 20yrs), it is not yet time to use these imaging tools in routine psychiatric practice. More research is needed to determine the specificity and sensitivity of these imaging tools, even though there are hundreds of articles on functional brain imaging in a variety of psychiatric disorders (as a Medline search will quickly reveal).

Does this relegate psychiatry to the lower divisions of medical specialties? No. Rather, the doctor practising in psychiatry needs a firm grounding in general medicine (to recognize when a condition may have an organic basis), sharply honed interviewing skills (to elicit important psychiatric symptoms), a firm grasp of psychopharmacology (to differentiate between symptoms of disease and drug-related problems), and an appreciation of the psychosocial problems that may affect an individual in the society in which they live.

Psychiatry is not about medicalizing normal experience; it is the ability to recognize symptoms of disease, as they are manifest in abnormalities of emotion, cognition, and behaviour. Psychopathology reveals as much to a trained psychiatrist as pathology does to his medical or surgical colleagues. Psychiatrists may not (yet) examine the brain directly, but they are certainly concerned with the functioning of the brain in health and disease.

Can psychotherapy change the brain?

Descartes’ error is never more apparent than when confronted with explanations of how exactly the psychotherapies bring about often profound changes in a patient’s beliefs, ways of thinking, affective states, or behaviour. If we are ever to bridge the mind–brain divide,

then a neurobiological understanding of the mechanisms by which the psychotherapies exert their actions is vital. This would not only provide a sound theoretical foundation for these treatment approaches, but also aid the improvement of psychotherapeutic interventions by opening up the possibility of objectively measuring potential benefits and comparing one approach with another.

Psychotherapy has been beset with accusations of being non- scientific. Even Freud had the good sense to abandon his Project for a Scientific Psychology, which he started in 1895. He just did not have the tools he needed to detect functional changes in the living brain. However, Freud’s early experiments with cocaine—mainly on himself—convinced him that his putative libido must have a specific neurochemical foundation. Now that we do have the ability to reliably detect training- and learning-related changes in brain activation

patterns using non-invasive functional imaging,6 Freud’s unfinished Project may be finally realizable. Research in this area is never likely to attract the funding that major drug companies can invest in neurobiological research. Nevertheless, evidence is emerging for alterations in brain metabolism or blood flow that relate to

therapeutic effects. A recent review article7 identified a number of studies assessing the effects of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in OCD and phobic disorders and of CBT and interpersonal therapy in depression.

In OCD, psychological intervention leads to reduced metabolism in the caudate and a decreased correlation of the right orbitofrontal cortex with the ipsilateral caudate and thalamus. Interestingly, similar changes are observed in OCD treatment with fluoxetine, suggesting common or at least converging mechanisms in the therapeutic benefits of psycho- and pharmacotherapies. In phobia, the most consistent effect of CBT is reduced activation in limbic and paralimbic areas. Reducing amygdala activation appears to be a common final pathway for both psycho- and pharmacotherapy of phobic disorders. Whether different functional networks are responsible for this common end point remains to be determined, although animal research does suggest this may well be the case.

Studies of depression are more difficult to interpret, showing both increases and decreases in prefrontal metabolism associated with

successful treatment. It does appear that depression is a much more heterogenous disorder, and the functional networks implicated in the treatment effects of the different therapies are not as straightforward as for anxiety disorders.

Future studies need to address issues including larger patient numbers, use of standardized imaging protocols, and utilization of molecular markers. However, it is clear that modulation of brain activity through psychotherapeutic interventions not only occurs, but also may explain the benefits that patients experience. It may be time to put old prejudices aside and properly study alternative non- pharmacological interventions. As the neurobiologist Jaak Panksepp has said, modern research into the aetiology of disorders of emotion and behaviour ‘is not a matter of proving Freud right or wrong, but of finishing the job’.

The power of placebo

‘Placebo’ from Latin ‘placare’, ‘to please’, entered the medical lexicon in Hooper’s Medical Dictionary in 1811 as ‘an epithet given to any medicine adopted to please rather than benefit the patient’. However, the modern study of the ‘placebo effect’ began when the anaesthetist Henry K Beecher described patient responses to oral analgesics in 1953 and later discussed ‘the powerful placebo’ in the

often quoted JAMA article of 1955.8 In these largely uncontrolled studies, he found that around 30% of the clinical effect could be attributed to the effect of placebo. Over 50yrs later, research has generated many theories of how placebos may exert their effects (see Box 1.4), but it still remains a controversial area.

For psychiatry, understanding the reality of the placebo effect is critical when it comes to examining the evidence for (and against) interventions. A good example is the recent controversy that

‘The passions of the mind [have a wonderful and powerful influence] upon the state and disorder of the body.’

Haygarth (1801)

‘antidepressants are no better than a sugar pill’. This statement conceals an assumption that giving placebo (‘sugar pills’) is the same as no treatment at all. This could not be further from the truth, and in mild to moderate depression, placebo exerts a powerful effect. Nobody is likely to run the headline ‘Psychiatrists agree antidepressants should not be the first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression’. In fact, clear separation of antidepressant medication benefit from placebo is only seen for moderately severe depression, as defined by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (i.e.

scores of 25+).9

Another telling illustration of the power of placebo in psychiatry is

Johnstone et al.’s10 ECT trial comparing sham-ECT (anaesthesia plus paralysis) to active treatment. It is no surprise that placebo treatment with sham-ECT was very effective, reducing Hamilton Depression scores by around 50%. The real result was that ECT was superior to sham-ECT, but only for psychotic depression (i.e. clinically much more severe).

Should we be surprised that placebos can exert such powerful

effects? Research on pain11 (see Box 1.4) suggests that humans and other animals have neurobiological systems that evolved to utilize activation through cognitive mechanisms (e.g. expectation, preconditioning, and contextual-related assessment) that can induce physiological change. (Imagine the physical effects of exam nerves.) This certainly presents a challenge when designing randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and interpreting the efficacy of active treatments, but it also offers the potential of invoking these resiliency mechanisms to effectively aid in recovery from injury, infection, distress, and functional impairment.

The potency of such techniques has been well known to practitioners of traditional medicine for millennia. This is not to suggest we should pipe in soothing music, don Mesmeresque purple robes, and mutter incantations in Latin. Rather, we ought to be circumspect in how we interpret and present the evidence for the treatments we recommend to our patients. We also ought to be aware that our attitude towards the patient and the setting in which they are seen will affect the real benefits of any intervention.

Box 1.4 Proposed mechanisms for the placebo effect

• Natural remission Improvement would have occurred anyway due to the nature of the condition.

• Regression to the mean If a measurement is outwith normal parameters, later testing is more likely to be closer to the mean than to be more extreme.

• Anxiety reduction Alleviation of anxiety following a therapeutic encounter leads to diminution of symptoms, particularly when they are painful or emotionally distressing.

• Expectations Cognitive factors—past influences: direct experience (of the intervention, practitioner, and setting), experience of others’ accounts, media influences, and cultural factors; and current influences: logic, verbal information, non- verbal cues, attitude (towards the intervention, practitioner, and setting), perception of the practitioner (attitude, personality, temperament, experience), and knowledge.

• Transference Psychoanalytical theory would suggest placebo works due to the unconscious projection of feelings, attitudes, and wishes, initially formed towards a significant figure early in development, onto another person such as the doctor, e.g. the patient’s response may be a simulacrum of the child’s need to please the parent.

• Meaning effects Whereas ‘expectations’ are generally explicit and accessible, sometimes the meaning or context of an interaction may be more complex and not directly expressible. Researchers separate microcontext (setting or physical environment) from macrocontext (wider culture pertaining to the practitioner, patient, and setting).

• Conditioning Previous exposure to active treatment engages learnt response mechanisms when followed by placebo. Conditioning processes help explain ‘expectations’ and ‘meaning effects’, but there are also circumstances when conditioning operates on physiological responses (e.g. heart rate, blood pressure, hormone excretion, immune response) without explicit expectation or even conscious awareness of the response occurring.

Treating patients against their will

Psychiatric patients may have treatment, hospitalization, and other measures imposed on them against their wishes. The power to impose such measures does not sit comfortably with the usual doctor–patient relationship, and psychiatrists may find ‘sectioning’ patients unpleasant. The existence of these powers means that, under some circumstances, psychiatrists will be damned if they do (criticized for being agents of social control, disregarding a person’s autonomy, and being heavy-handed) and damned if they don’t (neglecting their duties, not giving patients the necessary care, and putting the public at risk). Although it may not seem so, sectioning a patient may, in fact, be a very caring thing to do—akin to lifting and holding a 2-yr-old having a tantrum and at risk of hurting themselves and then soothing them. Such a (literally) paternalistic view may appall some people, but historically, paternalism has had a major influence in this area.

When we consider why it is that we have such powers, we might argue that because psychiatric illness may affect insight and judgement (i.e. a person’s capacity), sometimes patients might not be capable of making appropriate decisions about their care and treatment. Although, to modern ears, this may sound ethically sensible, we have had mental health legislation for over 200yrs, and it is only recently that explicit consideration of such matters has influenced mental health legislation.

Mental health legislation has its origins in eighteenth-century laws, allowing for the confinement of ‘lunatics’ and the regulation of private madhouses. The main concerns at that time were the proper care of

• Neurobiology Functional brain imaging studies of pain implicate a distributed network (anterior cingulate, periaqueductal grey, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, insula, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and medial thalamus), modulated by both opioid and dopamine neurotransmission in elements of the placebo effect, e.g. subjective value, expectations over time, affective state, and subjective qualities of pain.

lunatics, fear of lunatics wandering free, and paternalistic sentiments that lunatics as a group did not know what was best for them and so others should determine this. Large county asylums were built in the nineteenth century and became the old mental hospitals of the twentieth century. Until 1930, all patients were detained; there was no such thing as a voluntary or informal patient. If you were insane, your relatives (if you were rich) or the poor law-receiving officer (if you were poor) would apply to a justice of the peace with the necessary medical certification, and you would be confined to an asylum—because this was deemed to be the best place for you. Our current legislation has its ancestral roots in such procedures—reform has rarely led to redrafting from scratch; vestiges of old laws are passed on through centuries.

Another question often raised is why we should deal with psychiatric illnesses any differently from physical illnesses? After all, physicians cannot detain their patients in order to manage their medical problems, can they? Interestingly, in certain circumstances, they can. Although it is unusual, under Sections 37 and 38 of the Public Health Act, the compulsory detention of patients with infectious tuberculosis of the respiratory tract is allowed—however, the patient cannot be treated against their wishes. Patients with a physical illness can only be treated against their wishes if they lack capacity (which may be due to a psychiatric disorder).

Is it right that psychiatric patients can be treated against their wishes, even when they have capacity to make such decisions? In the twenty-first century, paternalism is dead and autonomy rules. A patient with motor neuron disease is allowed to have their life support machine turned off, despite the wishes of their doctors—why not the same right for psychiatric patients?

This does seem to raise interesting ethical questions about whether interventions can ever be justified by principles of paternalism or public protection, when a mentally disordered person has capacity. A pertinent example is that of a currently well patient with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder who wishes to stop their mood stabilizer, despite past episodes of dangerous driving when unwell.

Let’s return to the public health argument of public protection. Infectious patients with tuberculosis may pose a risk to others, and

some psychiatric patients may also pose a risk to others. However, most people with a mental disorder (even severe cases) are never violent; violence is difficult to predict, and many other people who pose a public risk (those who drink heavily or drive fast) are not subject to such special measures. Potentially dangerous behaviour is not in itself a justification for the existence of mental health legislation but instead provides one criterion for the use of such measures when a person meets other criteria (namely having a mental disorder) and needs care and treatment.

We need to be very wary of how our special powers to detain and treat patients against their wishes might be extended and misused. It is not the role of psychiatric services (including forensic psychiatric services) to detain dangerous violent offenders and sex offenders just to prevent them from re-offending. That is not to argue that psychiatrists should not have a role in the assessment and management of such individuals—just that we should not have primary responsibility for their care.

In the twenty-first century, we should be clear about our role—to care for individuals with psychiatric illnesses, without necessarily being paternalistic. We should treat our patients in such a way as to prevent harm to them and to others, but this should not be our raison d’être. The primary justification for the existence of mental health legislation should be to ensure the provision of care and treatment for people who, because of mental disorder, have impaired ability to make appropriate decisions for themselves. We should not be able to forcibly intervene unless this is the case and, when we do, our interventions should be for their benefit.

Perceptions of psychiatry

Since the beginning of recorded history, the public imagination has been fascinated and provoked by the mentally afflicted. Of equal interest have been the social and political responses to mental illness and the mechanisms that have emerged to manage and control the ‘mad’ among us. In general, public perceptions have tended towards polar extremes—on the one hand, fear, ignorance, ridicule, and revulsion; on the other, idealization, romanticism, and a voyeuristic curiosity. The social constructions of madness throughout

history have coloured both lay and professional notions of mental illness and its treatment in the present age. These varying perceptions are represented in the arts, the media, and the political discourse of our societies.

In the ancient world, mental illness came from the Gods. Nebuchadnezzar’s delusions, the senseless violence of Homer’s Ajax, and the suicidal depression of Saul were the result of angry or meddling deities and ‘furies’. In Deuteronomy (vi: 5), it is written: ‘The Lord will smite thee with madness.’ The first to situate mental suffering within the brain were the sages of the classic world: Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen. However, the dark age of medieval Europe saw a return to magical and spiritual interpretations of mental disturbance—madness was the work of demonic forces and witchcraft. Thus, Joan of Arc and countless others were burnt at the stake or drowned for their sins. With the dawn of the Enlightenment, Cartesian notions of rationality and a mind that resided separate from the body displaced the supernatural and laid a foundation for modern concepts of mental illness. Insanity represented ‘the flight of reason’, and religious moralism gave way to scientific moralism—instead of being one possessed, the unfortunate sufferer was now a ‘degenerate’. The Romantic era provided a foil to the empiricist veneration of reason. Byron, Blake, Rousseau, Shelley —these were the figures that epitomized in the public mind the archetypal union of madness and genius. ‘Great wits are sure to madness near allied; and thin partitions do their bounds divide’, wrote Dryden, while in a seventeenth-century etching, Melancolicus proclaims: ‘the price of wisdom is melancholy’. The age of asylums and shackles (portrayed by Hogarth in his series depicting ‘The Rake’s Progress’ through Bedlam and condemned by Foucault as ‘the great confinement’) came to an end when, in the spirit of the French Revolution, Pinel struck off the chains from his charges.

The beginning of the twentieth century witnessed Freud’s description of the unconscious and the birth of medical psychiatry. It was to be a century of controversy and intense soul-searching, as psychiatry became equated in the public imagination with ‘shock therapy’, lobotomies, and the political abuses of Nazi and Soviet regimes. This provided fodder for Laing and Cooper and the anti-

psychiatry movement ( Anti-psychiatry, pp. 28–29), while skirmishes continue to this day between psychoanalytic and biological paradigms. Finally, in the age of mass media, the actions of a handful of mentally ill stalkers and assassins, such as Hinckley (who shot President Reagan), Mark David Chapman (who killed John Lennon), and Tsafendas (who killed Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid), have kindled the public’s image of the crazed killer into a blaze of prejudice and stigma.

In the second decade of the third millennium, we are the inheritors of these historical constructs of mental illness. Our individual notions of madness and perceptions of psychiatry are derived, in part, from this varied bequest. Supernatural, romantic, biological, and psychological notions of madness abound, while the historic tensions between the belief that psychiatry is fundamentally benevolent and the conviction that it is inherently repressive continue into the present. The public mind is exposed to portrayals of madness and psychiatry in art, literature, film, and the media, and these are powerful influences in shaping individual and collective perceptions. There are many examples of our contrasting notions within popular art. For example, The Crucible illustrates the mentally afflicted as cursed and invokes witchcraft as the agent of causation. By comparison, Quills and The Madness of George III portray the sick as mentally impaired, disordered, and degenerate (with differing degrees of historical accuracy). Similarly, in literature, Don Quixote and King Lear depict the anti-hero as simple or incomplete. The neurologist Oliver Sacks did much to counter this stereotype with his sympathetic portrayal of neuropsychiatric conundrums, e.g. in Awakenings. The mad genius archetype appears in A Beautiful Mind, The Hours, and Shine, while Joyce’s ‘Nighttown’ chapter of Ulysses and Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra celebrate the gift of unfettered thought. Nietzsche defines madness as the ‘eruption of arbitrariness in feeling, seeing and hearing, the enjoyment of the

mind’s lack of discipline, the joy in human unreason’.12 In Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs), Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment), and the villainous Hyde of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, we see the stereotype of the crazed and dangerous killer. Finally, artistic critiques of psychiatry abound, but the champions surely include One

Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Snake Pit, and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

The challenge for us in this post-modern era is to consider our own constructs of what mental suffering means and to reflect upon how we should portray our psychiatric profession in society. In doing so, it is worth remembering the ideas we have inherited from our ancestors and how these ideas pervade current discourse. In sifting the grain from the chaff, we would do well to proceed cautiously— most ideas contain at least some grains of wisdom.


Myths matter. Throughout history, myths have served the central function of explaining the inexplicable—creating the illusion of understanding. Human nature seems to defy explanation, and yet we constantly make value judgements of people and ourselves— inferring the motivation and causation on relatively little evidence—in an attempt to make sense of the world. Most of the time, erroneous beliefs matter little and may even be comforting, but some of the time, they can make us prejudicial or lead us to act unwisely. While it may be acceptable in our private lives to be more liberal with the truth, in our professional lives, we are afforded the benefits of authority, based upon our expertise. This is why there are professional examinations and qualifications. We must guard against misinformation and protect ourselves and our patients from treatments and explanatory models for which evidence is decidedly lacking.


Fortunately, we have the scientific method to help us sift the evidence ( Trust me, I’m an epidemiologist, p. 30) and the testable biopsychosocial model of aetiology of psychiatric illness ( Fig. 6.1,

‘Science must begin with myths and with the criticism of myths.’

Sir Karl Popper (1963)

p. 256). Nevertheless, we can be fooled when a set of ideas is presented in a scientific way, even though it does not bear scrutiny. These pseudoscientific theories may be based upon authority, rather than empirical observation (e.g. old-school psychoanalysis, New Age psychotherapies, Thought Field Therapy), concern the unobservable (e.g. orgone energy, chi), confuse metaphysical with empirical claims (e.g. acupuncture, cellular memory, reiki, therapeutic touch, Ayurvedic medicine), or even maintain views that contradict known scientific laws (e.g. homeopathy). Some theories are even maintained by adherents, despite empirical testing clearly showing them to be false (e.g. astrology, biorhythms, ESP). Others cannot even be tested. As Carl Sagan pointed out in his excellent book The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995): ‘any hypotheses should, at least in principle, be falsifiable. In fact the scientific method has this at its heart: the rejection of the null hypothesis. More worrying perhaps is the unthinking promotion of some of these methods by physicians who really should know better. Chi imbalance is not the same as serotonin dysregulation (no, really it isn’t).’

‘Men are from Mars, women are from Venus’

Our culture is infused with popular myths about psychology and

psychiatry.13 From personality profiling to violence and mental illness, there is no end to confusion. The media lap up the newest theory, treatment, or drug, even when the scientific evidence is shaky. Emotive anecdotes and stirring personal accounts lodge themselves into the public imagination. Modern Barnums promote their wares in bookshops and on the Internet and TV. Autism is on the rise, they say; hospital admissions go up during a full moon; people are more depressed at Christmas; antidepressants cause suicide; I can make you do X, Y, and Z; this is what your dreams really mean. There are many reasons why myths persist (see Box 1.5), and they are very difficult to challenge once they are established. This is one reason why psychoeducation is a vital component of most psychological therapies. Most people find that the antidote to the influence of pseudoscience on them is knowledge of real science. The twist in all of this is that understanding the truth

of how the brain functions in health and disease is more remarkable, more amazing, and more life-changing than any fiction could ever be.

Box 1.5 Mythbusting

The ten sources of error:

• Word of mouth If we hear something repeated enough times,

we begin to believe it is true.

• Desire for easy answers and the quick fix If something

sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

• Selective perception and memory We all suffer from naïve

realism and believe that how we see the world is exactly how it is. We also have a tendency to remember hits and forget misses, which leads to illusionary correlation—the mistaken perception that two statistically unrelated event are actually related.

• Inferring causation from correlation For example, although it may be true that a history of child sex abuse (CSA) is highly correlated with schizophrenia, it does not necessarily follow that schizophrenia is caused by CSA.

• Post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning (‘after this, therefore because of this’) Just because someone appears to get better after receiving a homeopathic remedy does not necessarily mean the remedy was effective.

• Exposure to a biased sample Psychiatrists usually see treatment-resistant patients and may assume treatment is less effective than it actually is for the majority of patients.

• Reasoning by representativeness Just because two things appear similar does not make them the same.

• Misleading film and media portrayals ECT perceptions have never recovered from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

• Exaggeration of a kernel of truth.

• Terminology confusion The etymology of words like

‘schizophrenia’ can lead to confusion, with most people believing

it means patients have multiple personalities.

Adapted from the Introduction of Lilienfield SO, Lynn SJ, Ruscio J, Beyerstein BL (2010) 50 Great myths of popular psychology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.


Stigma is a Greek word meaning ‘mark’ and originally referred to a sign branded onto criminals or traitors in order to identify them publicly. The plural stigmata, when used in medical settings, means a collection of symptoms and signs by which a particular disorder may be identified. In its wider, modern sense, stigma refers to the sense of collective disapproval and group of negative perceptions attached to particular people, trait, condition, or lifestyle. Stigmatization describes the process by which the characteristics of the group in question are identified and discriminated against.

Stigmatization can be thought of as a three-stage process—first, the individual is marked out as different by his actions or appearance; second, society develops a series of beliefs about the affected individual; finally, society changes its behaviour towards these individuals in a way consistent with those beliefs, often to the detriment of the stigmatized individuals. Stigma can become self- reinforcing, as it can be associated with avoidance of the stigmatized individuals, leaving no opportunity for society to confront and change its beliefs.

Fear of the unknown, fear of contamination, and fear of death or the sight of death have led to diseases of all kinds being stigmatized throughout history. This is particularly true of infectious diseases, diseases causing disfigurement, and mental disorders. As infectious and disfiguring diseases have become both more treatable and better understood, sufferers from mental disorders have remained uniquely vulnerable to stigmatization.

One marker of this has been the ease with which originally neutral, descriptive terms for mental disorders have taken on a pejorative and disparaging meaning: cretin, maniac, spastic, imbecile. All have been abandoned in an attempt to free affected individuals from the approbation the name had acquired. Unfortunately, stigmatization involves fundamental and widely held beliefs and is not usually amenable to simple cures such as changes of name of conditions or organizations.

For the person affected by mental illness, the name of the condition and their abnormalities of experience and behaviour will mark them out as different and are the root cause of their distress. However, the wider societal beliefs, expressed as stigmatization, will add to the burden of morbidity and may, in themselves, prolong the condition. For example, the belief that depression is ‘all in the mind’ and could be resolved if the affected individual would only ‘pull

themselves together’ may cause sympathetically towards the sufferer, sufferer from seeking appropriate help.

There is no simple answer to the

certainly learn from the increasingly

problem of stigmatization which initially attached to those individuals suffering from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Increased public awareness of the cause of the disease, its method of transmission, the plight of its sufferers, and its means of treatment appear to be associated with less, not more, stigmatization. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, with its ‘Defeat Depression’ campaign, has been active in this regard.

On an individual basis we can:

• Challenge our own prejudices. These may exist, particularly in

connection with patients with personality disorder and patients with

substance misuse problems.

• Avoid stigmatizing language. There is no place for forced political

correctness in medicine, but we should consider whether calling an individual ‘a schizophrenic’ describes them as a single unfavourable characteristic, rather than as a person with an illness.

• Challenge the lack of knowledge within the profession. A surprising lack of knowledge of mental disorders is often seen in our colleagues in other specialties. This may be expressed in, for example, a lower aspiration for treatment in individuals with mental handicap or chronic psychotic illness.

• Be advocates for political change. Professional conservatism should not halt us from being at the forefront of moves to improve the autonomy of patients, their involvement in society, and their legal protection.

people to behave less but it may also hinder the

problem of stigma. We can successful approach to the


One view of medicine is that it is an applied science whose object of scientific curiosity is the understanding of the causes and processes of human illness and the study of methods of preventing or ameliorating them. In the scientific method, there are no absolute truths, only theories which fit the observed facts as they are currently known. All scientists must be open to the challenging of firmly established theories as new observations are made and new experiments reported.

All psychiatrists should retain this healthy scientific scepticism and be prepared to question their beliefs about the causes and cures of mental illness. Developments (and hence improvements in patient care) come from improvement in observation methods and trials of new treatment modalities. A result of this may be the enforced abandonment of cherished beliefs and favoured treatments. Always

remember that insulin coma therapy14 was, at one time, believed to be an effective treatment for psychotic illnesses.

While rigorous examination of the basic and clinical sciences of psychiatry is essential if the specialty is to progress, psychiatry as a medical specialty has, over the last 50yrs, been subject to a more fundamental criticism—that the empirical approach and the medical model are unsuited to the understanding of mental disorder and that they cause harm to the individuals they purport to treat. This basic belief, known as ‘anti-psychiatry’, has been expressed by a variety of individuals over the years, reaching a peak in the late 1960s. Although the central arguments of the anti-psychiatry movement have largely been discredited in the mainstream scientific literature, they have retained currency in some areas of the popular press, within some patient organizations, and in certain religious cults. They are presented here for historic interest and so that the sources for modern-day advocates of these ideas can be identified (see Box 1.6).

Central anti-psychiatry beliefs

• The mind is not a bodily organ and so cannot be diseased.

• The scientific method cannot explain the subjective abnormalities

of mental disorder, as no direct observation can take place.

• Mental disorder can best be explained by social, ethical, or political factors.

• The labelling of individuals as ‘ill’ is an artificial device used by society to maintain its stability in the face of challenges.

• Medication and hospitalization are harmful to the individual so treated.

The anti-psychiatry movement did raise some valid criticisms of then contemporary psychiatric practice—in particular, pointing out the negative effects of institutional living, criticizing stigma and labelling, and alerting psychiatrists to the potential use of political change in improving patient care.

It was, however, fatally flawed by a rejection of empiricism, an over-reliance on single case reports, domination by a small number of personalities with incompatible and deeply held beliefs, and an association with half-baked political theory of the Marxist–Leninist strain.

Box 1.6 Prominent anti-psychiatrists

• Szasz Rejected compulsory treatment. Author of Pain and Pleasure and The Myth of Mental Illness. Viewed disease as a bodily abnormality with an observable pathology to which, by its nature, the brain was immune. Saw mental illness as conflict between individuals and society. Rejected the insanity defence and committal to hospital. Accepted patients for voluntary treatment for drug-free analysis on payment of fee and acceptance of treatment contract.

• Scheff Worked in labelling theory. Wrote Being Mentally Ill. Hypothesized that mental illness was a form of social rule- breaking. Labelling such individuals as mentally ill would stabilize society by sanctioning such temporary deviance.

• Goffman Wrote Asylums. Described the ‘total institution’ observed as a result of an undercover study. Commented on the negative effects of institutions segregated from the rest of society and subject to different rules.

• Laing Author of The Divided Self, Sanity, Madness and the Family and The Politics of Experience. Developed probably the

Trust me, I’m an epidemiologist

‘I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.’


Evidence-based medicine (EBM), defined by David Sackett as ‘the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in

making decisions about the care of individual patients’,15 has become so embedded in medical curricula and principles of critical appraisal so widespread within the educational and academic establishment that any twenty-first-century graduate might be surprised that EBM has a relatively short history.

The modern concept of EBM emerged out of a general disquiet with traditional approaches to medical decision-making (‘the art of

most complete anti-psychiatry theory. He saw the major mental illnesses as arising from early family experiences, in particular from hostile communication and the desire for ‘ontological security’. He saw newborns as housing potential which was diminished by the forced conformity of the family and the wider society. Viewed normality as forced conformity and illness as ‘the reality which we have lost touch with’.

• Cooper Revived anti-psychiatry ideas. A committed Marxist, he saw schizophrenia as a form of social repression.

• Buscaglia Wrote The Deviant Majority. Held that diagnosis did not aid understanding of the patient’s experience. Believed that social and economic factors were crucial. Successful in pressing for significant reform of the Italian mental health system.

• Scull Wrote Museums of Madness. Saw mental health systems as part of ‘the machinery of the capitalist system’.

• Breggin Modern advocate of anti-psychiatry views. Author of Toxic Psychiatry which views psychopharmacology as ‘disabling normal brain function’. Rejects results of systematic reviews.

medicine’), highlighted in 1967 by Alvan Feinstein’s book Clinical Judgment. Archie Cochrane’s Effectiveness and Efficiency, published in 1972, showed a clear lack of controlled trials to support many supposedly effective treatments, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the wide variations in clinical practice, gaps in the evidence, and common errors in clinical reasoning were documented by John Wennberg and David M Eddy. This led Alvan Feinstein, David Sackett, and others working in clinical epidemiology to develop and standardize methods to improve clinical decision- making—disseminated to a wide medical audience through 25 Users’ Guides to the Medical Literature published in JAMA from 1993 to 2000 by the Evidence-based Medicine Working Group at McMaster University.

In the United Kingdom (UK), the Cochrane Centre in Oxford was established in 1992 as part of the information systems strategy developed to support the National Health Service (NHS) Research and Development Programme. The international Cochrane Collaboration followed in 1993, creating a network of 13 countries to produce systematic reviews and guidelines, and in 1999, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) was created to systematically search for, and classify, evidence and to make recommendations for good clinical practice, based on the strength of that available evidence.

In the last 20yrs, three streams of evidence dissemination developed: (1) systematic reviews and meta-analyses were widely published in the medical literature and online (e.g. http://www.cochrane.org); (2) knowledge search engines (e.g. Google Scholar and Medline interfaces such as Ovid and PubMed) became ubiquitous tools for medical literature searching; and (3) knowledge distillation services compiled and disseminated concise reviews of evidence and links to published guidelines (e.g. NICE) on specific topics or questions (e.g. BMJ Clinical Evidence, InfoPoems). There have also been significant efforts to provide appropriate guidance for clinicians seeking to understand the quality of evidence behind published recommendations and guidelines. The most recent

comprehensive approach is GRADE16 which has become the gold standard used by the World Health Organization (WHO), Cochrane

Collaboration, NICE, Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN), BMJ Clinical Evidence, UpToDate, and many more organizations worldwide.

In the UK, psychiatry has been at the forefront of this EBM revolution. The Centre for Evidence-Based Mental Health was founded in Oxford in 1988 and still promotes and supports the teaching and practice of EBM ( http://www.cebmh.com). In collaboration with the British Psychological Society and the BMJ, the Royal College of Psychiatrists launched the Evidence-Based Mental Health journal ( http://ebmh.bmj.com) in 1998, with the stated intent of harnessing ‘recent advances in clinical epidemiology, biostatistics, and information science to produce a coherent and comprehensive approach to allow clinicians to base their practice on

the best available evidence.’17 The College also introduced a Critical Appraisal paper to the MRCPsych examination in 1999 and the most recent examination format retains Evidence-Based Practice multiple choice questions (MCQs) and extended matching items (EMIs) in

Paper B.18 There is a clear expectation that the modern psychiatrist should be competent in formulating answerable questions, finding relevant evidence quickly, appraising that evidence, and then applying it to their practice. In this digital age of information and communication technologies, answers to clinical questions are literally at our fingertips.

While it is true that EBM has significantly contributed to the scientific development of medical literature in the past two decades, modern commentators caution of its ‘considerable limitations, overall reductionism, insufficient consideration of problems related to financial conflicts of interest, disregard of the patient–physician relationship (including patient’s preferences) and the need for

integration with clinical judgment.’19 As early as 1995, Alvan Feinstein, then aged 70, anticipated this when he wrote: ‘the glaring handwriting on the wall is that randomized trials will be impossible— logistically, ethically, and fiscally—for investigating all the cause– effect relationships … what we have learned from the trials offers splendid guidance for principles and criteria that can improve science in observational studies. The outstanding need for the

immediate future is to develop those principles and criteria.’20

It has become increasingly clear that clinical experience and judgement are necessary to individualize treatment plans and account for recognizable patterns of symptoms, severity of illness, effects of comorbid conditions, timing of phenomena, rate of progression of illness (staging), and responses to previous treatments. Our current evidence base simply cannot deal effectively with these sorts of complexities. The challenge for clinicians and epidemiologists in the next decades will be to develop appropriate clinimetric taxonomies and methodologies to classify and eventually analyse these sorts of clinical entities and to tackle the fundamental

problems of evidence-informed clinical decision-making.

15 Sackett DL, Rosenberg WM, Gray JA, Haynes RB, Richardson WS (1996) Evidence-

based medicine: what it is and what it isn‘t [editorial]. BMJ 312:71–2.

16 Guyatt GH, Oxman AD, Vist GE, et al. (2008) GRADE: an emerging consensus on rating quality of evidence and strength of recommendations. BMJ 336:924–6. http://www.gradeworkinggroup.org/

17 Geddes J, Reynolds S, Streiner D, et al. (1998) Evidence-based practice in mental health. Evid Based Mental Health 1:4–5.

18 Royal College of Psychiatrists. Preparing for exams. https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/training/exams/preparing-for-exams [accessed 31 December 2019].

19 Fava GA (2013) Clinical judgment in psychiatry. Requiem or reveille? Nord J Psychiatry 67:1, 1–10.

20 Feinstein AR (1995) Meta-analysis: statistical alchemy for the 21st century. J Clin Epidemiol 48:71–9.

Evolutionary psychiatry

The origins of evolutionary psychiatry can be traced to the collaboration of Charles Darwin with Dr James Crichton-Browne on writing The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals in 1872. Regarding mental illness as an atavistic regression to a less evolved state underpinned nineteenth-century degenerationistic views. Similarly, recapitulationism (or Ernst Haeckel’s ‘biogenic law’)—the idea that an individual’s development summarizes the evolution of

‘Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.’

Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973) Article Title in The American Biology Teacher. 35(3):25–129

their species (‘ontology recapitulates phylogeny’)—popularized the view that criminals and psychiatric patients were fixations or regressions to earlier stages of evolutionary development and was responsible for scientific racism (the belief that some races are ‘more developed’ than others). It should never be forgotten that these ideas fermented into eugenic practices such as large-scale sterilization of psychiatric patients in early twentieth-century America and the genocide of over 100,000 psychiatric patients in Nazi Germany.

In fact, evolutionary ideas were so popular in the early twentieth century that even Freud hoped to give his psychodynamic theory more credibility by linking it to ancestral inheritance—in his Phylogenetic Fantasy (written in 1915, but published posthumously). Many contemporary evolutionary psychiatrists credit Freud as a ‘founding father’ of evolutionary psychiatry for this (albeit phylogenetically erroneous) attempt to understand neuroses by looking to the ancestral environment of our species.

The modern era of molecular and population genetics really began in the 1950s with Watson and Crick’s description of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in 1953 and the subsequent unravelling of the genetic code for Mendelian inheritance. The synthesis of evolutionary ideas that followed tried to draw a line under older ‘evolutionisms’ (e.g. Spencer’s social Darwinism, Lamarckism, and degeneration theories) and place the evolutionary theory on a firm foundation of testable, hypothesis-driven biological science.

In 1963, Niko Tinbergen wrote ‘On aims and methods of ethology’ in the Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, proposing his ‘four questions’ for understanding behaviour:

1. What physiological mechanisms are involved (causation)?

2. How does behaviour develop during ontogeny (development)? 3. To what extent is reproduction fitness enhanced (survival value)? 4. How has it changed throughout evolutionary time (evolution)?

Tinbergen maintained that to fully understand the behaviour of an organism, both proximate (questions 1 and 2) and ultimate (questions 3 and 4) causation must be considered together.

Psychiatric research has generally focused on proximate causes, e.g. genetics, neuropathology, serology, traumatic experiences,

internal psychological conflicts; however, in 1964, the evolutionary biologists Huxley and Mayr and the psychiatrists Osmond and Hoffer published ‘Schizophrenia as a genetic morphism’ in Nature, considering the ‘puzzle of schizophrenia’ and proposing that to keep a prevalence of about 1% in most populations, there must be selective advantages to compensate for obvious disadvantages. In 1967, a Lancet article by John Price ‘The dominance hierarchy and the evolution of mental illness’ argued that mental disorders, including psychotic depression and schizophrenia, were adaptive mechanisms in the social environment of our ancestors to cope with a strict group hierarchy. John Bowlby explored the idea of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) in Attachment (1969). Indeed, over the last five decades, psychiatrists have increasingly attempted to understand mental illnesses by comparing them to behaviours seen in animal species as diverse as birds (Demaret, 1971), reptiles (MacLean, 1990), marsupials (Jones, Stoddart and Mallick, 1995), and monkeys (McGuire, 1988).

Evolutionary (or Darwinian) psychiatry has faced strong criticism. At worst, it is seen as ‘bad science’ ( Psychomythology, p. 24), ‘just-so story-telling’, and simply speculation. In its purest form, evolutionary theory is too deterministic, reductionistic, and adaptionistic, not allowing for chance, drift, and history. Social learning may also be an equally important source of individual and cultural preferences, beliefs, and behaviours (and, by extension, mental disorders). The reason to ask Tinbergen’s ultimate questions is to arrive at a deeper biologically based understanding of mental disorders and to stimulate hypotheses (see Table 1.3) that can lead to research and ultimately new therapeutic options. Provided evolutionary psychiatry does not lose sight of its scientific principles, it may well help satisfy man’s continued search for meaning.

Table 1.3 Evolutionary hypotheses regarding mental disorders


Adaptionist Mismatch

Organic breakdown of our evolved nature

Trade-off (balanced selection)


Psychodynamic (displacement)

View of disorders

Oversensitive or excessive adaptations

Behaviours suited to the ancestral, not modern, environment

Brain dysfunction due to proximate causes

Genetic causes may confer some benefit to heterozygote carriers

Pathological genes avoid negative selection pressures by presenting in later life

Normal defence mechanisms that are fixated, overactive, or contextually inappropriate


Anxiety disorders reflect an overactive threat detection system

Phobias reflect ancestral fears, e.g. dark, heights, snakes

Central nervous system infection, lesions, mutations, and neurodevelopmental disorders

Schizophrenia is the price we pay for sociality, language, or creativity

Alzheimer’s dementia/Huntington’s chorea

Suspiciousness becomes overactivated by hallucinations

A brief history of psychiatry

Ancient times 74,000 bc Sumerian records describe the euphoriant effect of the poppy plant. 71,700 bc First written record concerning the nervous system. 460–379 bc Hippocrates discusses epilepsy as a brain disturbance. 387 bc Plato teaches that the brain is the seat of

mental processes. 280 bc Erasistratus notes divisions of the brain. 177 Galen lectures On the Brain.

Pre-modern 1649 Descartes describes the pineal gland as a control centre of the body and mind. 1656 Bicêtre and Salpêtrière asylums established by Louis XIV in France. 1755 Perry publishes A Mechanical Account and Explication of the Hysteric Passion. 1758 Battie publishes his Treatise on Madness. 1773 Cheyne publishes his book English Malady, launching the idea of ‘nervous illness’. 1774 Mesmer introduces ‘animal magnetism’ (later called hypnosis). 1793 Pinel is appointed to the Bicêtre and directs the removal of chains from the ‘madmen’. 1794 Chiarugi publishes On Insanity, specifying how a therapeutic asylum should be run.

1800–1850 1808 Reil coins the term ‘psychiatry’. 1812 Rush publishes Medical Inquiries and Observations Upon the Diseases of the Mind. 1813 Heinroth links life circumstances to mental disorders in the Textbook of Mental Hygiene. 1817 Parkinson publishes An Essay on the Shaking Palsy. – Esquirol lectures on psychiatry to medical students. 1825 Bouillaud presents cases of aphonia after frontal lesions. – Todd discusses the localization of brain functions. 1827 Heinroth appointed as the first professor of psychological therapy in Leipzig. 1832 Chloral hydrate discovered. 1843 Braid coins the term ‘hypnosis’. 1848 Phineas Gage has his brain pierced by an iron rod, with subsequent personality change.

1850–1900 1856 Morel describes ‘démence précoce’— deteriorating adolescent psychosis. 1863 Kahlbaum introduces the term ‘catatonia’. – Friedreich describes progressive hereditary ataxia. 1864 Hughlings Jackson writes on aphonia after brain injury. 1866 Down describes ‘congenital idiots’. 1868 Griesinger describes ‘primary insanity’ and ‘unitary psychosis’. 1869 Galton claims that intelligence is inherited in Hereditary Genius. 1871 Hecker describes ‘hebephrenia’. 1872 Huntington describes symptoms of a hereditary chorea. 1874 Wernicke publishes Der Aphasische Symptomenkomplex on aphasias. 1876 Ferrier publishes The Functions of the Brain. – Galton uses the term ‘nature and nurture’ to describe heredity and environment. 1877 Charcot publishes Lectures on the diseases of the nervous system. 1883 Kraepelin coins the terms ‘neuroses’ and ‘psychoses’. 1884 Gilles de la Tourette

describes several movement disorders. 1885 Lange proposes the use of lithium for excited states. 1887 Korsakoff describes characteristic symptoms in alcoholics. 1892 American Psychological Association formed. 1895 Freud and Breuer publish Studies on Hysteria. 1896 Kraepelin describes ‘dementia praecox’. 1899 Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams.

1900s 1900 Wernicke publishes Basic Psychiatry in Leipzig. 1903 Barbiturates introduced. – First volume of Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry published in the United States. – Pavlov coins the term ‘conditioned reflex’. 1905 Binet and Simon develop their first intelligence quotient (IQ) test. 1906 Alzheimer describes ‘presenile degeneration’. 1907 Adler’s Study of Organ Inferiority and its Physical Compensation published. – Origins of group therapy in Pratt’s work supporting tuberculosis (TB) patients in Boston. 1909 Brodmann describes 52 cortical areas. – Cushing electrically stimulates the human sensory cortex. – Freud publishes the case of Little Hans in Vienna.

1910s 1911 Bleuler publishes his textbook Dementia Praecox or the Group of Schizophrenias. 1913 Jaspers describes ‘non- understandability’ in schizophrenia thinking. – Syphilitic spirochaete established as the cause of ‘generalized paresis of the insane’. – Jung splits with Freud, forming the school of ‘analytic psychology’. – Mental Deficiency Act passed in the UK. – Goldmann finds the blood–brain barrier impermeable to large molecules. 1914 Dale isolates acetylcholine. – The term ‘shell shock’ is coined by British soldiers. 1916 Henneberg coins the term ‘cataplexy’. 1917 Epifanio uses barbiturates to put patients with major illnesses into prolonged sleep. – Wager-Jauregg discovers malarial treatment for neurosyphilis.

1920s 1920 Moreno develops ‘psychodrama’ to explore individual problems through re-enactment. – Watson and Raynor demonstrate the experimental induction of phobia in ‘Little Albert’. – Crichton- Miller founds the Tavistock Clinic in London. – Klein conceptualizes the development theory and the use of play therapy. – Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle published. 1921 Rorschach develops the inkblot test. 1922 Klaesi publishes the results of deep sleep treatment, which is widely adopted. 1923 Freud describes his

‘structural model of the mind’. 1924 Jones uses the first example of systematic desensitization to extinguish a phobia. 1927 Jacobi and Winkler first apply pneumoencephalography to the study of schizophrenia. – Wagner-Jauregg awarded the Nobel Prize for malarial treatment of neurosyphilis. – Cannon-Bard describes his ‘theory of emotions’. 1929 Berger demonstrates the first human EEG.

1930s 1930 First child psychiatry clinic established in Baltimore, headed by Kanner. 1931 Hughlings-Jackson describes positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. – Reserpine introduced. 1932 Klein publishes The Psychoanalysis of Children. 1933 Sakel introduces ‘insulin coma treatment’ for schizophrenia. 1934 Meduna uses chemical convulsive therapy. 1935 Moniz and Lima first carry out ‘prefrontal leucotomy’. – Amphetamines synthesized. 1936 Mapother appointed as England’s first Professor of Psychiatry. – Dale and Loewi share Nobel Prize for work on chemical nerve transmission. 1937 Kluver and Bucy publish work on bilateral temporal lobectomies. – Papez publishes work on limbic circuits and develops the ‘visceral theory’ of emotion. 1938 Cerletti and Bini first use ‘electroconvulsive therapy’. – Skinner publishes The Behaviour of Organisms, describing operant conditioning. – Hoffmann synthesizes lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

1940s 1942 Freeman and Watts publish Psychosurgery. 1943 Antihistamines used in schizophrenia and manic depression. 1946 Freeman introduces ‘transorbital leucotomy’. – Main publishes Therapeutic Communities. 1948 Foulkes’ Introduction to Group Analytical Psychotherapy published. – International Classification of Diseases (ICD) first published by WHO. – Jacobsen and Hald discover the use of disulfiram. 1949 Cade uses lithium for treatment of mania. – Penrose publishes The Biology of Mental Defect. – Moniz awarded Nobel Prize for treatment of psychosis with leucotomy. – Hess receives Nobel Prize for work on the ‘interbrain’. – Magoun defines the reticular activating system. – National Institute of Mental Health established. – Hebb publishes The Organization of Behaviour: A Neuropsychological Theory.

1950s 1950 First World Congress of Psychiatry held in Paris. – Chlorpromazine (compound 4560 RP) synthesized by Charpentier. –

Roberts and Awapara independently identify gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. 1951 Papaire and Sigwald report the efficacy of chlorpromazine in psychosis. 1952 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-I) introduced by APA. – Eysenck publishes The Effects of Psychotherapy. – Delay and Deniker treat patients with psychological disturbance using chlorpromazine. – Delay, Laine, and Buisson report isoniazid use in treatment of depression. 1953 Lurie and Salzer report use of isoniazid as an ‘antidepressant’. 1954 Kline reports reserpine exerts a therapeutic benefit on both anxiety and obsessive–compulsive symptoms. – Delay and Deniker, Noce, and Steck report favourable effects of reserpine on mania. – First community psychiatric nurse post established in the UK. 1955 Chlordiazepoxide, the first benzodiazepine, synthesized by Sternbach for Roche. – Kelly introduces his ‘personal construct therapy’. – Shepherd and Davies conduct the first prospective placebo-controlled, parallel-group RCT in psychiatry, using reserpine in anxious-depressive outpatients (with clear benefit). 1957 Imipramine launched as an antidepressant. – Iproniazid launched as an antidepressant. – Delay and Deniker describe the characteristics of neuroleptics. 1958 Carlsson et al. discover dopamine in brain tissues and identify it as a neurotransmitter. – Janssen develops haloperidol, the first butyrophenone neuroleptic. – Lehman reports the first (successful) trial of imipramine in the United States. 1959 Russell Barton’s Institutional Neurosis in England describes the adverse effects of institutional regimes. – Diazepam first synthesized by Roche. – Schneider defines his ‘first-rank symptoms’ of schizophrenia. – English Mental Health Act of 1959 allows voluntary admission to psychiatric hospitals.

1960s 1960 Merck, Roche, and Lundbeck all launch versions of amitriptyline. 1961 Knight, a London neurosurgeon, pioneers stereotactic subcaudate tractotomy. – Founding of the World Psychiatric Association. – Thomas Szasz publishes The Myth of Mental Illness. 1962 Ellis introduces ‘rational emotive therapy’. – US Supreme Court declares addiction to be a disease, and not a crime. 1963 Beck introduces his ‘cognitive behavioural therapy.’ – Carlsson shows that neuroleptics have effects on catecholamine systems. 1966 Gross and Langner demonstrate the effectiveness of clozapine

in schizophrenia. 1968 Strömgren describes ‘brief reactive psychosis’. – Ayllon and Azrin describe the use of ‘token economy’ to improve social functioning. – Publication of DSM-II and ICD-8.

1970s 1970 Laing and Esterson publish Sanity, Madness and the Family. – Rutter publishes the landmark Isle of Wight study on the mental health of children. – Janov publishes Primal Scream. – Maslow describes his ‘hierarchy of needs’. – Axelrod, Katz, and Svante von Euler share Nobel Prize for work on neurotransmitters. 1971 British Misuse of Drugs Act passed. – Carlsson, Corrodi et al. develop zimeldine, the first of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). 1972 Feighner et al. describe the St Louis criteria for the diagnosis of schizophrenia. 1973 International pilot study of schizophrenia uses narrow criteria and finds similar incidence of schizophrenia across all countries studied. 1974 Hughes and Kosterlitz discover enkephalin. 1975 Research diagnostic criteria (RDC) formulated by Spitzer et al. in the United States (USA). – Clozapine withdrawn following episodes of fatal agranulocytosis. 1976 Johnstone uses CT to study schizophrenic brains. 1977 Guillemin and Schally share Nobel Prize for work on peptides in the brain. 1979 Russell describes bulimia nervosa.

1980s 1980 DSM-III published by APA. – Crow publishes his two- syndrome (type I and type II) hypothesis of schizophrenia. 1984 Klerman and Weissman introduce ‘interpersonal psychotherapy’. – Smith et al. first use MRI to study the cerebral structure in schizophrenia. – Andreasen develops scales for the assessment of positive and negative symptoms in schizophrenia (SAPS/SANS) ( Schizophrenia, p. 97). 1987 Liddle describes a three-syndrome model for schizophrenia. – Fluvoxamine introduced. – Mednick publishes the first prospective cohort study of schizophrenia using CT. 1988 The ‘harm minimization’ approach to drug misuse introduced in Britain. – Kane et al. demonstrate the efficacy of clozapine in treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

1990s 1990 Sertraline introduced. – Ryle introduces ‘cognitive analytical therapy’. 1991 Paroxetine introduced. 1992 Moclobemide introduced as the first reversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase (RIMA). – The False Memory Syndrome Society Foundation formed in the United States. – Publication of ICD-10. 1993 Huntington’s

disease gene identified. – Launch of risperidone as an ‘atypical’ antipsychotic. – Linehan first describes her ‘dialectical behaviour therapy’. 1994 Publication of DSM-IV. – Launch of olanzapine. – Gilman and Rodbell share Nobel Prize for their discovery of G- protein coupled receptors and their role in signal transduction. 1995 Citalopram, an SSRI, nefazodone (dual-action SSRI), venlafaxine, a serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (first SNRI) all introduced. 1999 Hodges publishes first results from prospective Edinburgh High Risk (Schizophrenia) Study using MRI.

2000s 2000 Carlsson, Greengard, and Kandel share Nobel Prize for their work on neurotransmitters. 2002 Neuregulin-1 and dysbindin identified as susceptibility genes for schizophrenia. 2003 Aripiprazole, the first dopamine partial agonist antipsychotic, launched. – Caspi and colleagues show that genetic and environmental factors interact to modulate risk for depression and antisocial behaviour. 2005 The DISC1 gene, implicated in psychotic and affective illness, is shown to regulate cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) signalling. – The first non-commercial large- scale trial compares new and old antipsychotics—Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE). – Deep brain stimulation (DBS) trials show promise in treatment-resistant OCD and depression. 2006 Hall and coworkers show that the neuregulin-1 gene is associated with changes in brain function and psychosis in the Edinburgh High Risk (Schizophrenia) Study. 2007 A glutamate agonist (LY2140023) is found by Patel et al. to have antipsychotic effects in patients with schizophrenia. 2009 Genome- wide genetic analysis reveals both common and rare genetic variants involved in schizophrenia. Launch of the antidepressant agomelatine.

2010s 2011 Neural stem cells derived from peripheral samples reveal cellular changes in patients with schizophrenia and related disorders. 2013 Publication of DSM-5. Launch of the antidepressant vortioxetine. 2014 Launch of National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative in the United States ( https://www.braininitiative.nih.gov). The Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium publishes the largest

genome-wide association study of schizophrenia in Nature of nearly 37,000 cases, identifying 108 schizophrenia-associated genetic loci. 2017 Hall, Rosbash, and Young share Nobel prize for their work on the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms. 2018 Publication of ICD-11.

The future

Attempting to predict the future is a dangerous business. Predictions tend to be based upon contemporary ideas and have a tendency to overestimate some types of change and underestimate others. Wild inaccuracy is the usual rule. This is particularly so in medical science where change is often a result of chance discoveries (e.g. penicillin) and sweeping reforms which make most then current knowledge redundant (e.g. the germ theory of disease).

Currently practising psychiatrists are (or should be) keenly aware of the deficiencies of current psychiatric practice. We lack knowledge of the aetiology and pathogenesis of most psychiatric disorders; we have no objective diagnostic or prognostic investigations; and our drug and psychological treatments are often minimally or only partially effective. While we welcome the ongoing gradual progress in knowledge and treatments, we are naturally impatient for rapid and fundamental improvements—we hope to join the other medical specialties in moving ‘from the descriptive to the analytical’. Now, at last, it seems the tools are becoming available to develop a true understanding of psychiatric disease.

We are, however, cautious—there have been false dawns before. The insights into mental mechanisms provided by the psychoanalytical pioneers in the first half of the twentieth century gave rise to hope that these methods would prove therapeutic in many mental illnesses. The discovery of effective antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs in the 1950s raised hopes that examination of drug effects would reveal the pathological mechanisms of the underlying diseases. The move to community care which followed Enoch Powell’s ‘Water Tower Speech’ in 1961 was driven by the hope that many of the deficits experienced by sufferers from mental disorder were not intrinsic to the disorders themselves but were related to institutional living. None of these hopes were fulfilled.

However, in the first decades of the twenty-first century, we have a number of genuine reasons for optimism and excitement.


The information provided by the Human Genome Project and large linkage and association studies, combined with techniques of high- throughput genetic screening, allows identification of susceptibility genes for complex polygenic disorders. Advances in molecular biology will allow the functions of these gene products to be understood, potentially generating new therapies. We are increasingly coming to understand how susceptibility genes interact with the environment to cause illness, including the potential role of epigenetic factors in mediating the impact of environmental stresses on gene expression.

Novel treatment approaches

In the last century, discovery of effective treatments led to aetiological hypotheses. In this century, the hope is that understanding of the molecular and chemical pathways involved in risk for illness will lead to the development of novel treatment approaches, therapeutics becoming hypothesis-driven, rather than hypothesis-creating. Rational drug design will be aided by computer modelling and screening of large numbers of potential drug molecules. There will be further investigation of stem cell therapy in neurodegenerative disorders.

Functional and diagnostic imaging

Current structural scanning methods (e.g. CT and MRI) reveal changes across cohorts of patients with major mental disorders but do not allow objective diagnosis in individuals. Many psychiatric disorders show no measurable abnormalities at all, using current structural methods. In the future, functional imaging (e.g. PET, functional MRI), either alone or in combination with structural scanning, may allow an understanding of how changes in neural systems contribute to illness and possibly true diagnostic imaging.

Large-scale treatment trials

In current practice, even relatively common treatment decisions are not clearly evidence-based. The current evidence base is overly

reliant on small randomized trials, uncontrolled trials, and ‘expert opinion’. Now, however, psychiatry researchers are following their peers in cardiology and oncology and recruiting to large-scale treatment trials.

‘Every generation enjoys the use of a vast hoard bequeathed to it by antiquity, and transmits that hoard, augmented by fresh acquisitions, to future ages.’

Thomas Babington Macaulay ‘I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.’

‘There are fish in the sea better than have ever been caught.’

Thomas Jefferson Irish proverb

1 Smith R (2002) In search of ‘non-disease’. BMJ 324: 883–5.

2 Campbell EJ, Scadding JG, Roberts RS (1979) The concept of disease. BMJ 2:757–62.

3 For more information, see http://www.dsm5.org

4 National Institute of Mental Health. Research Domain Criteria (RDoC). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/research-priorities/rdoc/index.shtml [accessed 31 December 2018].

5 Craddock N, Owen MJ (2010) The Kraepelinian dichotomy – going, going … but still not gone. Br J Psychiatry 196:92–5.

6 Linden DEJ (2003) Cerebral mechanisms of learning revealed by functional neuroimaging in humans. In: Kühn R, Menzel R, Menzel W, Ratsch U, Richter MM, Stamatescu I-O (eds). Adaptivity and Learning: An Interdisciplinary Debate, pp. 49–57. Heidelberg: Springer.

7 Linden DEJ (2006) How psychotherapy changes the brain—the contribution of functional imaging. Mol Psychiat 11:528–38.

8 Beecher HK (1955) The powerful placebo. JAMA 159:1602–6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13271123

9 Fournier JC, DeRubeis RJ, Hollon SD, et al. (2010) Antidepressant drug effects and depression severity: a patient meta-level analysis. JAMA 303:47–53. http://jama.ama- assn.org/cgi/content/full/303/1/47.

10 Johnstone EC, Deakin JF, Lawler P, et al. (1980) The Northwick park electroconvulsive therapy trial. Lancet 2:1317–20.

11 Zubieta JK, Stohler CS (2009) Neurobiological mechanisms of placebo responses. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1156:198–210.

12 Nietzsche F (1974) The Gay Science. Trans. Kaufman W. New York, NY: Vintage.

13 ‘ … and most popular psychology is from Uranus.’ When John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, appeared on Season 2, Episode 3 of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!, Penn quipped ‘I guess the title “We’re all people and should be treated with love and respect” just wouldn’t fit on the book spine’.

14 In 1933, Manfred Sakel introduced insulin coma therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia. This involved the induction of hypoglycaemic coma using insulin, the

rationale being that a period of decreased neuronal activity would allow for nerve cell regeneration. In the absence of alternative treatments, this was enthusiastically adopted by practitioners worldwide. However, with the advent of antipsychotics in the 1950s and the emergence of RCTs, it became clear that the treatment had no effect above placebo and it was subsequently abandoned.

Chapter 2

Psychiatric assessment

The clinical interview

Setting the scene

Interviewing psychiatric patients

Discussing management


Mental state examination

Case summary

Observations of appearance and behaviour


Abnormal mood

Asking about depressed mood

Asking about thoughts of self-harm

Asking about elevated mood

Anxiety symptoms

Asking about anxiety symptoms

Abnormal perceptions

Asking about abnormal perceptions

Abnormal beliefs

Asking about abnormal beliefs

Asking about the first-rank symptoms of schizophrenia Disorders of the form of thought

Abnormal cognitive function

Assessing cognitive function 1

Assessing cognitive function 2

Supplementary tests of cerebral functioning


Physical examination

Clinical investigation

Common assessment instruments 1

Common assessment instruments 2

The clinical interview

In most branches of clinical medicine, diagnoses are made largely on the basis of the patient’s history, with physical examination and investigation playing important, but subordinate, roles. In psychiatry, physical examination and investigations are of lesser diagnostic value and diagnosis is based on the clinical interview and, to a lesser extent, the later course of the patient’s illness. Clinical interviewing is thus the central skill of the psychiatrist, and development of clinical interviewing skills is the main aim of basic psychiatric training.

The clinical interview includes both history-taking and mental state examination (MSE). The MSE is a systematic record of the patient’s current psychopathology. In addition to its role in diagnosis, the clinical interview begins the development of a therapeutic relationship and is, in many cases, the beginning of treatment.

Clinical interview skills cannot be learnt from a textbook. This chapter is intended as a guide to the doctor developing skills in interviewing psychiatric patients. As a trainee psychiatrist, you should also take the opportunity to observe experienced clinicians, as they interview patients, to review your own videotaped consultations with a tutor, and, most importantly, to carry out many clinical interviews and present the results to your seniors. Skills in this area, as with all others, come with experience and practice.

This chapter describes a model for the assessment of general adult and old age psychiatry patients on the wards or in the outpatient clinic. For special patient populations, modifications or extensions to the standard interview are described in the appropriate chapter: alcohol and drug problems ( Assessment of the patient with alcohol problems, p. 584; Assessment of the drug user, p. 630); forensic ( Assessing risk of violence, p. 748; Suggested format for criminal court report, p. 770); child and adolescent ( Assessment 1: principles, p. 648; Assessment 2: considerations, p. 650; Assessment 3: practice points, p. 652); intellectual disability ( The process of assessment, p. 798); and psychotherapy ( Assessment for psychotherapy, p. 884).

The student or doctor coming to psychiatric interviewing for the first time is likely to be apprehensive. The symptoms which the

patient describes may seem bizarre or incomprehensible, and the examiner may struggle for understanding and knowledge of which further questions to ask. Remember that the interviewer is not like a lawyer or policeman trying to ‘get at the truth’, but rather an aid to the patient telling the story in their own words. Start by listening, prompting only when necessary, and aim to feel at the end of the interview that you really understand the patient’s problems and their perception of them.

The following pages describe the standard structure for a routine history, MSE, and case summary; there are then pages devoted to the different symptom areas in adult psychiatry, with suggested probe questions. These are intended as guides to the sort of questions to ask the patient (or to ask yourself about the patient) and may be rephrased in your own words. See Box 2.1 for advice on personal safety.

Box 2.1 Always consider your personal safety when interviewing

There is a risk of aggression or violence in only a small minority of psychiatric patients. In the vast majority of patients, the only risk of violence is towards themselves. However, the fact that violence is rare can lead to doctors putting themselves at risk due to thoughtlessness. To combat this, it is important to think about the risk of violence before every consultation with a new patient or with a familiar patient with new symptoms.

Before interviewing a patient, particularly for the first time, consider: who you are interviewing, where you are interviewing, and with whom. Ensure that the nursing staff have this information.

• If possible, review the patient’s records, noting previous

symptomatology and episodes of previous violence (the best

predictor of future violence).

• A number of factors will increase the risk of violence, including: a

previous history of violence, psychotic illness, intoxication with alcohol or drugs, frustration, feeling of threat (which may be delusional or relate to real-world concerns).

Setting the scene


Observe the normal social forms when meeting someone for the first time. Introduce yourself and any accompanying staff members by name and status. Ensure that you know the names and relationships of any people accompanying the patient (and ask the patient if they wish these persons to be present during the interview). It is best to introduce yourself by title and surname and refer to the patient by title and surname. Do not use the patient’s first name, except at their request.


The traditional consultation room, with the patient facing the doctor across a desk, is inappropriate in psychiatry. Use two or more comfortable chairs, of the same height, orientated to each other at an angle. This is less confrontational but allows direct eye contact, as necessary. A clipboard will allow you to write notes as you go along.


Inform the patient of your status and specialty, and explain the purpose of the interview. Explain the reasons for referral as you understand them, and inform the patient of the information you have been told by the referrer. Patients often imagine you know more about them than you do. It is helpful to indicate to the patient how long the interview will last; this will allow both of you to plan your time, so as not to omit vital topics. Advise them that you may wish to

• The ideal interview room has two doors, one for you and one for the patient. If this is not available, sit so that the patient is not between you and the door. Remove all potential weapons from the interview room.

• Familiarize yourself with the ward’s panic alarm system before you first need to use it.

•If your hospital organizes break-away or aggression management training courses, attend these regularly to keep your skills up-to-date.

obtain further information after the interview from other sources, and obtain their consent to talk to any informants accompanying them if this would add to your assessment.


For all episodes of clinical contact, a handwritten or electronic record is crucial, both as a way of recording and communicating information and as a medico-legal record. It is best to write or type the account at the time, or very shortly afterwards. The record should be legible, dated, and signed and ordered in a standard fashion. Initially, you may find it helpful to write out the standard assessment headings on sheets of paper beforehand.

Interviewing non-English-speaking patients

Where the doctor and the patient do not speak a common language, an interpreter is essential. Even in situations where the patient appears to speak some English, sufficient for day-to-day conversation, an interpreter is still highly desirable because idiomatic language and culturally specific interpretations of psychological phenomena may confuse understanding. Where possible, the interpreter should share not only a language, but also a cultural background with the patient, as many descriptions of psychiatric symptoms are culture-specific. Do not use members of a patient’s family as interpreters, except where unavoidable (e.g. in emergency situations). It is unethical to use children as interpreters.

Interviewing psychiatric patients

Interview structure

The exact internal structure of the interview will be decided by the nature of the presenting complaint. However, the interview will generally go through a number of more or less discrete phases:

Initiation Introduce yourself, and explain the nature and purpose of the interview. Describe how long the interview will last and what you know about the patient already.

Patient-led history Invite the patient to tell you about their presenting complaint. Use general opening questions, and prompt for further elaboration. Let the patient do most of the talking—your

role is to help them to tell the story in their own words. During this phase, you should note down the major observations in the MSE. Having completed the history of the presenting complaint and the MSE, you will be able to be more focused when taking the other aspects of the history.

Doctor-led history Clarify the details in the history thus far with appropriate questions. Clarify the nature of diagnostic symptoms (e.g. are these true hallucinations? Is there diurnal mood variation?). Explore significant areas not mentioned spontaneously by the patient.

Background history Complete the history by direct enquiry. This is similar to standard medical history-taking, with the addition of a closer enquiry into the patient’s personal history.

Summing-up Recount the history, as you have understood it, back to the patient. Ensure there are no omissions or important areas uncovered. Indicate if you would like to obtain other third-party information, emphasizing that this would add to your understanding of the patient’s problems and help you in your diagnosis.

Questioning techniques

Open vs closed questions An open question does not suggest the possible answers; a closed question expects a limited range of replies (cf. ‘can you tell me how you are feeling?’ and ‘is your mood up or down at the moment?’). In general, begin the interview with open questions, turning to more closed questions to clarify details or factual points.

Non-directive vs leading questions A leading question directs a patient towards a suggested answer (e.g. ‘is your mood usually worse in the mornings?’, rather than ‘is your mood better or worse at any time of day?’). Just as lawyers are reprimanded for ‘leading a witness’, we should, in general, avoid leading our patients to certain replies, as the desire to please the doctor can be a very powerful one.

Giving advice

Aim to leave at least the last quarter of the available interview time for discussion of the diagnosis, your explanation to the patient of your understanding of the nature and cause of their symptoms, and

your detailing of your plans for treatment or further investigation or referral, as indicated. The patient’s confidence in your diagnosis will be improved by their belief that you really understand ‘what is going on’, and spending time detailing exactly what you want them to do will pay dividends in compliance. As a junior trainee, you may have to break at the end of the history-taking segment, in order to present the case to your senior and get advice on management.

After the interview

The process of assessment does not, of course, end with the initial clinical interview. In psychiatry, all diagnoses are, to some extent, provisional. You should follow your initial interview by gathering information from relatives, the general practitioner (GP), and previous case records and clarifying symptoms observed by nursing staff. In an emergency situation, a modification of this technique, focusing mainly on the acute problem, is more appropriate, with re- interviewing later to fill in the blanks, if required.

Discussing management

In psychiatry, more than any other specialty, it is essential for successful management that the patient has a good understanding of their disorder and its treatment. There is no equivalent in psychiatry of the simple fracture where all that is required of the patient is to ‘lie back and take the medicine’. The treatment of any psychiatric disorder begins at the initial interview where, in addition to the assessment, the doctor should aim to establish a therapeutic alliance, effectively communicate the management plan, instil a sense of hope in the patient, and encourage self-help strategies.

Establish a therapeutic relationship

• Aim to listen more than you speak (especially initially).

• Show respect for the patient as an individual (e.g. establish their preferred mode of address; ask permission for anyone else to be

present at the interview).

• Explicitly make your actions for the benefit of the patient.

• Do not argue; agree to disagree if consensus cannot be reached.

• Accept that, in some patients, trust may take time to develop.

Communicate effectively

• Be specific—explain what you think the diagnosis is and what the management should be.

• Avoid jargon—use layman’s language, or explain specialist terms which you use.

• Avoid ambiguity—clarify precisely what you mean and what your plans are. Be explicit in your statements to patients (e.g. say ‘I will ask one of our nurses to visit you at home on Monday morning’, rather than ‘I’ll arrange some community support for you’).

• Connect the advice to the patient—explain why you think what you do and what it is about the patient’s symptoms that suggest the diagnosis to you.

• Use repetition and recapitulation—use the ‘primacy/recency’ effect to your advantage. Restate the important information first, and repeat it at the end.

• Break up/write down—most of what is said to patients in medical interviews is rapidly forgotten or distorted. Make the information easier to remember by breaking it up into a numbered list. Consider providing personalized written information, in addition to any advice leaflets, etc. that you give the patient. This is imperative if the advice is complex and specific (e.g. dosage regimes for medication).

Instil hope

• Patients with mental health problems often feel extremely isolated and cut off from others, and they may feel that they are the only people ever to experience their symptoms. Reassure them that you recognize their symptoms as part of a pattern representing a treatable illness.

• Convey to the patient your belief that this illness is understandable and that there are prospects for recovery.

• Counteract unrealistic beliefs (e.g. the fear of ‘losing my mind’ or of ‘being locked away forever’).

• Where cure is not possible, emphasize that there is still much that can be done to manage the illness and ameliorate symptoms.

Encourage self-help

• Be clear to the patient what they can do to help themselves, e.g. maintain treatment adherence ( Medication adherence, p. 994), avoid exacerbating factors (e.g. drug or alcohol misuse), consider lifestyle changes (e.g. house move, relationship counselling).

• Provide written self-help materials appropriate to the current disorder ( Resources for patients, p. 1072).

• Where appropriate, encourage contact/attendance at voluntary treatment organizations, self-help groups, or patient organizations ( Resources for patients, p. 1072). Develop knowledge of, and links with, local resources and aim to have their contact numbers

and location information available at the consultation.


The history should, as far as possible, be gathered in the standard order presented here. This provides structure and logical coherence to the questioning, both for the doctor and the patient, and it is less likely that items will be omitted.

Basic information

Name, age, and marital status. Current occupation. Route of referral. Current legal status (detained under the Mental Health Act?).

Presenting complaints

Number and brief description of presenting complaints. Which is the most troublesome symptom?

History of presenting complaints

For each individual complaint, record its nature (in the patient’s own words as far as possible), chronology, severity, associated symptoms, and associated life events occurring at or about the same time. Note precipitating, aggravating, and relieving factors. Have these or similar symptoms occurred before? To what does the patient attribute their symptoms?

Past psychiatric and medical history

Previous psychiatric diagnoses. Chronological list of episodes of psychiatric inpatient, day hospital, and outpatient care. Current medical conditions. Chronological list of episodes of medical or

surgical illness. Episodes of symptoms for which no treatment was sought. Any illnesses treated by the GP.

Drug history

List names and doses of current medication (have they been taking it?) Previous psychiatric drug treatments. History of adverse reactions or drug allergy. Any non-prescribed or alternative medications taken.

Family history

Family tree (see Fig. 2.1) detailing names, ages, relationships, and illnesses of first- and second-degree relatives. Are there any familial illnesses?

Personal history

Childhood Were there problems during their pregnancy or delivery? Did they reach development milestones normally? Was their childhood happy? In what sort of family were they raised?

Education Which primary and secondary schools did they attend? If more than one of each, why was this? Did they attend mainstream or specialist schools? Did they enjoy school—if not, why? At what age did they leave school and with what qualifications? Type of further education and qualifications attained. If they left higher education before completing the course, why was this?


Chronological list of jobs. Which job did they hold for the longest period? Which job did they enjoy most? If the patient has had a series of jobs—why did they leave each? Account for periods of unemployment in the patient’s history. Is the type of job undertaken consistent with the patient’s level of educational attainment?


Sexual orientation. Chronological account of major relationships. Reasons for relationship breakdown. Are they currently in a relationship? Do they have any children from the current or previous relationships? With whom do the children live? What relationship does the patient have with them?


( Assessing risk of violence, p. 748; Suggested format for criminal court report, p. 770). Have they been charged or convicted of any offences? What sentence did they receive? Do they have outstanding charges or convictions at the moment?

Social background information

Current occupation. Are they working at the moment? If not, how long have they been off work and why? Current family/relationship situation. Alcohol and illicit drug use ( Assessment of the patient with alcohol problems, p. 584; Assessment of the drug user, p. 630). Main recreational activities.

Premorbid personality

How would they describe themselves before they became ill? How would others have described them?

Fig. 2.1 A family tree diagram. Mental state examination

The MSE is an ordered summary of the examining doctor’s observations as to the patient’s mental experiences and behaviour at the time of interview. Its purpose is to suggest evidence for and against a diagnosis of mental disorder and, if a mental disorder is present, to record the current type and severity of symptoms. The information obtained should, together with the psychiatric history, enable a judgement to be made regarding the presence and severity of any mental disorder and the risk of harm to self or others.

The required information can be obtained during the course of history-taking or in a systematic fashion afterwards. The MSE should be recorded and presented in a standardized format, although the information contained may derive from material gained in different ways. It is helpful to record the patient’s description of significant symptoms, word for word.


• Apparent age.

• Racial origin.

• Style of dress.

• Level of cleanliness.

• General physical condition.

• Abnormal involuntary movements, including tics, grimaces,

stereotypies, dyskinetic movements, tremors, etc.


• Appropriateness of behaviour. • Level of motor activity.

• Apparent level of anxiety.

• Eye contact.

• Rapport.

• Abnormal movement or posture. • Episodes of aggression.

• Distractibility.


• Volume, rate, and tone.

• Quantity and fluency.

• Abnormal associations, clang, and punning.

• Flight of ideas. Mood

• Subjective and objective assessment of mood.

• Mood evaluation should include the quality, range, depth,

congruence, appropriateness, and communicability of the mood


• Anxiety and panic symptoms.

• Obsessions and compulsions.


• Hallucinations and pseudo-hallucinations.

• Depersonalization and derealization. Illusions and imagery.

Thought form

• Linearity.

• Goal-directedness.

• Associational quality.

• Formal thought disorder.

Thought content

• Delusions.

• Over-valued ideas.

• Preoccupations.

• Obsessive thoughts, ideas, and impulses.

• Thoughts of suicide or deliberate self-harm.

• Thoughts of harm to others. Assess intent, lethality of intent, plan,

and inimicality. Does the patient show any urge to act upon the plan?


• Attention and concentration.

• Orientation to time, place, and person. • Level of comprehension.

• Short-term memory.


• Does the patient feel his experiences are as a result of illness? • Will he accept medical advice and treatment?

Case summary

The written and oral presentation of the results of a clinical interview should follow a standard format: history, MSE, results of physical examination, and case summary. The case summary can take a variety of forms, but the structure suggested here is suitable for most situations. You should include a brief synopsis of the case, a differential diagnosis with your favoured working diagnosis, and a comment on the aetiological factors in this patient.


This should be a short paragraph summarizing the salient points of the preceding information and covering:

• Basic personal information.

• Previous psychiatric diagnosis.

• Description of the presentation.

• Description of current symptoms. • Positive features on MSE.

• Suicide risk.

• Attitude to illness.

Differential diagnosis

This will usually be a short list of two or three possibilities. In an exam situation, mention other less likely possibilities you would consider in order to exclude. Your presentation should have directed you towards choosing one as your working diagnosis.


For general psychiatric patients, the formulation should include comments on why the person has become ill and why now. You should identify the ‘three Ps’: predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors for the current illness. This information will be important in guiding a suitable management plan. So, for example, in a patient with depressed mood following the birth of a baby, predisposing factors could be a family history of depressive illness, ♀ sex; precipitating factors could be the postnatal period, job loss, a change of role, and feelings of inadequacy; and prolonging factors could be disturbed sleep and an unsupportive partner.

Management plan

Following the presentation of history, MSE, physical examination, and formulation, you would normally go on to present or to document your initial management plan, including recommended investigations, initial drug treatment, comment on risk management, and advice to other healthcare professionals involved with the patient’s care.

Observations of appearance and behaviour

The greater part of the MSE consists of empathic questioning about the patient’s internal experiences. Nonetheless, important information regarding the mental state can be obtained from careful observation of the patient’s appearance, behaviour, and manner, both during the interview and, in some cases, later on the ward. This is particularly important in some situations, e.g. with a patient who may be concealing the presence of psychotic symptoms or where there is reason to doubt the patient’s account.

Take time to observe the patient during the interview, and ask yourself the following questions. If possible, ask nursing staff about behaviour on the ward (e.g. does he have any abnormal movements or mannerisms? How does he interact with other patients? Does he appear to be responding to unseen voices or commands?).

What is the patient’s appearance?

Describe the patient’s physical appearance and racial origin. Compare what age they appear with their actual age (i.e. biological vs chronological age). What is their manner of dress? Patients with manic illnesses may dress in an excessively formal, flamboyant, or sexually inappropriate manner. Patients with cognitive impairment may have mismatched or wrongly buttoned clothing.

What is the patient’s behaviour during the interview?

Are there episodes of tearfulness? Do they attend to the interview or do they appear distracted? Do they maintain an appropriate level of eye contact? Do you feel that you have established rapport?

What is the patient’s level of activity during the interview?

Does the patient appear restless or fidgety? Do they settle to a chair or pace during interview? Is there a normal level of gesticulation during conversation?

Is there any evidence of self-neglect?

Does the patient have lower-than-normal standards of self-care and personal hygiene? Are they malodorous, unshaven, or dishevelled? Are their clothes clean? Are there cigarette burns or food stains on their clothes?

Is the patient’s behaviour socially inappropriate?

Is there embarrassing, overly familiar, or sexually forward behaviour? All are seen in manic illness or where there is cognitive impairment.

Is the patient’s behaviour threatening, aggressive, or violent?

In manner or in speech, does the patient appear hostile or threatening? Do you feel at risk? Is there aggressive or violent behaviour on display during the interview? What prompts it?

Are there any abnormal movements?

Does the patient have repetitive or rocking movements or bizarre posturing (stereotypies)? Do they perform voluntary, goal-directed activities in a bizarre way (mannerisms)? What is their explanation for this? For patients on neuroleptic medication, is there evidence of side effects (e.g. stiffness, rigidity, tremor, akathisia)?

Is the patient distractible or appearing to be responding to hallucinations?

Does the patient appear to be attending to a voice other than yours? Are they looking around the room as if for the source of a voice? Are they murmuring or mouthing soundlessly to themselves? Are there episodes of giggling, verbal outbursts, or other unexplained actions?


The content of the patient’s speech (i.e. what they say) will be our major source of information for their history and mental state. The form of their speech (i.e. how they say it) is abnormal in a number of mental disorders and should be observed and commented upon.

Is there any speech at all?

A small number of patients are mute during interview. Here the doctor should aim to comment on the apparent level of comprehension (does the patient appear to understand what is said, e.g. shakes or nods their head appropriately), the level of alternate communication (can they write answers down, do they point or use gestures?), and the level of structural impairment of the organs of speech (a patient who can cough on demand is demonstrably able to oppose both vocal cords normally).

What is the quantity of speech?

Are answers unduly brief or monosyllabic? Conversely, are they inappropriately prolonged? Does the speech appear pressured, i.e. is there copious, rapid speech, which is hard to interrupt?

What is the rate of speech?

There is a wide variation in normal rates of speech across even the regions of the UK. Is the patient’s speech unusually slow or unusually rapid, given the expected rate? This may reflect acceleration or deceleration in the speed of thought in affective illnesses.

What is the volume and quality of speech?

Does the patient whisper or speak inappropriately loudly? Is there stuttering or slurring of speech?

What is the tone and rhythm of speech?

Even in a non-tonal language like English, normal speech has a musical quality, with the intonation of the voice and rhythm of the sentences conveying meaning (i.e. the rise in tone at the end of a question). Loss of this range of intonation and rhythmic pattern is seen in chronic psychotic illnesses.

How appropriate is the speech?

Is the content of speech appropriate to the situation? Does the patient answer questions appropriately? Are there inappropriate or pointless digressions? Can the meaning of the speech always be followed?

Is there abnormal use of language?

Are there word-finding difficulties, which may suggest an expressive dysphasia? Are there neologisms (i.e. made-up words or normal words used in an idiosyncratic manner)?

Abnormal mood

In describing disorders of mood, we draw a distinction between affect (the emotional state prevailing at a given moment) and mood (the emotional state over a longer period). To use a meteorological analogy, affect represents the weather, whereas mood is the climate. Variations in affect—from happiness to sadness, irritability to enthusiasm—are within everyone’s normal experience. Assessment of pathological abnormality of affect involves assessing the severity, longevity, and ubiquity of the mood disturbance and its association with other pathological features suggestive of a mood disorder.

Depressed mood is the most common symptom of the mood disorders and, in its milder forms, has been experienced by most people at some point. Its experience is personal and is described in a variety of ways by different people—as a profound lowering of spirits, subjectively different from normal unhappiness; as an unpleasant absence of emotions or emotional range; and as a more physical symptom of ‘weight’ or ‘blackness’ weighing down on the head or chest. Increasingly, severe forms of depressed mood are indicated by the patient’s rating of greater severity, as compared with previous experience, pervasiveness of the low mood to all situations, and reactivity of mood (i.e. ability of the mood to be lightened by pleasurable or encouraging events).

The two central clinical features of depressive illness are: (1) pervasively depressed and unreactive mood; and (2) anhedonia— the loss of pleasure in previously pleasurable activities. The clinical picture also includes the ‘biological features of depression’, thoughts of self-harm, and, in more severe cases, mood-congruent psychotic features. The biological features include disturbance of sleep [particularly early morning wakening (EMW) and difficulty getting off to sleep], reduced appetite, loss of libido, reduced energy levels, and subjective impression of poorer concentration and memory. Many

depressed patients will have thoughts of deliberate self-harm or ending their lives as a way of ending their suffering. With increasingly severe depressed mood, there are increasingly frequent and formed plans of suicide. The development of a sense of hopelessness about the future is a worrying sign.

Mania and depression are often thought of as two extremes of illness, with normality or euthymia in the middle. Morbid change in mood (either elevation or depression) can more accurately be considered as being on one side of a coin, with normality on the other. Some patients display both manic and depressive features in the one episode—a mixed affective state. Manic and depressive illnesses have, in common, lability (i.e. susceptibility to change) of mood, irritability, sleep, and an increase in subjective anxiety.

The core features of manic illnesses are sustained, inappropriate elevation in mood (often described as feeling on top of the world) and a distorted or inflated estimate of one’s importance and abilities. The clinical picture also includes lability of mood, irritability, activity levels, disturbed sleep pattern with a sense of diminished need for sleep, and subjectively improved memory and concentration despite an objective deterioration in these skills. With increasingly severe episodes of manic illness, there is loss of judgement, an increase in inappropriate and risky behaviour, and the development of mood-congruent delusions.

Asking about depressed mood

‘How has your mood been lately?’

Patients vary in their ability to introspect and assess their mood. Beginning with general questioning allows a more unbiased account of mood problems. Report any description of depression in the patient’s own words. Ask the patient to assess the depth of depression (e.g. ‘on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is normal and 1 is as depressed as you have ever felt, how would you rate your mood now?’; how long has the mood been as low as this?). Note any discrepancy between the patient’s report of mood and the objective signs of mood disturbance.

‘Does your mood vary over the course of a day?’

Clarify if the mood varies as the day goes on. If mood improves in the evening, does it return completely to normal? Does anything else change as the day goes on, to account for the mood change (e.g. more company in the evenings)?

‘Can you still enjoy the things you used to enjoy?’

By this point of the interview, you should have some idea about the activities the patient formerly enjoyed. Depressed patients describe a lack of interest in their previous pursuits, participation in activities, and a sense of any participation being more of an effort.

‘How are you sleeping?’

Many patients will simply describe their sleep as ‘terrible’. They should be asked further about time to bed, time falling asleep, wakefulness throughout the night, time of waking in the morning, quality of sleep (is it refreshing?), and any daytime napping.

‘What is your appetite like at the moment?’

Patients reporting a change in their appetite should be asked about the reasons for this (loss of interest in food, loss of motivation to prepare food, or swallowing difficulties?). Has there been recent weight loss? Do their clothes still fit?

‘How is your concentration?’

Clarify any reported decline by asking about the ability to perform standard tasks. Can they read a newspaper? Can they watch a TV show? Ask about work performance.

‘What is your memory like at the moment?’

Again, clarify any reported decline.

‘How is the sexual side of your relationship?’

Potentially embarrassing topics are best approached in a professional and matter-of-fact way. It is important to enquire about this directly, as the symptom of loss of libido can cause considerable suffering for the patient and partner and is less likely than other symptoms to be mentioned spontaneously. During treatment, this symptom should again be asked about, as many psychotropic drugs negatively affect sexual performance.

‘Do you have any worries on your mind at the moment?’

Depressed patients tend to preferentially dwell on negative issues. ‘Do you feel guilty about anything at the moment?’ Patients with depressive illnesses often report feelings of guilt or remorse about current or historical events. In severe illnesses, these feelings can become delusional. Aim to assess the presence and nature of guilty


Asking about thoughts of self-harm

Completed suicide is an unfortunately common outcome in many psychiatric conditions. Thoughts of self-harm occur commonly and should always be enquired about. Many patients with a mental illness of any severity will have had such thoughts at some stage. It should be emphasized that asking about self-harm does not ‘put the idea in their head’, and patients may welcome the chance to discuss such worrying thoughts.

The assessment is not only of the presence of suicidal thoughts, but also of their severity, frequency, and the likelihood of them being followed by suicidal action. One suggested method involves asking about behaviours and thoughts associated with increasing suicide risk. This tactful enquiry can be made, in addition to an estimate of risk. The aim is not to trap the patient into an unwanted disclosure, but to assess the severity of suicidal intent, and hence the attendant risk of completed suicide.

‘How do you feel about the future?’

Patients often remain optimistic of improvement despite severe symptoms. Hopelessness about the future and a feeling that things will never get better are worrying.

‘Have you ever thought that life was not worth living?’

A consequence of hopelessness is the feeling that anything, even nothingness, would be better.

‘Have you ever wished you could go to bed and not wake up in the morning?’

Passive thoughts of death are common in mental illness and can also be found in normal elderly people towards the end of life,

particularly after the deaths of spouses and peers.

‘Have you had thoughts of ending your life?’

If yes, enquire about the frequency of these thoughts—are they fleeting and rapidly dismissed, or more prolonged? Are they becoming more common?

‘Have you thought about how you would do it?’

Ask about methods of suicide the patient has considered. Particularly worrying are violent methods that are likely to succeed (e.g. shooting, hanging, or jumping from a height).

‘Have you made any preparations?’

Aim to establish how far the patient’s plans have progressed from ideas to action. Have they considered a place, bought pills, carried out a final act (e.g. suicide note, or begun putting their affairs in order)?

‘Have you tried to take your own life?’

Further assessment may be needed if there has been a recent concealed attempt (e.g. overdose).

Self-injurious behaviours

Some patients report causing harm to themselves, sometimes repeatedly, without reporting a desire to die (e.g. lacerate their arms, legs, or abdomen; burn themselves with cigarettes). In these cases, enquire about the reasons for this behaviour, which may be obscure, even to the person concerned. In what circumstances do they harm themselves? What do they feel and think before harming themselves? How do they feel afterwards?

Asking about elevated mood

‘How has your mood been lately?’

As for enquiries about depressed mood, begin with a very general question. Report the patient’s description of their mood in their own words. Clarify what the patient means by general statements such as ‘on top of the world’.

‘Do you find your mood is changeable at the moment?’

Besides general elevation in mood, patients with mania often report lability of mood, with tearfulness and irritability, as well as elation. The pattern and type of mood variation should be noted, if present.

‘What is your thinking like at the moment?’

Patients with mania often report a subjective increase in the speed and ease of thinking, with many ideas occurring to them, each with a wider variety of associated thoughts than normal. This experience, together with the nature of their ideas, should be explored and described.

‘Do you have any special gifts or talents?’

A characteristic feature of frank mania is the belief that they have exceptional abilities of some kind (e.g. as great writers or painters) or that they have some particular insight to offer the world (e.g. the route to achieving world peace). These beliefs may become frankly delusional, with the patient believing they have special or magical powers. The nature of these beliefs and their implications and meaning for the patient should be described.

‘How are you sleeping?’

Manic patients describe finding sleep unnecessary or a distraction from their current plans. Enquire about the length and quality of sleep.

‘What is your appetite like at the moment?’

Appetite is variable in manic illnesses. Some patients describe having no time or patience for the preparation of food; others eat excessively and spend excessively on food and drink. Ask about recent weight gain or loss and about a recent typical day’s food intake.

‘How is your concentration?’

Typically, manic patients have impaired concentration and may report this; in this case, the complaint should be clarified by examples of impairment. Some manic patients overestimate their concentration, along with other subjective estimates of ability. Report on objective measures of concentration (e.g. attention to interview

questioning or ability to retain interest in newspapers or TV while on the ward).

‘How is the sexual side of your relationship?’

Again, this topic should be broached directly and straightforwardly. Manic patients sometimes report interest in sexual activity. Clarify the patient’s estimate of his or her own sexual attractiveness and recent increase in sexual activity or promiscuity.

Anxiety symptoms

Anxiety symptoms are the most common type of symptoms seen in patients with psychiatric disorders. They are the core clinical features of the ICD-10 neurotic disorders (which are indeed called anxiety disorders in DSM-5) and are also prominent clinical features in psychotic illnesses, affective illness, organic disorders, and drug and alcohol use and withdrawal.

Anxiety has two components: psychic anxiety—an unpleasant effect in which there is subjective tension, arousal, and fearful apprehension; and somatic anxiety—bodily sensations of palpitations, sweating, dyspnoea, pallor, and abdominal discomfort. The sensations of anxiety are related to autonomic arousal and cognitive appraisal of threat, which were adaptive primitive survival reactions.

Anxiety symptoms are part of normal healthy experience, particularly before novel, stressful, or potentially dangerous situations. Moderate amounts of anxiety can optimize performance (the so-called ‘Yerkes–Dobson’ curve—plotting performance level against anxiety shows an inverse U shape). They become pathological when they are abnormally severe or abnormally prolonged, or if they are present at a level out of keeping with the real threat of the situation.

Anxiety symptoms may be present at a more or less constant level —generalized anxiety; or they may occur only episodically—panic attacks. Anxiety symptoms may or may not have an identifiable stimulus. Where a stimulus can be identified, it may be very specific, as in a simple phobia (e.g. fear of cats or spiders), or it may be more generalized, as in social phobia and agoraphobia. In phobias of all

kinds, there is avoidance of the feared situation. Because this avoidance is followed by a reduction in unpleasant symptoms, it is reinforced and is liable to be repeated. Breaking of this cycle is the basis of desensitization methods of treating phobias ( Behaviour therapy, p. 908).

The repetition of behaviours in order to achieve reduction in the experience of anxiety is also seen in the symptoms of obsessions and compulsions. Here, the patient regards the thoughts (obsessions) and/or actions (compulsions) as purposeless but is unable to resist thinking about them or carrying them out. Resistance to their performance produces rising anxiety levels, which are diminished by repeating the resisted behaviour.

Asking about anxiety symptoms

In enquiring about anxiety symptoms, aside from the nature, severity, and precipitants of the symptoms, it is important to establish in all cases the impact they are having on the person’s life. Record what particular activities or situations are avoided because of their symptoms and, in the case of obsessional symptoms, note how much time the patient spends on them.

‘Would you say you were an anxious person?’ There is a wide variation in the normal level of arousal and anxiety. Some people are inveterate ‘worriers’, while others appear relaxed at all times.

‘Recently, have you been feeling particularly anxious or on edge?’

Ask the patient to describe when the symptoms began. Was there any particular precipitating event or trauma?

‘Do any particular situations make you more anxious than others?’

Establish whether the symptoms are constant or fluctuating. If the latter, enquire about those situations that cause worsening or improvement.

‘Have you ever had a panic attack?’ Ask the patient to describe to you what they mean by this. A classical panic attack is described as sudden in onset, with gradual resolution over 30–60min. There are physical symptoms of dyspnoea, tachycardia, sweating, chest tightness/chest pain, and paraesthesiae (related to over-breathing); coupled with psychological symptoms of subjective tension and apprehension that ‘something terrible is going to happen’.

‘Do any thoughts or worries keep coming back to your mind, even though you try to push them away?’

‘Do you ever find yourself spending a lot of time doing the same thing over and over—like checking things or cleaning—even though you’ve already done it well enough?’ Besides identifying the type of repetitive thought or action involved, it is important to establish that the thoughts or impulses are recognized as the person’s own (in contrast with thought insertion in psychotic illness) and that they are associated with resistance (although active resistance may diminish in chronic OCD). Patients with obsessional thoughts often worry that they are ‘losing their mind’ or that they will act on a particular thought (e.g. a mother with an obsessional image of smothering her baby). Where the symptom is definitively that of an obsession, the patient can be reassured that they will not carry it out.

Abnormal perceptions

Abnormal perceptual experiences form part of the clinical picture of many mental disorders. Equally, the range of normal perceptual experience is very wide. Patients vary in their ability to explain their subjective perceptual experiences.

The brain constantly receives large amounts of perceptual information via the five special senses—vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell; the muscle, joint, and internal organ proprioceptors, and the vestibular apparatus. The majority of this information is processed unconsciously, and only a minority reaches conscious awareness at any one time. An external object is represented internally by a sensory percept that combines with memory and experience to produce a meaningful internal percept in the conscious mind. In health, we can clearly distinguish between percepts which represent real objects and those which are the result of internal imagery or fantasy, which may be vividly experienced in the mind but are recognized as not real.

Abnormal perceptual experiences may be divided into two types:

• Altered perceptions—including sensory distortions and illusions— in which there is a distorted internal perception of a real external


• False perceptions—including hallucinations and pseudo- hallucinations—in which there is an internal perception without an external object.

Sensory distortions are changes in the perceived intensity or quality of a real external stimulus. They are associated with organic conditions and with drug ingestion or withdrawal. Hyperacusis (experiencing sounds as abnormally loud) and micropsia (perceiving objects as smaller and further away, as if looking through the wrong end of a telescope) are examples of sensory distortions.

Illusions are altered perceptions in which a real external object is combined with mental imagery to produce a false internal percept. Both lowered attention and heightened affect will predispose to experiencing illusions.

Affect illusions occur at times of heightened emotion (e.g. while walking through a dangerous area late at night, a person may see a tree blowing in the wind as an attacker lunging at them).

Completion illusions rely on our brain’s tendency to ‘fill in’ presumed missing parts of an object to produce a meaningful percept and are the basis for many types of optical illusion. Both these types of illusions resolve on closer attention.

Pareidolic illusions are meaningful percepts produced when experiencing a poorly defined stimulus (e.g. seeing faces in a fire or in clouds).

Hallucinations A hallucination is defined as ‘a percept without an object’ (Esquirol, 1838). As symptoms of major mental disorders, hallucinations are the most significant type of abnormal perception. It is important to appreciate that the subjective experience of hallucination is that of experiencing a normal percept in that modality of sensation. A true hallucination will be perceived as being in external space, distinct from imagined images, outside conscious control, and as possessing relative permanence. A pseudo- hallucination will lack one or all of these characteristics and be subjectively experienced as internal or ‘in my head’. The only characteristic of true perceptions which true hallucinations lack is publicness; hallucinating patients may accept that their experiences are not shared by others around them in the same way as a normal sensory experience.

Auditory hallucinations are most frequently seen in functional psychoses. Three experiences of auditory hallucinations are first- rank symptoms in schizophrenia. These are:

• Hearing a voice speak one’s thoughts aloud.

• Hearing a voice narrating one’s actions. • Hearing two or more voices arguing.

Visual hallucinations are associated with organic disorders of the brain and with drug and alcohol intoxication and withdrawal. They are very rarely seen in psychotic illness alone but are reported in association with dementias, cortical tumours, and stimulant and hallucinogen ingestion, and, most commonly, in delirium tremens. The visual hallucinations seen in delirium tremens are characteristically ‘Lilliputian hallucinations’ of miniature animals or people.

Olfactory and gustatory hallucinations may be difficult to distinguish and occur in a wide range of mental disorders. Olfactory hallucinations occur in epileptic auras, in depressive illnesses (where the smell is described as unpleasant or repulsive to others), and in schizophrenia. They may also occur in association with a persistent delusion of malodorousness.

Hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations are transient false perceptions which occur on falling asleep (hypnagogic) or on waking (hypnopompic). They may have the characteristics of true or pseudo- hallucinations and are most commonly visual or auditory. While they are sometimes seen in narcolepsy and affective illnesses, they are not indicative of ill health and are frequently reported by healthy people.

Elemental hallucinations are the hallucinatory experience of simple sensory elements such as flashes of light or unstructured noises. They are associated with organic states.

Extracampine hallucinations are those false perceptions where the hallucination is of an external object beyond the normal range of perception of the sensory organs.

Functional hallucinations are hallucinations of any modality that are experienced simultaneously with a normal stimulus in that modality (e.g. a patient who only experiences auditory hallucinations when he hears the sound of the ward’s air conditioning).

Reflex hallucinations are hallucinations in one modality of sensation experienced after experiencing a normal stimulus in another modality of sensation.

Asking about abnormal perceptions

Asking patients about their experience of abnormal perceptions and abnormal beliefs (e.g. hallucinations and delusions) presents a number of problems for the examiner. Unlike symptoms such as anxiety, these symptoms are not part of normal experience, and so the examiner will not have the same degree of empathic understanding. Patients will often fear the reaction of others to the revelation of psychotic symptoms (fear of being thought ‘mad’) and so conceal them. When such symptoms are not present, patients may resent such questioning or regard it as strange or insulting.

As with most potentially embarrassing topics, the best approach is frankness, lack of embarrassment, and straightforwardness. If the interview thus far has not led to report of psychotic symptoms, the examiner should begin by saying something like the following.

‘Now I want to ask you about some experiences which sometimes people have but find difficult to talk about. These are questions I ask everyone.’ This makes clear that these questions are not as a result of suspicion in the examiner’s mind or an indicator of how seriously they regard the patient’s problems.

‘Have you ever had the sensation that you were unreal—or that the world had become unreal?’ The symptoms of depersonalization and derealization are non-specific symptoms in a variety of affective and psychotic conditions. Many patients find them difficult or impossible to explain clearly, commonly describing the experience as ‘like being in a play’. Patients often worry about these experiences, fearing they presage ‘going mad’. They may therefore be reluctant to mention them spontaneously.

‘Have you ever had the experience of hearing noises or voices when there was no one about to explain it?’ If the patient agrees, then this experience should be further clarified: When did this occur? Was the patient fully awake? How often? Where did the sound appear to come from? If a voice was heard, what did it say? Did the patient recognize the voice? Was there more than one? How did the

voice refer to the patient (e.g. as ‘you’ or ‘him’)? Can the patient give examples of the sort of things the voice said?

‘Have you seen any visions?’ Again, clarify when and how often the experience occurred. What were the circumstances? Was the vision seen with the ‘mind’s eye’ or perceived as being in external space? Was it distinct from the surroundings or seen as part of the wallpaper or curtain pattern?

‘Do you ever notice smells or tastes that other people aren’t bothered by?’ Again, clarify the details surrounding any positive response. Aim to distinguish olfactory hallucinations (where there is the experience of an abnormal odour) from a patient who has a delusion that he is malodorous.

Abnormal beliefs

Examination of the patient’s ideas and beliefs will form an important part of the MSE. Abnormal or false beliefs include primary and secondary delusions and over-valued ideas. More so than other symptoms of mental ill health, a patient with delusions fits the common preconceptions of ‘madness’. Delusions are important symptoms in the diagnosis of the major psychoses.


A delusion is a pathological belief which has the following characteristics:

• It is held with absolute subjective certainty and cannot be

rationalized away.

• It requires no external proof and may be held in the face of

contradictory evidence.

• It has personal significance and importance to the individual


• It is not a belief which can be understood as part of the subject’s

cultural or religious background.

Note: although the content of the delusion is usually demonstrably

false and bizarre in nature, this is not invariably so.

A secondary delusion is one whose development can be

understood in the light of another abnormality in the mental state

(e.g. the development of delusions of poverty in a severely depressed patient).

A primary delusion cannot be understood in this way and must be presumed as arising directly from the pathological process. Delusions can be categorized by their content or by the manner in which they are perceived as having arisen.

Over-valued ideas

An over-valued idea is a non-delusional, non-obsessional abnormal belief. Here, the patient has a belief which is, in itself, acceptable and comprehensible but which is preoccupying and comes to dominate their thinking and behaviour. The idea is not perceived as external or senseless but will generally have great significance to the patient. Over-valued ideas may have a variety of contents in different disorders (e.g. concern over physical appearance in dysmorphophobia; concern over weight and body shape in anorexia nervosa; concern over personal rights in paranoid personality disorder).

Asking about abnormal beliefs

Both at the initial interview and during subsequent treatment, professional staff dealing with a deluded patient should avoid colluding in the delusional belief system. The doctor should not be drawn into arguments about the truth of the delusion—by their nature, delusions cannot be argued or rationalized away, and arguments of this type can damage rapport. Nonetheless, the doctor should always make clear to the patient that he regards the delusional symptom as a symptom of mental ill health, albeit one which is very real and important to the patient concerned.

Delusional ideas vary in their degree of detail and in their intensity over the course of an illness episode. In evolving psychotic illness, there will often be a perplexing sense of ‘something not being right’ and ill-formed symptoms such as a vague sense that they are being spied upon or persecuted in some way. As the delusion becomes more fully formed, it comes to dominate the person’s thinking and becomes more elaborated—more detailed and with more ‘evidence’ produced to support the belief. With treatment, the delusion will

hopefully fade in importance and the person may come to appreciate the belief as false or, despite holding to its initial truth, will regard it as no longer important.

‘Do you have any particular worries preying on your mind at the moment?’ Beginning with a very general question like this offers the patient an opportunity to broach a topic which may have been concerning them but which they have been putting off mentioning.

‘Do you ever feel that people are watching you or paying attention to what you are doing?’ Ask the patient to describe this sensation and an episode of its occurrence. Distinguish normal self- consciousness or a patient’s awareness of a genuinely notable abnormality from referential delusions. A delusion will generally have further elaboration of the belief—there will be some ‘reason’ why the reported events are happening. Elaboration may take the form of other beliefs about cameras, bugs, etc.

‘When you watch television or read the newspapers, do you ever feel that the stories refer to you directly or to things that you have been doing?’ Invite the patient to elaborate further on a positive response. Again, probe for further elaboration of the belief and seek examples of when it has occurred.

‘Do you ever feel that people are trying to harm you in any way?’

Persecutory delusions are among the most common features of psychotic illness. There is potential for diagnostic confusion with paranoid personality traits, with suspicion and resentfulness towards medical and nursing staff and with genuine fears, understandable in the context of the patient’s lifestyle (e.g. of retribution from drug dealers or money lenders). Explore the nature and basis of the beliefs and the supporting evidence that the patient advances for them.

‘Do you feel that you are to blame for anything, that you are responsible for anything going wrong?’ Delusions of guilt are seen in psychotic depression, in addition to the psychotic disorders. The affected individual may believe that they are responsible for a crime, occasionally one which has been prominently reported. On occasions, these individuals may ‘turn themselves in’ to the police, rather than seeking medical help.

‘Do you worry that there is anything wrong with your body or that you have a serious illness?’ Hypochondriacal delusions show diagnostic overlap with normal health concerns, hypochondriacal over-valued ideas, and somatization disorder. Clarify this symptom by examining the patient’s evidence for this belief and the firmness with which it is held.

Asking about the first-rank symptoms of


The first-rank symptoms are a group of symptoms which have special significance in the diagnosis of schizophrenia. There is no symptom that is pathognomonic of schizophrenia. The first-rank symptoms are useful because they occur reasonably often in schizophrenia and more rarely in other disorders, and it is not too difficult to tell whether they are present or not. They can all be reported in other conditions (e.g. organic psychoses, manic illnesses). They do not give a guide to severity or prognosis of illness (i.e. a patient with many first-rank symptoms is not ‘worse’ than one with few), and they may not occur at all in a patient who undoubtedly has schizophrenia. There are eleven first-rank symptoms, organized into four categories according to type.

Auditory hallucinations

• ‘Voices heard arguing’. • Thought echo.

• ‘Running commentary’.

Delusions of thought interference

• Thought insertion.

• Thought withdrawal.

• Thought broadcasting.

Delusions of control

• Passivity of affect.

• Passivity of impulse. • Passivity of volitions. • Somatic passivity.

Delusional perception

• A primary delusion of any content that is reported by the patient as having arisen, following the experience of a normal perception.

‘Do you ever hear voices commenting on what you are doing? Or discussing you between themselves? Or repeating your own thoughts back to you?’ For this symptom to be considered first-rank, the experience must be that of a true auditory hallucination where the hallucinatory voice refers to the patient in the third person (i.e. as ‘him’ or ‘her’, rather than ‘you’). Distinguish these experiences from internal monologues.

‘Do you ever get the feeling that someone is interfering with your thoughts—that they are putting thoughts into your head or taking them away? Or that your thoughts can be transmitted to others in some way?’ It is the experience itself that renders this symptom first- rank. The patient may describe additional delusional elaboration (e.g. involving implanted transmitters or radio waves). The important point to clarify with the patient is that the experience is really that of thoughts being affected by an external agency and that it is not simple distraction or absent-mindedness. For thought broadcasting, ensure that the patient is not simply referring to the fact that they are ‘easily read’ or that they give away their emotions or thoughts by their actions.

‘Do you ever get the feeling that you are being controlled? That your thoughts or moods or actions are being forced on you by someone else?’ Again, there may be delusional elaboration of this symptom, but it is the experience itself of an external controller affecting things which are normally experienced as totally under one’s own control which makes this symptom first-rank. Clarify that the actions are truly perceived as controlled by an outside agency, rather than, for example, being directed by auditory hallucinations.

Disorders of the form of thought

In describing psychopathology, we draw a distinction between the content and the form of thought.

Content and form

Content describes the meaning and experience of belief, perception, and memory as described by patients, while form describes the structure and process of thought. In addition to abnormalities of perception and belief, mental disorders can produce abnormality in the normal form of thought processes. This may be suggested by abnormalities in the form of speech, the only objective representation of the thoughts, or may be revealed by empathic questioning designed to elicit the patient’s subjective experiences. When patients mutter to themselves, listen closely to see if it is comprehensible or not. The latter is usually indicative of a disorder of form of thinking. See Box 2.2 for methods of assessing symptoms of thought disorder.

Box 2.2 Assessing symptoms of thought disorder

Patients will rarely directly complain of the symptoms of thought disorder. In assessing the first-rank symptoms of schizophrenia, the doctor will have enquired about delusions of control of thought and about passivity delusions. Both these symptom areas require the patient to introspect their thought processes; however, more rarely, they will be aware of disorders which affect the form, as opposed to the content, of their thoughts. They can be asked directly about the symptoms of acceleration and deceleration of thought, and these symptoms may be directly observable in acceleration or deceleration of speech. Observation and recording of examples of abnormal speech is the method by which a formal thought disorder is assessed. Record examples of the patient’s speech as verbatim quotes, particularly sentences where the meaning or the connection between ideas is not clear to you during the interview. Following recovery, patients can sometimes explain the underlying meaning behind examples of schizophrenic speech.

Thought disorder

Among the psychiatric symptoms that are outside normal experience, thought disorder is challenging to understand and perhaps the most difficult for the clinician to have empathy with. Consider a model of normal thought processes, and use this to

simplify discussions of abnormalities. In this model, we visualize each thought, giving rise to a constellation of associations (i.e. a series of related thoughts). One of these is pursued, which gives rise to a further constellation and so on. This sequence may proceed towards a specific goal driven by a determining tendency (colloquially the ‘train of thought’) or may be undirected as in daydreaming. Disturbances in the form of thought may affect the rate or internal associations of thought.

Accelerated tempo of thought

Accelerated tempo of thought is called flight of ideas. It may be reflected in the speech as pressure of speech or may be described by the patient. The sensation is of the thoughts proceeding more rapidly than can be articulated and of each thought giving rise to more associations than can be followed up. Flight of ideas can be a feature of a manic episode. In the majority of cases of flight of ideas, some form of association of each thought can be discerned. For example, it could be a superficial clang association, alliteration, and punning that proceeds like a game of dominoes where the last move determines the next move. In milder forms, called prolixity, the rate is slow and eventually reaches the goal if allowed adequate time.

Decelerated tempo of thought

Decelerated tempo of thought, or psychic retardation, occurs in depressive illnesses. Here the subjective speed of thought and the range of associations are d. There may be rate of speech and absence of spontaneous speech. In addition, the remaining thoughts tend towards gloomy themes. In both accelerated and decelerated thought, there may be an tendency for the determining tendency of thought to be lost (referred to as distractibility).

Schizophrenic thought disorder

Disturbances of the associations between the thoughts are closely associated with schizophrenia and may be referred to as schizophrenic thought disorder. Four disturbances are classically described: snapping off (entgleiten), fusion (verschmelzung), muddling (faseln), and derailment (entgleisen).

• Snapping off or thought blocking describes the subjective experience of the sudden and unintentional stop in a chain of thought. This may be unexplained by the patient or there may be delusional elaboration (e.g. explained as thought withdrawal).

• Derailment or knight’s move thinking describes a total break in the chain of association between the meanings of thoughts.

• Fusion is when two or more related ideas from a group of associations come together to form one idea.

• Muddling is a mixture of elements of fusion and derailment. Drivelling refers to the resulting speech.

• In mild forms, the determining tendency in the thoughts can be followed ( follow-up of side associations is referred to as circumstantiality).

Abnormal cognitive function

All mental disorders affect cognition as expressed in affect, beliefs, and perceptions. The organic mental illnesses directly affect the higher cognitive functions of conscious level, clarity of thought, memory, and intelligence.

Level of consciousness

This can range from full alertness through to clouding of consciousness, sopor, and coma (pathological unconsciousness), or from full alertness through to drowsiness, shallow sleep, and deep sleep (physiological unconsciousness).


Milder forms of brain insult are characterized by a combination of disorientation, misinterpretation of sensory input, impairment in memory, and loss of the normal clarity of thought—together referred to as confusion. It is the main clinical feature of delirium ( Acute confusional state (delirium), p. 854) and is also present during intoxication with psychotropic substances and occasionally as part of the clinical picture of acute psychotic illnesses.

• Disorientation—an unimpaired individual is aware of who he is and has a constantly updated record of where he is and when it is. With

increasing impairment, there is disorientation for time, then place,

and lastly, with more severe confusion, for person.

• Misinterpretation—with confusion, there is impairment of the normal ability to perceive and attach meaning to sensory stimuli. In frank delirium, there may be hallucinations, particularly visual, and

secondary delusions, particularly of a persecutory nature.

• Memory impairment—with confusion, there is impairment in both the registration of new memories (anterograde amnesia) and recall of established memories (retrograde amnesia). Events occurring during the period of confusion may be unable to be recalled or may be recalled in a distorted fashion, indicating a failure of registration.

• Impaired clarity of thought—the layman’s ‘confusion’. A variable degree of impairment in the normal process of thought with disturbed linkages between meaning, subjective and objective

slowing of thought, impaired comprehension, and bizarre content.


Beyond the ephemeral contents of our minds, containing our current thoughts and current sensorium, our memory contains all records of our experience and personality.

• Working memory—synonymous with short-term memory, which is

responsible for the immediate recall of small amounts of verbal (as in digit span) or visuospatial information. Used for such purposes as holding a telephone number while dialling it. Most people have between 5 and 9 ‘spaces’ available, with an average of 7 (the ‘magic number’). New information will enter at the expense of the old. It has been traditionally held that storage of information in long-term memory is dependent on short-term memory. This is now no longer thought to be true; rather, these two memory components are thought to function independently of each other. For example, patients with even severe impairment of episodic memory (e.g. persons with Korsakoff’s syndrome) can present with normal short-term memory.

• Long-term memory—system for storage of permanent memories, with apparently unlimited capacity. There appear to be separate storage systems for different types of information: memory for events (episodic memory), learnt skills (procedural memory), and

memory of concepts and ideas unrelated to personal experience (semantic memory), which can be differentially affected by disease process.


A person’s intelligence refers to their ability to reason, solve problems, apply previous knowledge to new situations, learn new skills, think in an abstract way, and formulate solutions to problems by internal planning. It is stable through adult life, unless affected by a disease process. Intelligence is measured by the IQ, a unitary measure with a population mean of 100 and a normal distribution. There is a ‘hump’ on the left-hand side of the population curve for IQ representing those individuals with congenital or acquired lowered IQ. No pathological process produces heightened IQ.

Acute vs chronic brain failure

Despite its great complexity, the brain tends to respond to insults, whatever their source, in a variety of stereotyped ways (e.g. delirium, seizure, coma, dementia). These present as clinically similar or identical, whatever their underlying cause. Acute brain failure (delirium) and chronic brain failure (dementia) are two characteristic and stereotyped responses of the brain to injury. In common with other organ failure syndromes, there is an ‘acute-on-chronic’ effect where patients with established chronic impairment are susceptible to developing acute impairment, following an insult which would not cause impairment in a normal brain [e.g. the development of florid delirium in a woman with mild dementia who develops a urinary tract infection (UTI)].

Assessing cognitive function 1

Assessing level of consciousness

The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is a rapid clinical measure of the conscious level (see Box 2.3). In delirium, both the conscious level and the level of confusion may vary rapidly on an hour-by-hour basis and may present as apparently ‘normal’ on occasions. Patients with symptoms suggestive of delirium should therefore be re-examined regularly.

Assessing confusion

Assess orientation by direct questioning. Some degree of uncertainty as to the date and time can be expected in the hospitalized individual who is away from their normal routine. Directly enquire about episodes of perceptual disturbance and their nature. Document examples of confused speech, and comment on the accompanying affect.

Assessing memory

Working memory can be assessed by giving the patient a fictitious address containing six components, asking them to repeat it back, or by testing digit span, spelling of WORLD backwards, etc. Clinicians traditionally used the term ‘short-term memory’ to reflect material held over a short period (e.g. 5–30mins) or some time to refer to retention over the ensuing days or week. There is no evidence, however, from a neuropsychological perspective of a memory system with these characteristics, and one is better occupied in thinking of memory as defined here, and thereafter considering anterograde and retrograde aspects of the same.

Level of intelligence

In most cases, formal IQ testing will not be used and the IQ is assessed clinically. Clinical assessment of IQ is by consideration of the highest level of educational achievement reached and by assessment of the patient’s comprehension, vocabulary, and level of understanding in the course of the clinical interview. To some extent, this technique relies upon experience, giving the doctor a suitable cohort of previous patients for comparison, and allowance should be made for apparent impairment that may be secondary to other abnormalities of the mental state. In any case, if there is significant doubt about the presence of mental impairment, more formal neuropsychological testing should be carried out.

Box 2.3 Glasgow coma scale (GCS)

The GCS is scored between 3 and 15, 3 being the worst (you cannot score 0) and 15 the best. It is composed of three parameters:

Assessing cognitive function 2

A wide range of standardized instruments are available for use in screening for cognitive impairment and for measuring severity and progression in established cases of dementia. There is currently no clear consensus on the best screening instrument, but in general,

[E] Best eye response (maximum score = 4)

1. No eye opening.

2. Eye opening to pain.

3. Eye opening to verbal command. 4. Eyes open spontaneously.

[V] Best verbal response (maximum score = 5)

1. No verbal response.

2. Incomprehensible sounds. 3. Inappropriate words.

4. Confused but converses. 5. Orientated and converses.

[M] Best motor response (maximum score = 6)

1. No motor response. 2. Extension to pain.

3. Flexion to pain.

4. Withdrawal from pain. 5. Localizing pain.

6. Obeys commands.


• The phrase ‘GCS score of 11’ is essentially meaningless; the

figure should be broken down into its components (e.g. quadraplegia + tracheostomy = E4 V1 M1 = GCS score 5, fully conscious).

• A GCS score of 13 or more correlates with mild brain injury, 9– 12 with moderate injury, and 8 or less with severe brain injury.

Reproduced from Teasdale G, Jennett B (1974) Assessment of coma and impaired consciousness. A practical scale. Lancet 304(7872): 81–4, with kind permission from Elsevier.

shorter screening tests are favoured in primary care or general medical settings.

Bedside cognitive testing

Six-item Cognitive Impairment Test (6CIT) (Katzman, 1983) A 6- question, abbreviated form of the older Blessed Information Memory Concentration Scale (BIMC) (1968), which examines orientation, memory, and concentration. Its usage is increasing, following its use

as one component in a standardized assessment (Easycare©) recognized by the Royal College of General Practitioners. A computerized version is also available (Kingshill Version 2000). It is inversely scored and weighted, so that a score of 8 or more out of 28 is suggestive of significant cognitive impairment (sensitivity 78–90%, specificity 100%).

Abbreviated Mental Test (AMT) (Hodkinson, 1972) A 10-item questionnaire testing orientation, memory, and concentration, originally developed by geriatricians as an abbreviated form of the mental test score from the BIMC. Useful for rapid screening for cognitive impairment—indicated by a score of 7 or less out of 10 (sensitivity 70–80%, specificity 71–90%).

Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) (Folstein, 1975) A 30-item questionnaire frequently used in psychiatric settings to screen for, and measure, cognitive impairment. It is included in many guidelines for dementia diagnosis, and there is a large body of research providing reference ranges for a variety of clinical situations and premorbid levels of functioning. A low sensitivity makes it less suitable as a screening test in primary care, but it is often used as a relatively short test to monitor changes in cognitive function over time, particularly in response to treatment. It should be remembered that the MMSE is based almost entirely on verbal assessment of memory and attention. It is insensitive to frontal executive dysfunction and visuospatial deficits. A score of 23–25 or less out of 30 is considered impaired; however, note the low sensitivity and clinical experience which finds, not uncommonly, cognitive impairment in individuals with scores of 30/30 (sensitivity 30–60%, specificity 92–100%).

Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) (Nasreddine, 2005) A 30- item questionnaire, increasingly used in preference to the MMSE, due to its assessment of a broader range of cognitive domains and its greater sensitivity and specificity for mild cognitive impairment. A score of below 26 suggests impairment. It is available in a range of languages and in electronic form.

Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination, third edition (ACE-III) (Mathuranath, 2000) When time permits, or the clinical presentation is more complex, the ACE-III provides a more detailed, 100-item, clinician-administered bedside test of cognitive function. Questions cover five areas of function: attention and orientation, memory, verbal fluency, language, and visuospatial awareness. Detailed data are available to allow interpretation of scoring, and specific training on administration of the test is recommended. The ACE-III has a reported sensitivity of 94% and a specificity of 89% for dementia, with a cut-off score of 88/100.

Collateral information

It is always useful to have third-party information when assessing cognitive function—usually from a spouse, partner, family member, or carer. Third-party information can be more formally assessed using standardized instruments, e.g. the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline (IQCODE).

Further reading

Hodges JR (2007) Cognitive Assessment for Clinicians, 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Supplementary tests of cerebral functioning

Where there is clinical suspicion of specific functional impairment, it is often useful to directly test the functioning of the different cerebral lobes. This provides more detailed supplementary information to the MMSE (which is essentially a screening test). More formal neuropsychological assessment may be required with additional, well-established psychological tests, although these will usually be administered by psychologists.

Frontal lobe functioning

Frontal assessment battery (FAB) A brief (10-min) test of executive function, which essentially regroups tests often used when testing executive function at the bedside. These tests are associated with specific areas of the frontal lobes (i.e. conceptualization with dorsolateral areas; word generation with medial areas) and inhibitory control with orbital or medial areas. The maximum score is 18, and a cut-off score of 12 in patients with dementia has been shown to have a sensitivity of 79% for frontotemporal dementia vs Alzheimer’s disease. However, any performance below 17 may indicate frontal lobe impairment.

The Wisconsin card sorting task The patient has to determine the rule for card allocation and allocate cards accordingly. When the rule changes, a patient with frontal lobe dysfunction is likely to make more errors (tests response inhibition and set shifting).

Digit span Short-term verbal memory is tested with progressively longer number sequences, first forwards (normal maximum digit span 6 ± 1) and subsequently in reverse order (normal maximum 5 ± 1).

Trail-making test A ‘join the dots’ test of visuomotor tracing, testing conceptualization and set shifting. Test A is a simple number sequence; Test B is of alternating numbers and letters (more sensitive for frontal lobe dysfunction).

Cognitive estimate testing The patient is asked a question that requires abstract reasoning and cannot be answered by general knowledge alone (e.g. ‘how many camels are there in the UK?’).

Testing of interpretation of proverbs can be helpful in uncovering concreteness of thought, e.g. ‘People in glass house shouldn’t throw stones’—asking the patient ‘Are you aware of this proverb?’, ‘Can you tell me what this means?’, and ‘Give me a life scenario in which this would apply?’ It is important to note that persons with more orbito-medial frontal lobe damage may present with completely normal neurocognitive assessment, but clinically with histories that are consistent with frontotemporal dementia–behavioural variant.

Parietal lobe functioning

Tests for dominant lesions

Finger agnosia Patient cannot state which finger is being touched, with their eyes closed.

Astereoagnosia Patient unable to recognize the feel of common objects (e.g. coin, pen), with their eyes closed.

Dysgraphaesthesia Inability to recognize letters or numbers written on the hand.

Note: although of disputed clinical value, Gerstmann syndrome is classically described as right–left disorientation, finger agnosia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, due to a lesion of the dominant (usually left) parietal lobe.

Tests for non-dominant lesions

Asomatognosia Patient does not recognize parts of their body (e.g. hand, fingers).

Constructional dyspraxia Inability to draw shapes or construct geometrical patterns.

Other problem areas

• Visual fields (as optic tracts run through the parietal lobe to reach the occipital lobe).

• Speech—alexia, receptive dysphasia (Wernicke’s area); conduction aphasia (cannot repeat a phrase but does understand the meaning).

• Reading/writing (angular gyrus lesions). Insight

The question of whether the patient has insight into the nature of their symptoms tends only to arise in psychiatric illnesses. In general, a patient with physical illness knows that their symptoms represent abnormality and seeks their diagnosis and appropriate treatment. In contrast, a variety of psychiatric illnesses are associated with impairment of insight and the development of alternative explanations by the patient as to the cause of their symptoms, e.g.:

• An elderly man with early dementia who is unable to recall where he leaves objects and attributes this to someone stealing them. He angrily accuses his son of the ‘crime’.

• An adolescent, with developing schizophrenia, who believes his auditory hallucinations and sense of being watched are caused by a neighbour who has planted cameras and loudspeakers in his flat. He repeatedly calls the police and asks them to intervene.

• A middle-aged woman with worsening depression who develops the delusion that she is bankrupt and is shortly to be evicted from her home in disgrace.

Impairment of insight is not specific to any one psychiatric condition and is not generally a diagnostically important symptom. It tends to occur in psychotic and organic illnesses and the more severe forms of depressive illness. Neurotic illnesses and personality disorders are generally not associated with impairment of insight. Impairment of insight can give a crude measure of severity of psychotic symptoms. Regaining of insight into the pathological nature of psychotic beliefs can give a similarly crude measure of improvement with treatment.

Insight can be defined succinctly as ‘the correct attitude to morbid change in oneself’. It is a deceptively simple concept that includes a number of beliefs about the nature of the symptoms, their causation, and the most appropriate way of dealing with them. Insight is sometimes reported as an all-or-nothing measure—as something an individual patient either does or does not have. In fact, insight is most usefully inquired about and reported as a series of health beliefs:

• Does the patient believe that their abnormal experiences are symptoms?

• Does the patient believe their symptoms are attributable to illness?

• Do they believe that the illness is psychiatric?

• Do they believe that psychiatric treatment might benefit them?

• Would they be willing to accept advice from a doctor regarding

their treatment?

Beyond the simple question of whether the patient has impairment

of insight or not, it is vital to understand how the patient views their symptoms, as this will tend to influence their compliance and future help-seeking behaviour. It is important to emphasize that disagreement with the doctor as to the correct course of action does not necessarily indicate lack of insight. A patient may very well not

agree to be admitted to hospital or to take a particular medication, despite having full insight into the nature of their symptoms. In these cases, the doctor should be sure to clarify that the patient has all the necessary information to make a suitable decision before considering the possible need for compulsory treatment.

Physical examination

Examination of the patient’s physical condition is an integral part of a comprehensive psychiatric assessment. There are five main reasons why this is so:

• Physical symptoms may be a direct result of psychiatric illness

[e.g. alcohol dependency ( Medical complications of alcohol misuse, p. 608); eating disorders ( Anorexia nervosa 3: assessment, p. 414); physical neglect in severe depression, schizophrenia, etc.].

• Psychiatric drugs may have physical side effects [e.g. extra- pyramidal side effects (EPSEs) and antipsychotics, hypothyroidism, and lithium, withdrawal syndromes].

• Physical illnesses can cause or exacerbate mental symptoms.

• Occult physical illness may be present.

• In the case of later development of illness (or, more rarely, medico-

legal issues), it is helpful to have baseline physical findings documented.

Physical examination is all too often deferred and then not done, or not done as thoroughly as is indicated. It may well be acceptable to defer full examination on occasions (e.g. a distressed and paranoid man seen in the Emergency Department), but a minimal investigation can be done and completed as the situation allows.

A routine physical examination has the aim of documenting the patient’s baseline physical state, noting the presence or absence of abnormal signs which could be associated with mental or physical illness and highlighting areas requiring further examination or investigation (see Table 2.1).

General condition

Note the height and weight. Does the patient look well or unwell? Are they underweight or are there signs of recent weight loss? Note

bruising or other injuries, and estimate their age.


Radial pulse—rate, rhythm, and character. Blood pressure. Carotid bruits? Heart sounds. Pedal oedema.


Respiratory rate. Expansion. Percussion note. Breath sounds to auscultation.


Swelling or ascites. Masses. Bowel sounds. Hernias.


Pupillary response and other cranial nerves. Wasting. Tone. Power. Sensation. Reflexes. Gait. Involuntary movements.

Table 2.1 Some physical signs in psychiatric illness and possible causes

General examination

Parkinsonian facies

Abnormal pupil size Argyll–Robertson pupil

Enlarged parotids (‘hamster face’)



Multiple forearm scars Multiple tattoos

Needle tracks/phlebitis Gynaecomastia

Russell’s sign (knuckle callus) Lanugo hair

Piloerection (‘goose flesh’) Excessive thinness


Rapid/irregular pulse Slow pulse

Antipsychotic drug treatment

Psychomotor retardation (depression)

Opiate use Neurosyphilis

Bulimia nervosa (secondary to vomiting)

Clozapine treatment

Thyroid disease

Borderline personality disorder Dissocial personality disorder Intravenous drug use Antipsychotic drug treatment Alcoholic liver disease

Bulimia nervosa (secondary to inducing vomiting)

Anorexia nervosa Opiate withdrawal Anorexia nervosa

Anxiety disorder Drug/alcohol withdrawal Hyperthyroidism Hypothyroidism


Enlarged liver

Multiple surgical scars (‘chequerboard’ abdomen)

Multiple self-inflicted scars


Resting tremor Involuntary movements

Abnormal posturing

Festinant (shuffling) gait Broad-based gait

Clinical investigation

Alcoholic liver disease Hepatitis

Somatization disorder Borderline personality disorder

sympathetic drive (anxiety, drug/alcohol misuse)

Antipsychotic drug treatment

Lithium treatment

Antipsychotic drug treatment

Tic disorder

Huntingtons’s/Sydenham’s chorea

Antipsychotic-induced dystonia


Antipsychotic drug treatment

Cerebellar disease (alcohol, lithium toxicity)

Clinical investigations, including blood testing, imaging techniques, and karyotyping, play a smaller role in psychiatry than in other medical specialties. They are mainly carried out to exclude medical conditions which may be part of the differential diagnosis (such as hypothyroidism as a cause of lethargy and low mood) or which may be comorbid. They should generally be carried out as a result of positive findings in the history or physical examination or in order to

exclude serious and reversible occult disorders (such as syphilis as a cause of dementia).

Routine investigations may be carried out to assess general physical health and to provide a baseline measure prior to commencing medication known to have possible adverse effects, e.g. full blood count (FBC), liver function tests (LFTs), and antipsychotic medication; and urea and electrolytes (U&Es), creatinine clearance, and thyroid function tests (TFTs) prior to lithium therapy. Specific screening and monitoring tests are detailed in specific sections. It is good practice to screen new patients with some standard tests, and the usual test battery will include: FBC (and differential), U&Es, LFTs, TFTs, and glucose. Where there is suspicion of drug or alcohol misuse/dependency, mean corpuscular volume (MCV), B12/folate, and toxicology screening may be added.

Other physical investigations are rarely requested (with perhaps the exception of ECG for patients on specific or high-dose antipsychotics), unless clinical examination indicates the possibility of an underlying (undiagnosed) physical disorder. Performance of an LP, for example, is reserved for situations where there is clear evidence to suggest a neurological disorder presenting with psychiatric symptoms (e.g. suspected meningitis or encephalitis; multiple sclerosis) and, more often than not, in these circumstances, a referral will be made for a medical review.

Use of other tools, such as EEG, CT, or MRI (and SPECT or PET where available) requires justification on the grounds of diagnostic need. EEG is frequently overused by psychiatrists and may be difficult to interpret, as psychotropic medications may ‘muddy the waters’. EEG may be useful where epilepsy is suspected (on clinical grounds), to monitor some acute (toxic) confusional states, to assess atypical patterns of cognitive impairment, to aid the diagnosis in certain dementias [e.g. HIV, variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD)], to evaluate particular sleep disorders, or as the gold standard for seizure monitoring during ECT. EEG should not be used as a general screening tool.

Similarly, brain imaging adds little to the diagnosis of primary psychiatric disorders and should only be used where there is good evidence for possible neurological problems (e.g. history of

significant head injury, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, previous neurosurgery) or where history and clinical examination indicate the possibility of a space-occupying lesion (e.g. localizing neurological signs, unexplained fluctuating level of consciousness, severe headache, marked and unexplained acute behavioural change). With the exception of organic disorders (e.g. the dementias where diagnostic imaging techniques may add useful information to inform diagnosis, management, and prognosis), the sensitivity and specificity of imaging findings for most psychiatric conditions have yet to be established.

As a general rule, comorbid or causative disorders will be suspected due to other symptoms and signs or by the atypical nature of the psychiatric picture, and the likelihood of revealing a totally unexpected diagnosis is small.

Common assessment instruments 1

The diagnosis of psychiatric disorders is largely clinical, although assessment tools are increasingly used for both clinical and research purposes. A huge variety of assessment tools is available for the diagnosis and assessment of severity of individual disorders and for the monitoring of progress and treatment response in established cases.

Their primary use is as an aid in diagnosis and to provide an objective measurement of treatment response. They should not be considered as a primary means of diagnosis. A secondary use is in research, in order to ensure heterogenous patient groupings and reliably standardized diagnosis.

Scales are often available in several versions, are either clinician- or patient-administered, and vary in required skill and experience of the administrator. Some are available for free by searching on the Internet, while others are copyrighted and available from purchase from the manufacturer. Examples of the more commonly found general and specific tests are given here.


General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) Self-rated questionnaire used as a screening instrument for the presence of psychiatric illness. The

patient is asked to report the presence of a list of symptoms in the preceding weeks. Four versions are available, using 12, 28, 30, and 60 items.

Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) Can be used by non- clinicians to administer a fully structured interview, to diagnose the major psychiatric illnesses for research purposes.

Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF) A 100-item, self- report rating scale measuring overall psychosocial functioning.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) Self-report questionnaire consisting of 567 questions covering eight areas of psychopathology and two additional areas of personality type, and three scales assessing truthfulness. Results are compared with normative data from non-clinical populations. Results generate information useful for a broad range of clinical applications.

Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) One- page patient-completed questionnaire focusing on psychiatric illness commonly encountered in primary care. Has a corresponding Clinician Evaluation Guide.

Quality of Life Interview (QOLI) Non-clinician-administered, fully structured interview, available in full and brief versions with 158 and 78 items, respectively. Suitable for assessment of quality of life in those with enduring and severe mental illnesses.

Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID-I/SCID-II) Clinician- administered semi-structured interview for use in patients in whom a psychiatric diagnosis is suspected. Primarily used in research with trained interviewers, to inform the operationalized diagnosis of Axis I and II disorders. The Research Version of the SCID-I for DSM-5 was released in November 2014 (SCID-5-RV).

Mood disorders

Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) Self-rated questionnaire containing 21 statements, with four possible responses for each. The total score is quoted, with >17 indicating moderate and >30 indicating severe depression.

Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) A 14-item, self- rated questionnaire, producing an anxiety and a depression subscore.

Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) An interviewer- rated, 17-item rating scale for depressive illness. Not a diagnostic instrument; used to measure changes (e.g. as a result of drug treatment); 17 items scored according to severity, producing the total score.

Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRaS) A 10- item observer-rated scale. Each item rated 0–6, with a total score obtained.

Mood Disorders Questionnaire (MDQ) A self-rated screen for bipolar disorder. 13 yes/no questions, and two others. Positive screen is ‘yes’ 7/13, and ‘yes’ to question 2, moderate/serious to question 3.

Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) Assesses mania symptoms and weighted severity over the past 48hr.

Anxiety spectrum

Hamilton Anxiety Rating scale (HAM-A) A clinician-administered rating scale for generalized anxiety disorder; 14 items rated on a 5- point scale.

Yale–Brown Obsessive–Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) A clinician- administered semi-structured interview allowing the rating of severity in patients with a pre-existing diagnosis of OCD.


Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) Measures major psychotic and non-psychotic symptoms, primarily used for schizophrenia patients. Clinician-rated, based on observation.

Positive and Negative Symptom Scale (PANSS) A clinician- administered rating scale for the assessment of severity and monitoring of change of symptoms in patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Items covering positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and general psychopathology.

Scale for the Assessment of Positive/Negative Symptoms (SAPS/SANS) Administered together and completed from history and clinician observation. It breaks down into three divisions: psychoticism, negative symptoms, and disorganization.

Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale (AIMS) A clinician- administered scale for assessing the severity of antipsychotic side

effects; 12 items rated 0–4.

Common assessment instruments 2

Substance use

Cut down? Annoyed? Guilty? Eye opener? (CAGE) A brief screening test for alcohol problems, consisting of four yes/no questions, with a score of 2 or more indicating the need for further assessment.

Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) Completed by a skilled clinician to reveal if there is a need for further evaluation. Questions cover the quantity and frequency of alcohol use, drinking behaviours, adverse psychological symptoms, and alcohol-related problems.

Assessment instruments specific to children

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (SNAP, Vanderbilt, Conners’ Rating Scale) Used to assess the presence and severity of ADHD symptoms in multiple settings. Completed by adults who know the child well (parents, teachers). Also have subscales to measure other symptoms such as disruptive behaviour.

Anxiety Screen for Child Anxiety-Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED) A self-report instrument designed to measure anxiety symptoms in children.

Autism Spectrum Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) Ages 2 and up, scored by clinicians based on observation. Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS) Ages 3–22, scored by teachers and parents, as well as clinicians. Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) A semi-structured and lengthy diagnostic interview given by specially trained clinicians. It uses standardized data to aid in the diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorders.

Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) A self-report of depression symptoms for ages 7–17 (first-grade reading level).

Structured interviews (such as KSADS-PL) Semi-structured diagnostic interviews covering the spectrum of psychiatric illness in children and administered by trained clinicians only.

Older adults

Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) A self-reported screen for depression, using a series of yes/no questions.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) Used to evaluate the day-to-day living skills in an older population. It can be used to evaluate treatment effectiveness or help identify placement needs of the individual.

Further reading

Sajatovic M, Ramirez L, Ramirez LF (2003) Rating Scales in Mental Health, 2nd edn. Hudson, OH: Lexicomp.

Chapter 3

Symptoms of psychiatric illness

Symptoms of psychiatric illness Dictionary of psychiatric symptoms

Symptoms of psychiatric illness

In general medicine, symptom refers to an abnormality reported by the patient, while sign refers to an abnormality detected by the doctor by observation or clinical examination. In psychiatry, the terms symptom and sign tend to be used synonymously because abnormalities of mental state can only be elicited by exploring, with the patient, their internal experiences.

Psychopathology is the study of abnormalities in mental state and is one of the core sciences in clinical psychiatry. Descriptive psychopathology is one method for describing the subjective experience and behaviour of patients and is the basis for our current clinical descriptions of mental disorder. It is atheoretical and does not rest on any particular explanation for the cause of the abnormal mental state. In this, it contrasts with dynamic (Freudian) psychopathology, which attempts to describe, and then to explain, these states.

Descriptive psychopathology includes close observation of the patient’s behaviour and empathic exploration of their subjective experience. The latter is called phenomenology. The following general terms are used as qualifiers for symptoms described in the following pages:

• Subjective vs objective—objective signs are those noted by an external observer; subjective signs are those reported by the patient.

• Form vs content—a distinction is drawn between the form and content of abnormal internal experiences. For example, a patient may believe that he is continually under surveillance by agents of MI5 who are plotting to frame him for another’s crimes. Here, the content of the symptom is the belief about the name and methods of the persecutor; the form is that of a persecutory delusion. Content is culture- and experience-related, whereas form is attributable to the type of underlying mental illness.

• Primary vs secondary—primary symptoms are considered as arising directly from the pathology of the mental illness; secondary symptoms arise as an understandable response to some aspect of the disordered mental state (e.g. a patient with severe depression developing a secondary delusion of being wicked and deserving punishment). Secondary symptoms can be understood in the light of knowledge of the patient’s symptoms; primary symptoms can be empathized with, but not fully understood.

• Endogenous vs reactive—these terms have been largely made redundant by developments in understanding of mental disorders but are still seen occasionally. It was formerly thought that some conditions arose in response to external events (e.g. depression arising after job loss) (reactive), while others arose spontaneously from within (endogenous).

• Psychotic vs neurotic—in present classifications, these terms are used purely descriptively to describe two common types of symptoms that may occur in a variety of mental disorders. Previously, they were used to distinguish those disorders characterized by impairment of insight, abnormal beliefs, and abnormal perceptual experiences from those where there was preserved insight but abnormal affect.

• Congruent vs incongruent—this is an observation made regarding the apparent appropriateness of a patient’s affect towards their symptoms or their symptoms to their mood. A patient with apparent cheerfulness despite persecutory beliefs is described as having incongruent affect; a patient with profoundly depressed mood developing a delusion that they were mortally ill is described as possessing a mood-congruent delusion.

• Structural vs functional—a distinction formerly made between those brain disorders with observable structural abnormalities on post-mortem (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease) and those without (e.g. schizophrenia). This usage has diminished since the discovery of definite observable brain changes in those disorders formerly called functional psychoses. Nowadays, the term is more often used in neurology/neuropsychiatry to distinguish syndromes which generally have abnormal investigation findings (e.g. multiple sclerosis) from those without (e.g. dissociative paralysis).

Dictionary of psychiatric symptoms

Abnormal beliefs A category of disturbance which includes delusions and overvalued ideas.

Abnormal perceptions A category of disturbance which includes sensory distortions and false perceptions.

Acute confusional state See Delirium.

Affect The emotional state prevailing in a patient at a particular moment and in response to a particular event or situation. Contrasted with mood which is the prevailing emotional state over a longer period of time.

Affect illusion See Illusion.

Agitated depression A combination of depressed mood and psychomotor agitation, contrasting with the more usual association of depressed mood with psychomotor retardation. A common presentation of depressive illness in the elderly.

Agitation See Psychomotor agitation.

Agoraphobia A generalized phobia in which there is a fear of open spaces, social situations, crowds, etc. Associated with avoidance of these stimuli.

Akathisia A subjective sense of uncomfortable desire to move, relieved by repeated movement of the affected part (usually the legs). A side effect of treatment with neuroleptic drugs.

Alexithymia Inability to describe one’s subjective emotional experiences verbally. May be a personality characteristic but is also associated with somatization.

Alogia Poverty of thoughts, as observed by absence of spontaneous speech. A negative symptom of schizophrenia and a

symptom of depressive illness.

Ambitendency A motor symptom of schizophrenia in which

there is an alternating mixture of automatic obedience and negativism.

Amnesia Loss of ability to recall memories for a period of time. May be global (complete memory loss for the time period) or partial (patchy memory loss with ‘islands’ of preserved memory).

Anergia The subjective feeling of lack of energy and a sense of effort required to carry out tasks. Associated with depressive illness.

Anhedonia The feeling of absent or significantly diminished enjoyment of previously pleasurable activities. A core symptom of depressive illness, also a negative symptom of schizophrenia.

Anorexia Loss of appetite for food. Seen in depressive illness and many general medical conditions. Interestingly, patients with anorexia nervosa often do not have anorexia as so defined. They commonly describe themselves as very hungry—controlling their desire for food by supreme effort in order to control their weight.

Anterograde amnesia The period of amnesia between an event (e.g. head injury) and the resumption of continuous memory. The length of anterograde amnesia is correlated with the extent of brain injury.

Anxiety A normal and adaptive response to stress and danger which is pathological if prolonged, severe, or out of keeping with the real threat of the external situation. Anxiety has two components: psychic anxiety, which is an affect characterized by arousal, apprehension, a sense of vulnerability, and dysphoria; and somatic anxiety in which there are bodily sensations of palpitations, sweating, dyspnoea, pallor, and abdominal discomfort.

Aphonia Loss of the ability to vocalize. May occur with structural disease affecting the vocal cords directly, the ninth cranial nerve, or higher centres. May also occur in functional illness where the underlying vocal cord function is normal. This can be demonstrated by asking the patient to cough—a normal cough demonstrates the ability of the vocal cords to oppose normally.

Asyndesis Synonym for loosening of associations.

Ataxia Loss of coordination of voluntary movement. Seen in drug and alcohol intoxication and organic disorders, particularly


Athetosis Sinuous, writhing involuntary movements.

Aura Episode of disturbed sensation occurring before an epileptic

event. Wide range of manifestations, although usually stereotyped for each individual.

Autistic thinking An abnormal absorption with the self, distinguished by interpersonal communication difficulties, a short attention span, and an inability to relate to others as people.

Autochthonous delusion A primary delusion which appears to arise fully formed in the patient’s mind without explanation (e.g. a patient suddenly becomes aware that he has inherited a large estate in the Scottish Highlands and will thus have the funds to settle scores with all those who have ever wronged him).

Automatic obedience A motor symptom of schizophrenia in which the patient obeys the examiner’s instructions unquestioningly. This cooperation may be ‘excessive’, with the patient going beyond what is asked (e.g. raising both arms and both legs when asked to raise an arm).

Automatism Behaviour which is apparently conscious in nature, occurring in the absence of full consciousness (e.g. during a temporal lobe seizure).

Autoscopy The experience of seeing a visual hallucination or pseudo-hallucination of oneself. Also known as ‘phantom mirror image’. Uncommon symptom reported in schizophrenia and temporal lobe epilepsy.

Autotopagnosia Condition where one cannot identify or describe their own body parts. Individuals can dress and move appropriately but cannot talk about their bodies.

Avoidance The action of not exposing oneself to situations which generate anxiety, e.g. a patient with agoraphobia remaining at home or a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), following a road traffic accident, refusing to drive. Can be understood in terms of an operant conditioning model where actions with reward —in this case, reduction of anxiety—are repeated.

Belle indifférence A surprising lack of concern for, or denial of, apparently severe functional disability. It is part of classical descriptions of hysteria and continues to be associated with

operational descriptions of conversion disorder. It is also seen in medical illnesses (e.g. following a cerebrovascular accident) and is a rare and non-specific symptom of no diagnostic value.

Biological features of depression Symptoms of moderate to severe depressive illness which reflect disturbance of core vegetative function. They are depressive sleep disturbance, anorexia, loss of libido, anergia, and subjective impression of deterioration in memory and concentration.

Blunting of affect Loss of the normal degree of emotional sensitivity and sense of appropriate emotional response to events. A negative symptom of schizophrenia.

Broca’s dysphasia A type of expressive dysphasia due to damage to the posterior part of the inferior frontal gyrus of the dominant hemisphere (Broca’s language area).

Bulimia appetite and desire for food and/or excessive, impulsive eating of large quantities of usually high-calorie food. Core symptom of bulimia nervosa and may also be seen in mania and in some types of learning disability.

Capgras syndrome A type of delusional misidentification in which the patient believes that a person known to them has been replaced by a ‘double’ who is to all external appearances identical, but is not the ‘real person’.

Catalepsy A rare motor symptom of schizophrenia. Describes a situation in which the patient’s limbs can be passively moved to any posture, which will then be held for a prolonged period of time. Also known as waxy flexibility or flexibilitas cerea. See also Psychological pillow.

Cataplexy Symptom of narcolepsy in which there is sudden loss of muscle tone, leading to collapse. Usually occurs following emotional stress.

Catastrophic reaction Response occasionally seen in patients with dementia who are asked to perform tasks beyond their, now impaired, performance level. There is sudden agitation, anger, and occasionally violence.

Catatonia resting muscle tone which is not present on active or passive movement (in contrast to the rigidity associated with

Parkinson’s disease and extra-pyramidal side effects). A motor symptom of schizophrenia.

Chorea Sudden and involuntary movement of several muscle groups, with the resultant action appearing like part of a voluntary movement.

Circumstantial thinking A disorder of the form of thought where irrelevant details and digressions overwhelm the direction of the thought process. This abnormality may be reflected in the resultant speech. It is seen in mania and in anankastic personality disorder.

Clang association An abnormality of speech where the connection between words is their sound, rather than their meaning. May occur during manic flight of ideas.

Clouding of consciousness Conscious level between full consciousness and coma. Covers a range of increasingly severe loss of function with drowsiness and impairment of concentration and perception.

Command hallucination An auditory hallucination of a commanding voice, instructing the patient towards a particular action. Also known as teleological hallucination.

Completion illusion See Illusion.

Compulsion A behaviour or action which is recognized by the patient as unnecessary and purposeless, but which he cannot resist performing repeatedly (e.g. hand washing). The drive to perform the action is recognized by the patient as his own (i.e. there is no sense of ‘possession’ or passivity), but it is associated with a subjective sense of need to perform the act, often in order to avoid the occurrence of an adverse event. The patient may resist carrying out the action for a time, at the expense of mounting anxiety.

Concrete thinking The loss of the ability to understand abstract concepts and metaphorical ideas, leading to a strictly literal form of speech and the inability to comprehend allusive language. Seen in schizophrenia and dementing illnesses.

Confabulation The process of describing plausibly false memories for a period for which the patient has amnesia. Occurs in Korsakoff’s syndrome, in dementing illnesses, and following alcoholic palimpsest.

Confusion The core symptom of delirium or acute confusional state. There is disorientation, clouding of consciousness, and deterioration in the ability to think rationally, lay down new memories, and understand sensory input.

Conversion Development of features suggestive of physical illness but which are attributed to psychiatric illness or emotional disturbance, rather than organic pathology. Originally described in terms of psychoanalytic theory where the presumed mechanism was ‘conversion’ of unconscious distress to physical symptoms, rather than allowing its expression in conscious thought.

Coprolalia A ‘forced’ vocalization of obscene words or phrases. The symptom is largely involuntary but can be resisted for a time, at the expense of mounting anxiety. Seen in Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome.

Cotard syndrome A presentation of psychotic depressive illness seen particularly in elderly people. There is a combination of severely depressed mood with nihilistic delusions and/or hypochondriacal delusions. The patient may state that he is already dead and should be buried, that his insides have stopped working and are rotting away, or that he has stopped existing altogether.

Couvade syndrome A conversion symptom seen in partners of expectant mothers during their pregnancy. The symptoms vary but mimic pregnancy symptoms and so include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and food cravings. It is not delusional in nature; the affected individual does not believe they are pregnant (cf. pseudocyesis). This behaviour is a cultural norm in some societies.

Craving A subjective sense of the need to consume a particular substance (e.g. drugs or alcohol) for which there may be dependence.

Cyclothymia A personality characteristic in which there is cyclical mood variation, to a lesser degree than in bipolar disorder.

De Clérambault syndrome A form of delusion of love. The patient, usually ♀, believes that another, higher-status individual is in love with them. There may be an additional persecutory delusional component where the affected individual comes to believe that individuals are conspiring to keep them apart. The object may be an

employer or a doctor or, in some cases, a prominent public figure or celebrity.

Déjà vu A sense that events being experienced for the first time have been experienced before. An everyday experience, but also a non-specific symptom of a number of disorders, including temporal lobe epilepsy, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders.

Delirium A clinical syndrome of confusion, variable degree of clouding of consciousness, visual illusions, and/or visual hallucinations, lability of affect, and disorientation. The clinical features can vary markedly in severity, hour by hour. Delirium is a stereotyped response by the brain to a variety of insults and is similar in presentation, whatever the primary cause.

Delirium tremens The clinical picture of acute confusional state secondary to alcohol withdrawal. Comprises confusion, withdrawals, visual hallucinations, and occasionally persecutory delusions and Lilliputian hallucinations.

Delusion An abnormal belief which is held with absolute subjective certainty, which requires no external proof, which may be held in the face of contradictory evidence, and which has personal significance and importance to the individual concerned. Excluded are those beliefs which can be understood as part of the subject’s cultural or religious background. While the content is usually demonstrably false and bizarre in nature, this is not invariably so.

Primary delusions are the direct result of psychopathology, while secondary delusions can be understood as having arisen in response to other primary psychiatric conditions (e.g. a patient with severely depressed mood developing delusions of poverty or a patient with progressive memory impairment developing a delusion that people are entering his house and stealing or moving items). Primary delusions can be subdivided by the method by which they are perceived as having arisen or into broad classes based on their content.

If the patient is asked to recall the point when they became aware of the delusion and its significance to them, they may report that the belief arose: ‘out of the blue’ (autochthonous delusion), on seeing a normal percept (delusional perception), on recalling a memory

(delusional memory), or on a background of anticipation, odd experiences, and awareness (delusional mood).

Based on their content, 12 types of primary delusion are commonly recognized: persecutory, grandiose, delusions of control, of thought interference, of reference, of guilt, and of love, delusional misidentification, jealousy, hypochondriacal delusions, nihilistic delusions, and delusions of infestation.

Delusional atmosphere Synonym for delusional mood.

Delusional elaboration Secondary delusions which arise in a manner which is understandable as the patient attempting to find explanations for primary psychopathological processes (e.g. a patient with persistent auditory hallucinations developing a belief that a transmitter has been placed in their ear).

Delusional jealousy A delusional belief that one’s partner is being unfaithful. This can occur as part of a wider psychotic illness, secondary to organic brain damage (e.g. following the ‘punch drunk syndrome’ in boxers), associated with alcohol dependence, or as a monosymptomatic delusional disorder (‘Othello syndrome’). Whatever the primary cause, there is a strong association with violence, usually towards the supposedly unfaithful partner. For this type of delusion, the content is not bizarre or inconceivable and the central belief may even be true.

Delusional memory A primary delusion which is recalled as arising as a result of a memory (e.g. a patient who remembers his parents taking him to hospital for an operation as a child becoming convinced that he had been implanted with control and monitoring devices which have become active in his adult life).

Delusional misidentification A delusional belief that certain individuals are not who they externally appear to be. The delusion may be that familiar people have been replaced with outwardly identical strangers (Capgras syndrome) or that strangers are ‘really’ familiar people (Frégoli syndrome). A rare symptom of schizophrenia or of other psychotic illnesses.

Delusional mood A primary delusion which is recalled as arising following a period when there is an abnormal mood state characterized by anticipatory anxiety, a sense of ‘something about to happen’, and an sense of the significance of minor events. The

development of the formed delusion may come as a relief to the patient in this situation.

Delusional perception A primary delusion which is recalled as having arisen as a result of a perception (e.g. a patient who, on seeing two white cars pull up in front of his house, became convinced that he was therefore about to be wrongly accused of being a paedophile). The percept is a real external object, not a hallucinatory experience.

Delusions of control A group of delusions which are also known as passivity phenomena or delusions of bodily passivity. They are considered first-rank symptoms of schizophrenia. The core feature is the delusional belief that one is no longer in sole control of one’s own body. The individual delusions are that one is being forced by some external agent to feel emotions, to desire to do things, to perform actions, or to experience bodily sensations. Respectively, these delusions are called: passivity of affect, passivity of impulse, passivity of volition, and somatic passivity.

Delusions of guilt A delusional belief that one has committed a crime or other reprehensible act. A feature of psychotic depressive illness (e.g. an elderly woman with severe depressive illness who becomes convinced that her child, who died by cot death many years before, was in fact murdered by her).

Delusions of infestation A delusional belief that one’s skin is infested with multiple tiny, mite-like animals. As a monosymptomatic delusional disorder, this is called Ekbom syndrome. It is also seen in acute confusional states (particularly secondary to drug or alcohol withdrawal), in schizophrenia, in dementing illnesses, and as delusional elaboration of tactile hallucinatory experiences.

Delusions of love A delusion where the patient believes another individual is in love with them and that they are destined to be together. A rare symptom of schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses—one particular subtype of this delusion is de Clérambault syndrome.

Delusions of reference A delusional belief that external events or situations have been arranged in such a way as to have particular significance for, or to convey a message to, the affected individual.

The patient may believe that television news items are referring to them or that parts of the Bible are about them directly.

Delusions of thought interference A group of delusions which are considered first-rank symptoms of schizophrenia. They are thought insertion, thought withdrawal, and thought broadcasting.

Dementia Chronic brain failure—in contrast with delirium (which is acute brain failure). In dementia, there is progressive and global loss of brain function. It is usually irreversible. Different dementing illnesses will show different patterns and rate of functional loss, but in general, there is impairment of memory, loss of higher cognitive function, perceptual abnormalities, dyspraxia, and disintegration of the personality.

Dependence The inability to control the intake of a substance to which one is addicted. The dependence syndrome ( The dependence syndrome, p. 574) is characterized by primacy of drug- seeking behaviour, the inability to control the intake of a substance once consumption has started, use of the substance to avoid withdrawals, tolerance to the intoxicating effects of the substance, and re-instigation of the pattern of use after a period of abstinence. Dependence has two components: psychological dependence, which is the subjective feeling of loss of control, cravings, and preoccupation with obtaining the substance; and physiological dependence, which is the physical consequences of withdrawal and is specific to each drug. For some drugs (e.g. alcohol), both psychological and physiological dependence occur; for others (e.g. LSD), there are no marked features of physiological dependence.

Depersonalization An unpleasant subjective experience where the patient feels as if they have become ‘unreal’. A non-specific symptom occurring in many psychiatric disorders, as well as in normal people.

Depressed mood The core feature of depressive illness. Milder forms of depressed mood are part of the human experience, but in its pathological form, it is a subjective experience. Patients describe variously: an unremitting and pervasive unhappiness; a loss of the ability to experience the normal range of positive emotions (‘feeling of a lack of feeling’); a sense of hopelessness and negative thoughts

about themselves, their situation, and the future; somatic sensations of ‘a weight’ pressing down on the head and body; and a sort of ‘psychic pain’ or wound.

Depressive sleep disturbance Characteristic pattern of sleep disturbance seen in depressive illness. It includes initial insomnia and early morning waking. In addition, sleep is described as more shallow, broken, and less refreshing. There is rapid eye movement (REM) latency where the patient enters REM sleep more rapidly than normal, and REM sleep is concentrated in the beginning, rather than the end, of the sleep period.

Derailment A symptom of schizophrenic thought disorder in which there is a total break in the chain of association between the meaning of thoughts. The connection between two sequential ideas is apparent neither to the patient nor to the examiner.

Derealization An unpleasant subjective experience where the patient feels as if the world has become unreal. Like depersonalization, it is a non-specific symptom of a number of disorders.

Diogenes syndrome Hoarding of objects, usually of no practical use, and neglect of one’s home or environment. May be a behavioural manifestation of an organic disorder, schizophrenia, a depressive disorder, or OCD; or may reflect a reaction late in life to stress in a certain type of personality.

Disinhibition Loss of the normal sense of which behaviours are appropriate in the current social setting. Symptom of manic illnesses and occurs in the later stages of dementing illnesses and during intoxication with drugs or alcohol.

Disorientation Loss of the ability to recall and accurately update information as to the current time, place, and personal identity. Occurs in delirium and dementia. With increasing severity of illness, orientation for time is lost first, then orientation for place, with orientation for person usually preserved until dysfunction becomes very severe.

Dissociation The separation of unpleasant emotions and memories from consciousness awareness, with subsequent disruption to the normal integrated function of consciousness and memory. Conversion and dissociationare related concepts. In

conversion, the emotional abnormality produces physical symptoms, while in dissociation, there is impairment of mental functioning (e.g. in dissociative fugue and dissociative amnesia).

Distractibility Inability to maintain attention or loss of vigilance on minimal distracting stimulation.

Diurnal variation Variation in the severity of a symptom, depending on the time of day (e.g. depressed mood experienced as most severe in the morning and improving later in the day).

Double depression A combination of dysthymia and depressive illness.

Dysarthria Impairment in the ability to properly articulate speech. Caused by lesions in the brainstem, cranial nerves, or pharynx. Distinguished from dysphasia in that there is no impairment of comprehension, writing, or higher language function.

Dyskinesia Impairment of voluntary motor activity by superimposed involuntary motor activity.

Dyslexia Inability to read at a level normal for one’s age or intelligence level.

Dysmorphophobia A type of over-valued idea where the patient believes one aspect of his body is abnormal or conspicuously deformed.

Dysphasia Impairment in producing or understanding speech (expressive dysphasia and receptive dysphasia, respectively) related to cortical abnormality, in contrast with dysarthria where the abnormality is in the organs of speech production.

Dysphoria An emotional state experienced as unpleasant. Secondary to a number of symptoms (e.g. depressed mood, withdrawals).

Dyspraxia Inability to carry out complex motor tasks (e.g. dressing, eating), although the component motor movements are preserved.

Dysthymia Chronic, mildly depressed mood and diminished enjoyment, not severe enough to be considered depressive illness.

Early morning wakening (EMW) Feature of depressive sleep disturbance. The patient wakes in the very early morning and is unable to return to sleep.

Echo de la pensée Synonym for thought echo.

Echolalia The repetition of phrases or sentences spoken by the examiner. Occurs in schizophrenia and mental retardation.

Echopraxia Motor symptom of schizophrenia in which the patient mirrors the doctor’s body movements. This continues after being told to stop.

Eidetic imagery Particular type of exceptionally vivid visual memory. Not a hallucination. More common in children than adults (cf. flashbacks).

Ekbom syndrome A monosymptomatic delusional disorder where the core delusion is a delusion of infestation.

Elation Severe and prolonged elevation of mood. A feature of manic illnesses.

Elemental hallucination A type of hallucination where the false perceptions are of very simple form (e.g. flashes of light or clicks and bangs). Associated with organic illness.

Elevation of mood The core feature of manic illnesses. The mood is preternaturally cheerful; the patient may describe feeling ‘high’, and there is subjectively speed and ease of thinking.

Entgleisen Synonym for derailment.

Entgleiten Synonym for thought blocking or snapping off. Erotomania Synonym for delusions of love.

Euphoria Sustained and unwarranted cheerfulness. Associated

with manic states and organic impairment.

Euthymia A ‘normal’ mood state, neither depressed nor manic. Expressive dysphasia Dysphasia affecting the production of

speech. There is impairment of word-finding, sentence construction, and articulation. Speech is slow and ‘telegraphic’, with substitutions, null words, and perseveration. The patient characteristically exhibits considerable frustration at his deficits. Writing is similarly affected. Basic comprehension is largely intact, and emotional utterances and rote-learnt material may also be surprisingly preserved.

Extracampine hallucination A hallucination where the percept appears to come from beyond the area usually covered by the senses (e.g. a patient in Edinburgh ‘hearing’ voices seeming to come from a house in Glasgow).

Extra-pyramidal side effects (EPSEs) Side effects of rigidity, tremor, and dyskinesia caused by the anti-dopaminergic effects of

psychotropic drugs, particularly neuroleptics. Unlike in idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, bradykinesia is not prominent.

Ey syndrome Synonym for Othello syndrome.

False perceptions Internal perceptions which do not have a corresponding object in the external or ‘real’ world. Includes hallucinations and pseudo-hallucinations.

Faseln Synonym for muddling.

First-rank symptoms (of schizophrenia) A group of symptoms, originally described by Schneider, which are useful in the diagnosis of schizophrenia. They are neither pathognomonic for, nor specific to, schizophrenia and are also seen in organic and affective psychoses. There are 11 symptoms in four categories:

• Auditory hallucinations • ‘Voices heard arguing’. • Thought echo.

• ‘Running commentary’.

• Delusions of thought interference • Thought insertion.

• Thought withdrawal.

• Thought broadcasting.

• Delusions of control • Passivity of affect.

• Passivity of impulse. • Passivity of volitions. • Somatic passivity.

• Delusional perception

• A primary delusion of any content that is reported by the patient

as having arisen following the experience of a normal


Flashbacks Exceptionally vivid and affect-laden re-experiencing

of remembered experiences. Flashbacks of the initial traumatic event occur in PTSD, and flashbacks of abnormal perceptual experiences initially experienced during LSD intoxication can occur many years after the event.

Flattening of affect Diminution of the normal range of emotional experience. A negative symptom of schizophrenia.

Flexibilitas cerea Synonym for catalepsy.

Flight of ideas Subjective experience of one’s thoughts being more rapid than normal, with each thought having a greater range of consequent thoughts than normal. Meaningful connections between thoughts are maintained.

Folie à deux Describes a situation where two people with a close relationship share a delusional belief. This arises as a result of a psychotic illness in one individual with the development of a delusional belief, which comes to be shared by the second. The delusion resolves in the second person on separation; the first should be assessed and treated in the usual way.

Formal thought disorder A term which is confusingly used for three different groups of psychiatric symptoms:

• To refer to all pathological disturbances in the form of thought.

• As a synonym for schizophrenic thought disorder.

• To mean the group of first-rank symptoms which are delusions

regarding thought interference (i.e. thought insertion, thought withdrawal, and thought broadcasting).

The first of these uses is to be preferred.

Formication A form of tactile hallucination in which there is the sensation of numerous insects crawling over the surface of the body. Occurs in alcohol or drug withdrawal, particularly from cocaine.

Free-floating anxiety Anxiety occurring without any identifiable external stimulus or threat (cf. Phobia).

Frégoli syndrome A type of delusional misidentification, in which the patient believes that strangers have been replaced with familiar people.

Fugue A dissociative reaction to unbearable stress. Following a severe external stressor (e.g. marital break-up), the affected individual develops global amnesia and may wander to a distant location. Consciousness is unimpaired. Following resolution, there is amnesia for the events which occurred during the fugue.

Functional hallucination A hallucination experienced only when experiencing a normal percept in that modality (e.g. hearing voices when the noise of an air conditioner is heard).

Fusion A symptom of schizophrenic thought disorder, in which two or more unrelated concepts are brought together to form one compound idea.

Ganser symptom The production of ‘approximate answers’. Here the patient gives repeated wrong answers to questions, which are nonetheless ‘in the right ballpark’ (e.g. ‘what is the capital of Scotland?’—‘Paris’). Occasionally associated with organic brain illness, it is much more commonly seen as a form of malingering in those attempting to feign mental illness (e.g. in prisoners awaiting trial).

Gedankenlautwerden Synonym for thought echo.

Globus hystericus The sensation of a ‘lump in the throat’ occurring without an oesophageal structural abnormality or motility problems. A symptom of anxiety and somatization disorders.

Glossolalia ‘Speaking in tongues’. Production of non-speech sounds as a substitute for speech. Seen in dissociative and neurotic disorders and accepted as a subcultural phenomenon in some religious groups.

Grandiose delusion A delusional belief that one has special powers or is unusually rich or powerful, or that one has an exceptional destiny (e.g. a man who requested admission to hospital because he had become convinced that God had granted him ‘the greatest possible sort of mind’ and that coming into contact with him would cure others of mental illnesses). Can occur in all psychotic illnesses, but particularly in manic illnesses.

Grandiosity An exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities. Seen in manic illnesses.

Hallucination An internal percept without a corresponding external object. The subjective experience of hallucination is that of experiencing a normal percept in that modality of sensation. A true hallucination will be perceived as in external space, distinct from imagined images, outside conscious control, and as possessing relative permanence. A pseudohallucination will lack one or all of these characteristics.

Hallucinations are subdivided, according to their modality of sensation, and may be auditory, visual, gustatory, tactile, olfactory, or kinaesthetic. Auditory hallucinations, particularly of voices, are characteristic of schizophrenic illness, while visual hallucinations are characteristic of organic states.

Hemiballismus Involuntary, large-scale ‘throwing’ movements of one limb or one body side.

Hypersomnia Excessive sleepiness with length of nocturnal sleep and daytime napping. Occurs as a core feature of narcolepsy and in atypical depressive states.

Hypnagogic hallucination A transient false perception experienced while on the verge of falling asleep (e.g. hearing a voice calling one’s name which then startles you back to wakefulness to find no one there). The same phenomenon experienced while waking up is called hypnopompic hallucination. Frequently experienced by healthy people, and so not a symptom of mental illness.

Hypnopompic hallucination See Hypnagogic hallucination.

Hypochondriacal delusion A delusional belief that one has a serious physical illness [e.g. cancer, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)]. Most common in psychotic depressive illnesses.

Hypochondriasis The belief that one has a particular illness despite evidence to the contrary. Its form may be that of a primary delusion, an over-valued idea, a rumination, or a mood- congruent feature of depressive illness.

Hypomania Describes a mild degree of mania where there is elevated mood, but no significant impairment of the patient’s day-to- day functioning.

Illusion A type of false perception in which the perception of a real-world object is combined with internal imagery to produce a false internal percept. Three types are recognized: affect, completion, and pareidolic illusions. In affect illusion, there is a combination of heightened emotion and misperception (e.g. while walking across a lonely park at night, briefly seeing a tree moving in the wind as an attacker). Completion illusions rely on our brain’s tendency to ‘fill in’ presumed missing parts of an object to produce a meaningful percept and are the basis for many types of optical illusion. Both these types of illusions resolve on closer attention. Pareidolic illusions are meaningful percepts produced when experiencing a poorly defined stimulus (e.g. seeing faces in a fire or clouds).

Imperative hallucination A form of command hallucination in which the hallucinatory instruction is experienced as irresistible, a combination of command hallucination and passivity of action.

Impotence Loss of the ability to consummate sexual relationships. Refers to the inability to achieve penile erection in men and a lack of genital preparedness in women. It may have a primary medical cause, may be related to psychological factors, or can be a side effect of many psychotropic medications.

Incongruity of affect Refers to the objective impression that the displayed affect is not consistent with the current thoughts or actions (e.g. laughing while discussing traumatic experiences). Occurs in schizophrenia.

Initial insomnia Difficulty getting off to sleep. Seen as a symptom of primary insomnia, as well as in depressive sleep disturbance.

Insightlessness See Lack of insight.

Irritability Diminution in the stressor required to provoke anger or verbal or physical violence. Seen in manic illnesses, organic cognitive impairment, psychotic illnesses, and drug and alcohol intoxication. Can also be a feature of normal personality types and of personality disorder.

Jamais vu The sensation that events or situations are unfamiliar, although they have been experienced before. An everyday experience, but also a non-specific symptom of a number of disorders, including temporal lobe epilepsy, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders.

Knight’s move thinking Synonym for derailment.

Lability of mood Marked variability in the prevailing affect.

Lack of insight Loss of the ability to recognize that one’s

abnormal experiences are symptoms of psychiatric illness and that they require treatment.

Lilliputian hallucination A type of visual hallucination in which the subject sees miniature people or animals. Associated with organic states, particularly delirium tremens.

Logoclonia Symptom of Parkinson’s disease where the patient gets ‘stuck’ on a particular word of a sentence and repeats it.

Logorrhoea Excess speech or ‘verbal diarrhoea’. Symptom of mania.

Loosening of associations A symptom of formal thought disorder, in which there is a lack of meaningful connection between sequential ideas.

Loss of libido Loss of the desire for sexual activity. Common in depressive illness and should be inquired about directly, as it is usually not mentioned spontaneously. Should be distinguished from impotence.

Magical thinking A belief that certain actions and outcomes are connected, although there is no rational basis for establishing a connection (e.g. ‘if you step on a crack, your mother will break her back’). Magical thinking is common in normal children and is the basis for most superstitions. A similar type of thinking is seen in psychotic patients.

Malingering Deliberately falsifying the symptoms of illness for a secondary gain (e.g. for compensation, to avoid military service, or to obtain an opiate prescription).

Mania A form of mood disorder initially characterized by elevated mood, insomnia, loss of appetite, libido, and grandiosity. More severe forms develop elation and grandiose delusions.

Mannerism Abnormal and occasionally bizarre performance of a voluntary, goal-directed activity (e.g. a conspicuously dramatic manner of walking. Imagine John Cleese’s ‘minister of silly walks’).

Mental retardation Diminished intelligence below the second standard deviation (IQ <70). Increasing severity of retardation is associated with ability to learn, to solve problems, and to understand abstract concepts. Subdivided as: mild: 50–69; moderate 35–49; severe 20–34; and profound 0–19.

Micrographia Small, ‘spidery’ handwriting seen in patients with Parkinson’s disease; a consequence of being unable to control fine movements. This is most easily recognized by comparing their current signature with one from a number of years previously.

Middle insomnia Wakefulness and inability to return to sleep occurring in the middle part of the night.

Mirror sign Lack of recognition of one’s own mirror reflection, with the perception that the reflection is another individual who is mimicking your actions. Seen in dementia.

Mitgehen An extreme form of mitmachen where the patient’s limbs can be moved to any position by very slight or fingertip pressure (‘angle-poise lamp sign’).

Mitmachen A motor symptom of schizophrenia where the patient’s limbs can be moved without resistance to any position (cf. mitgehen). The limbs return to their resting state once the examiner lets go, in contrast with catalepsy where the limbs remain in their set positions for prolonged periods.

Mood The subjective emotional state over a period of time, in contrast to affect which describes the emotional response to a particular situation or event.

Mood-congruent A secondary symptom which is understandable in the light of an abnormal mood state (e.g. a severely depressed patient developing a delusion that they are in severe debt, or a manic patient developing a delusion that they are exceptionally wealthy).

Morbid jealousy Synonym for delusional jealousy.

Motor symptoms of schizophrenia Schizophrenic illness is associated with a variety of soft neurological signs and motor abnormalities. In the modern era, many motor abnormalities will be attributed to the side effects of neuroleptic drugs, but all were described in schizophrenic patients prior to the introduction of these drugs in 1952.

Recognized motor symptoms in schizophrenia include: catatonia, catalepsy, automatic obedience, negativism, ambitendency, mitgehen, mitmachen, mannerism, stereotypy, echopraxia, and psychological pillow.

Muddling A feature of schizophrenic thought disorder caused by simultaneous derailment and fusion. The speech so produced may be very bizarre.

Multiple personality The finding of two or more distinct ‘personalities’ in one individual. These personalities may answer to different names, exhibit markedly different behaviours, and describe amnesia for periods when other personalities were active. This symptom is most probably an iatrogenic condition produced during exploratory psychotherapy in suggestible individuals.

Mutism Absence of speech without impairment of consciousness.

Negative symptoms (of schizophrenia) Symptoms of schizophrenia which reflect impairment of normal function. They are: lack of volition, lack of drive, apathy, anhedonia, flattening of affect, blunting of affect, and alogia. Believed to be related to cortical cell loss.

Negativism A motor symptom of schizophrenia where the patient resists carrying out the examiner’s instructions and his attempts to move or direct the limbs.

Neologism A made-up word or normal word used in an idiosyncratic way. Neologisms are found in schizophrenic speech.

Nihilistic delusion A delusional belief that the patient has died or no longer exists or that the world has ended or is no longer real. Nothing matters any longer, and continued effort is pointless. A feature of psychotic depressive illness.

Nystagmus Involuntary oscillating eye movements.

Obsession An idea, image, or impulse which is recognized by the patient as their own but which is experienced as repetitive, intrusive, and distressing. The return of the obsession can be resisted for a time, at the expense of mounting anxiety. In some situations, the anxiety accompanying the obsessional thoughts can be relieved by associated compulsions (e.g. a patient with an obsession that his wife may have come to harm feeling compelled to phone her constantly during the day to check she is still alive).

Othello syndrome A monosymptomatic delusional disorder where the core delusion has the content of delusional jealousy.

Over-valued ideas A form of abnormal belief. These are ideas which are reasonable and understandable in themselves but which come to unreasonably dominate the patient’s life.

Palimpsest Episode of discrete amnesia related to alcohol or drug intoxication. The individual has no recall for a period when, although intoxicated, he appeared to be functioning normally. This is also commonly known as ‘blackout’, but the term palimpsest is preferable as it avoids confusion with episodes of loss of consciousness.

Panic attack Paroxysmal, severe anxiety. May occur in response to a particular stimulus or occur without apparent stimulus.

Paranoid delusion Strictly speaking, this describes self-referential delusions (i.e. grandiose delusions and persecutory delusions). It

is, however, more commonly used as a synonym for persecutory delusion.

Paraphasia The substitution of a non-verbal sound in place of a word. Occurs in organic lesions affecting speech.

Passivity phenomena Synonym for delusions of control.

Persecutory delusion A delusional belief that one’s life is being interfered with in a harmful way.

Perseveration Continuing with a verbal response or action which was initially appropriate after it ceases to be apposite (e.g. ‘Do you know where you are?’—‘In the hospital’; ‘Do you know what day it is?’—‘In the hospital’). Associated with organic brain disease and is occasionally seen in schizophrenia.

Phantom mirror image Synonym for autoscopy.

Phobia A particular stimulus, event, or situation which arouses anxiety in an individual and is therefore associated with avoidance. The concept of ‘biological preparedness’ is that some fears (e.g. of snakes, fire, heights) had evolutionary advantage, and so it is easier to develop phobias for these stimuli than other more evolutionarily recent threats (e.g. of guns or electric shock).

Physiological dependence See Dependence.

Pica The eating of things which are not food or of food items in abnormal quantities.

Positive symptoms (of schizophrenia) The symptoms of schizophrenia which are qualitatively different from normal experience (i.e. delusions, hallucinations, schizophrenic thought disorder). Believed to be related to neuro-chemical abnormalities.

Posturing The maintenance of bizarre and uncomfortable limb and body positions. Associated with psychotic illnesses and may have delusional significance to the patient.

Pressure of speech The speech pattern consequent upon pressure of thought. The speech is rapid and difficult to interrupt, and, with increasing severity of illness, the connection between sequential ideas may become increasingly hard to follow. Occurs in manic illness.

Pressure of thought The subjective experience of one’s thoughts occurring rapidly, each thought being associated with a wider range

of consequent ideas than normal and with the inability to remain on one idea for any length of time. Occurs in manic illness.

Priapism A sustained and painful penile erection, not associated with sexual arousal. A rare side effect of antidepressant medication. If not relieved, can cause permanent penile damage.

Pseudocyesis A false pregnancy. May be hysterical or delusional in nature and can occur in both sexes, although more commonly in women. The belief in the false pregnancy may be accompanied by abdominal distension, lumbar lordosis, and amenorrhoea.

Pseudodementia A presentation of severe depression in the elderly where the combination of psychomotor retardation, apparent cognitive deficits, and functional decline causes diagnostic confusion with dementia.

Pseudo-hallucination A false perception which is perceived as occurring as part of one’s internal experience, not as part of the external world. It may be described as having an ‘as if’ quality or as being seen with the mind’s eye. Additionally, hallucinations experienced as true hallucinations during the active phase of a patient’s illness may become perceived as pseudo-hallucinations as they recover. They can occur in all modalities of sensation and are described in psychotic, organic, and drug-induced conditions, as well as occasionally in normal individuals. (The hallucinations of deceased spouses commonly described by widows and widowers may have a form of a pseudo-hallucination.)

Pseudologica fantastica The production of convincing false accounts, often with apparent sincere conviction. There may be a grandiose or an over-exaggerated flavour to the accounts produced. A feature of Munchausen’s disease.

Psychic anxiety See Anxiety.

Psychogenic polydipsia Excessive fluid intake without organic cause.

Psychological dependence See Dependence.

Psychological pillow A motor symptom of schizophrenia. The patient holds their head several inches above the bed, while lying, and can maintain this uncomfortable position for prolonged periods of time.

Psychomotor agitation A combination of psychic anxiety and excess and purposeless motor activity. A symptom common to many mental illnesses and found in normal individuals in response to stress.

Psychomotor retardation spontaneous movement and slowness in instigating and completing voluntary movement. Usually associated with a subjective sense of actions being more of an effort and with subjective retardation of thought. Occurs in moderate to severe depressive illness.

Punding A form of stereotyped motor behaviour in which there is an apparent fascination with repetitive mechanical tasks such as arranging items or dismantling and reassembling mechanical objects. It is seen as a side effect of anti-Parkinsonian medication and in some individuals taking methamfetamine. It bears some similarity to behaviours seen in individuals with autism.

Receptive dysphasia Dysphasia affecting the understanding of speech. There is impairment in understanding spoken commands and repeating back speech. There are also significant abnormalities in spontaneous speech with word substitutions, defects in grammar and syntax, and neologisms. The abnormal speech so produced is, however, fluent (cf. expressive dysphasia), and the patient may be unconcerned by his deficits.

Reflex hallucination The experience of a real stimulus in one sensory modality triggering a hallucination in another.

Retrograde amnesia The period of amnesia between an event (e.g. head injury) and the last continuous memory before the event.

Rumination A compulsion to engage in repetitive and pointless consideration of phrases or ideas, usually of a pseudo-philosophical nature. May be resisted for a period, with consequent mounting anxiety.

‘Running commentary’ A type of third-person auditory hallucination, which is a first-rank symptom of schizophrenia. The patient hears one or more voices providing a narrative of their current actions—‘he’s getting up … now he’s going towards the window’.

Russell sign Skin abrasions, small lacerations, and calluses on the dorsum of the hand overlying the metacarpophalangeal and

interphalangeal joints found in patients with symptoms of bulimia. Caused by repeated contact between the incisors and the skin of the hand, which occurs during self-induced vomiting.

Schizophasia Synonym for word salad.

Schizophrenic speech disorder This includes abnormalities in the form of speech consequent upon a schizophrenic thought disorder and those abnormalities in the use of language characteristic of schizophrenia such as use of neologisms and stock words/phrases.

Schizophrenic thought disorder A group of abnormalities in the subjective description of the form of thought which occurs in schizophrenia. The abnormalities include: loosening of associations, derailment, thought blocking, fusion, and muddling.

Sensory distortions Changes in the perceived intensity or quality of a real external stimulus. Associated with organic conditions and with drug ingestion or withdrawals. Examples include: hyperacusis (hearing sounds as abnormally loud), micropsia (‘wrong end of the telescope’ effect, perceiving objects which are close as small and far away).

Snapping off Synonym for thought blocking.

Somatic anxiety See Anxiety.

Somatization The experience of bodily symptoms with no, or no

sufficient, physical cause for them, with presumed psychological causation.

Splitting of perception Loss of the ability to simultaneously process complementary information in two modalities of sensation (e.g. sound and pictures on television). Rare symptom of schizophrenia.

Stereotypy A repetitive and bizarre movement which is not goal- directed (in contrast to mannerism). The action may have delusional significance to the patient. Seen in schizophrenia.

Stock phrases/stock words Feature of schizophrenic speech disorder. Use of particular words and phrases more frequently than in normal speech and with a wider variety of meanings than normal.

Stupor Absence of movement and mutism where there is no impairment of consciousness. Functional stupor occurs in a variety

of psychiatric illnesses. Organic stupor is caused by lesions in the midbrain (the ‘locked-in’ syndrome).

Synaesthesia A stimulus in one sensory modality is perceived in a fashion characteristic of an experience in another sensory modality (e.g. ‘tasting’ sounds or ‘hearing’ colours). Occurs in hallucinogenic drug intoxication and in epileptic states.

Tangentiality Producing answers which are only very indirectly related to the question asked by the examiner.

Tardive dyskinesia A movement disorder associated with long- term treatment with neuroleptic drugs (although it was described in psychotic patients before the use of these drugs in clinical practice). There is continuous involuntary movement of the tongue and lower face. More severe cases involve the upper face and have choreoathetoid movements of the limbs.

Teleological hallucination Synonym for command hallucination.

Terminal insomnia Synonym for early morning wakening.

Third-person auditory hallucinations Auditory hallucinations characteristic of schizophrenia where voices are heard referring to the patient as ‘he’ or ‘she’, rather than ‘you’. The first-rank symptoms of ‘voices heard arguing’ and ‘running commentary’ are of this type.

Thought blocking A symptom of schizophrenic thought disorder. The patient experiences a sudden break in the chain of thought. It may be explained as due to thought withdrawal. In the absence of such delusional elaboration, it is not a first-rank symptom.

Thought broadcasting The delusional belief that one’s thoughts are accessible directly to others. A first-rank symptom of schizophrenia.

Thought disorder See Formal thought disorder.

Thought echo The experience of an auditory hallucination in which the content is the individual’s current thoughts. A first-rank symptom of schizophrenia. Also known as gedankenlautwerden or echo de la pensée.

Thought insertion The delusional belief that thoughts are being placed in the patient’s head from outside. A first-rank symptom of


Tic Sudden twitches of a single muscle or muscle group. Trichotillomania The compulsion to pull one’s hair out. Verbigeration Repetition of words or phrase while unable to

articulate the ‘next’ word in the sentence. Seen in expressive dysphasia.

Verschmelzung Synonym for fusion.

‘Voices heard arguing’ A type of auditory hallucination which is a first-rank symptom of schizophrenia. The patient hears two or more voices debating with one another, sometimes about a matter over which the patient is agonizing (e.g. ‘he should take the medication, it’s worked before’, ‘no, not again, he’ll not take it this time’).

Vorbeigehen Synonym for Ganser symptom.

Vorbeireden Synonym for Ganser symptom.

Waxy flexibility Synonym for catalepsy.

Wernicke’s dysphasia A type of receptive dysphasia due to

cortical lesions in or near the posterior portion of the left first temporal convolution (superior temporal gyrus)—known as the Wernicke area.

Withdrawals The physical sequelae of abstinence from a drug to which one is dependent. These are individual to the drug concerned (e.g. sweating, tachycardia, and tremor for alcohol; dilated pupils, piloerection, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea for opiates).

Word salad The most severe degree of schizophrenic thought disorder, in which no connection of any kind is understandable between sequential words and phrases the patient uses. Also called schizophasia.

Chapter 4


A brief history of neuropsychiatry

What is neuropsychiatry?

Psychiatric presentations of organic illness

Neurological examination in psychiatry

Neurological investigations in psychiatry

Movement disorders in psychiatry

Functional neurological symptoms

Neurodevelopmental disorders in adulthood

Psychiatric aspects of epilepsy 1

Psychiatric aspects of epilepsy 2

Parkinson’s disease and related syndromes

Neuropsychiatric aspects of central nervous system infections HIV/AIDS and psychiatry 1

HIV/AIDS and psychiatry 2: clinical presentations Autoimmune and connective tissue disorders Dementia: general overview

Reversible causes of cognitive impairment Alzheimer’s disease 1

Alzheimer’s disease 2: pharmacological treatments Fronto-temporal dementia

Dementia with Lewy bodies

Vascular dementia (vascular neurocognitive disorder) Other specific neurodegenerative conditions

Prion diseases

Amnestic disorders

Psychiatric aspects of brain injury

Mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) Psychiatric sequelae of stroke

A brief history of neuropsychiatry

‘ … from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations … And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us … ’

From ‘On the Sacred Disease’ Hippocrates (c.400 bc)

Wilhelm Griesinger (1817–1868) is often referred to as the ‘founding father of neuropsychiatry’ (perhaps more accurately the first ‘biological psychiatrist’). It is to him that the (apocryphal) quotation has been attributed that all mental diseases are just diseases of the

brain.1 Griesinger was a physician (the concept of psychiatrist did not exist at the time), and there is no doubt that his textbook Pathologie und Therapie der Psychischen Krankheiten [Textbook of Mental Pathology and Therapeutics] (1845) was hugely influential. He established the journal Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten [Archives of Psychiatry and Nervous Diseases], which, in the hands of Meyer and Wetsphal, became the leading research journal in psychiatry internationally.

The philosophical roots of modern neuropsychiatry are to be found in the earlier new materialism of the nineteenth century. Étienne-

Jean George2 (1795–1828), a disciple of Pinel and Esquirol, emphasized the organic aetiology of mental disorder. Antoine Laurent Bayle (1799–1858) challenged the dualist view of the time with a unitary view of general paralysis—that dementia and mental disorder are both features of the same disease. However, it was Griesinger’s works that had the greatest influence on many European neuropsychiatrists, including Meyer, Meynert, Liepmann, Pick, Oppenheim, Charcot, Korsakoff, von Monakow, Babinski, Janet, Freud, Jackson, Bleuler, Kraepelin, Bonhoeffer, and Alzheimer.

In the UK, the most important psychiatrist at the time Henry

Maudsley (1835–1918) had views very close to those of Griesinger.3

It was Meynert’s disciple Karl Wernicke (1848–1905)4 who further advanced Griesinger’s ideas, proposing: a model to encompass all

brain-related diseases (whether so-called psychiatric or neurological); the development of a pathophysiological model to mediate between the brain and behaviour; and the introduction of the first ‘neuropsychological approach’ to mental symptoms. Other important figures include Jackson (1834–1911), von Monakow (1853–1930), Goldstein (1878–1965), and Guiraud (1882–1974). In the early 1900s, neuropsychiatry was an emerging discipline in the German- and French-speaking world, and to an extent in the USA.

All was to change when the rise of psychodynamic thinking led many psychiatrists to embrace a new ‘mentalistic’ approach, and a separation from neurology began. There was resistance. Notably, Sir Charles Symonds (1890–1978), the doyen of British neurologists, fought to prevent psychiatry’s drift away from neurology and

neuroscience.5 However, after World War II, the division between neurology and psychiatry widened, symbolized by The Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry (first published in 1919) separating into two journals. In many countries, separate departments of neurology and psychiatry were formed, with separate training programmes.

However, from the mid-twentieth century onwards, developments in neuropsychopharmacology led to the emergence of what has been called the ‘second biological psychiatry’. There was a real explosion of research in neurosciences, a ‘remedicalization’ of psychiatry, and a decline in the dominance of psychodynamism. By the 1980s, even the nosology of psychiatry was changing, with the publication of ICD-9 (1978) and DSM-III (1980), when the neuroses were rejected in favour of a biological medical model. With the development of functional imaging techniques, including CT, MRI, and PET/SPECT, and rapid advances in molecular genetics, research of neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and cognitive neuroscientists increasingly overlapped. In the UK, the British Neuropsychiatry Association (BNPA) was founded in October 1987,

chaired by Professor Lishman,6 and all clinical neuroscience professionals were welcome to join. In the USA, the American Neuropsychiatric Association (ANPA) was founded in 1988 and the first joint meeting with the BNPA was in 1991.

At the turn of the millennium, there were calls for a rapprochement of neurology and psychiatry.7 The Royal College of Psychiatrists

established a Special Interest Group in Neuropsychiatry in 2001, and this led to a Section of Neuropsychiatry in 2008 and a Faculty of Neuropsychiatry in 2014, with emphasis on training, standards, service development, and academic/research links. It is likely that over the next decade, we will see the disciplines of neurology and psychiatry becoming closer still. Early signs are in proposals for ICD- 11 where ‘Dissociative neurological symptom (previously conversion) disorders’ may be listed with other ‘Diseases of the nervous


What is neuropsychiatry?

To many psychiatrists, neuropsychiatry is synonymous with psychiatry as both are concerned with ‘the functional or organic disturbances of the central nervous system that give rise to, contribute to, or are associated with mental and emotional

disorders.’10 The history of (neuro)psychiatry ( A brief history of neuropsychiatry, p. 122) is populated by figures like Emil Kraepelin (1856–1926) and Alois Alzheimer (1864–1915) who practised psychiatry but hoped to discover the basis of psychiatric diseases through histological and neuropathological research. These days, the term neuropsychiatry can be applied in many ways. In the scientific field, neuropsychiatry may refer broadly to any endeavour by a scientist, educator, clinician, policymaker, or individual who seeks to advance our understanding of the neurological basis of psychiatric disorders, the psychiatric manifestations of neurological disorders, and the evaluation and care of those with neurologically based behavioural disturbances. When referring specifically to a medical subspecialty, it may mean one or the other of two parallel, but historically distinct, clinical disciplines: behavioural neurology and neuropsychiatry.

‘Psychiatry is a protean discipline and neuropsychiatry is one of its incarnations.’ Berrios and Markova (2002)9

Behavioural neurology (also known as behavioural neuroscience and brain sciences) is essentially a branch of neurology that links normal and abnormal behaviours to functioning of specific areas or functional networks of the brain. The origins of this approach arise in research and early localization theories of Franz Gall (1758 –

1828),11 followed in the mid-nineteenth century by neuroanatomical lesion studies in aphasias by Paul Broca (1824–1880) and Carl Wernicke (1848–1905). Research in this area peaked in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with work extending into the clinical descriptions of dementias by Alzheimer and Arnold Pick (1851–1924). It was not until 1972 that the ‘father of behavioural neurology’ Norman Geschwind (1926–1984) coined the name at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, and in 1982, the Behavioural Neurology Society was founded (now the Society for

Behaviour and Cognitive Neurology).12 In the USA, Geschwind and colleagues were responsible for a renaissance of behavioural neuroscience, not only because of their work on disconnection syndromes, aphasia, and behavioural syndromes of limbic epilepsy (the eponymous Geschwind syndrome), but also the legacy of training generations of behavioural neurologists (including such

luminaries as Kenneth Heilman13 and Antonio Damasio14). With the advent of in vivo neuroimaging from the 1980s onwards, the cognitive neurosciences have capitalized on having new tools to explore lesion, structural, and functional correlations with behavioural dysfunction in living people.

The interwoven history of neuropsychiatry is outlined briefly on pp. 122–123. It is worth noting that historically neuropsychiatry is a distinct discipline from biological psychiatry, which emerged along with biological treatments of psychiatric disorders in the late 1930s to early 1950s. The term biological psychiatry was coined in 1946 after a meeting on ‘the biological basis of behaviour’, organized by Johannes M Nielsen (1890–1969), Professor of Neurology at the University of Southern California, and George N Thompson (1909–), Chief Psychiatrist at the Los Angeles General Hospital. From this meeting arose the Society of Biological Psychiatry, the membership of which comprised many of the elite of the American neuroscience establishment. Neilsen and Thompson published the first textbook of

biological psychiatry The Engrammes of Psychiatry in 1947. Biological psychiatry developed to encompass the expanding fields of brain biochemistry, neuroendocrinology, cellular and molecular medicine, and genetics, as they applied to mental disorders. Due to the cross-fertilization of the neurosciences over the last 70 years, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish biological psychiatry from other clinical and academic neurosciences. Indeed the term is sometimes used in a pejorative way to suggest overly reductive thinking. The same allegations have been levelled at neuropsychiatry. Developments in our understanding of the interaction between genes and the environment, together with the rise of biological psychology, neuropsychology, and more recently

cognitive neuropsychiatry,15 also mean that if we are ever to have a more complete understanding of how the brain functions in health and disease, then further integration is vital. In clinical practice, ignoring psychological and social aspects is at best inconsiderate and at worst negligent.

The current practice of both neuropsychiatry and behavioural neurology is focused on better understanding the links between neuroscience and behaviour, with an emphasis on the care of individuals with neurologically based behavioural disturbances. Whether trained primarily in psychiatry, neurology, or both, practitioners require specific experience in the evaluation, differential diagnosis, prognosis, pharmacological treatment, psychosocial management, and neurorehabilitation of persons with complex neuropsychiatric and neurobehavioural conditions.

Psychiatric presentations of organic illness

All psychiatric illnesses are, by their nature, organic, i.e. they involve abnormalities of normal brain structure or function. The term ‘organic illness’ in modern psychiatric classification, however, refers to those conditions with demonstrable aetiology in central nervous system (CNS) pathology. Organic disorders related to substance misuse are dealt with in Chapter 14. This chapter deals with those disorders that are caused by degenerative, traumatic, inflammatory, infective, autoimmune, and metabolic conditions.

Organic illnesses are included in the lists of differential diagnoses for most psychiatric syndromes. For this reason, most patients presenting with psychiatric symptomatology merit a thorough physical examination (including neurological examination and, in some cases, special investigations) before a diagnosis of primary psychiatric illness is made. While psychiatrists do not have to be expert neurologists, a sound knowledge of those conditions that bridge neurology and psychiatry is essential.

Listed here are common organic causes of psychiatric syndromes (delirium, dementia, and amnestic disorders are discussed later).

Organic causes of psychosis

• Neurological [encephalitis, e.g. herpes simplex virus (HSV); epilepsy; dementia; brain injury; brain tumour; HIV; neurosyphilis; intracerebral abscess; stroke).

• Endocrine (hyper-/hypothyroidism; Cushing’s; hyperparathyroidism; Addison’s disease).

• Metabolic (uraemia; sodium imbalance; porphyria).

• Autoimmune (systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (‘lupus

psychosis’); autoimmune encephalitis).

• Medications [steroids; levodopa (L-dopa); isoniazid;


antihypertensives; anticonvulsants;


• Drugs of abuse [novel psychoactive substances (NPS);

amphetamines; cocaine; LSD; cannabis; phencyclidine (PCP);


• Toxins.

Organic causes of depression

• Neurological [stroke; epilepsy; Parkinson’s disease; brain tumour; dementia; multiple sclerosis (MS); Huntington’s disease; brain injury]. Cerebellar disease is associated with a cognitive-affective syndrome with depressed mood or labile affect.

• Infectious [HIV; Epstein–Barr virus (EBV)/infectious mononucleosis; brucellosis).

• Endocrine and metabolic [hypothyroidism; Cushing’s; Addison’s disease; parathyroid disease; vitamin deficiency (B12 and folate); porphyria].

• Cardiac disease [myocardial infarction (MI); congestive cardiac failure (CCF)].

• SLE.

• Rheumatoid arthritis.

• Cancer.

• Medications [analgesics; antihypertensives; levodopa;

anticonvulsants; antibiotics; steroids; combined oral contraceptive

(OCP); cytotoxics; cimetidine; salbutamol).

• Drugs of abuse [alcohol; benzodiazepines (BDZs); cannabis;

cocaine; opioids].

• Toxins.

Organic causes of mania

• Neurological (stroke; epilepsy; brain tumour; brain injury; MS).

• Endocrine (hyperthyroidism).

• Medications (steroids; antidepressants; mefloquine; interferon,

isoniazid; cytotoxics).

• Drugs of abuse (cannabis; cocaine; amphetamines).

• Toxins.

Organic causes of anxiety

• Neurological (TLE; dementia; brain injury; stroke; brain tumour; MS; Parkinson’s disease].

• Pulmonary [chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD)].

• Cardiac (arrhythmias; CCF; angina; mitral valve prolapse).

• Endocrine (hyperthyroidism; phaeochromocytoma).

• Medications (antidepressants; antihypertensives; flumazenil;

yohimbine; fenfluramine).

• Drugs of abuse [alcohol (withdrawal); BDZs (withdrawal); caffeine;

cannabis; cocaine; LSD; MDMA (ecstasy); amphetamines, NPS].

Neurological examination in psychiatry

A neurological examination should ideally be performed in all patients presenting with psychiatric symptoms—urgently where there is suspicion of an ‘organic’ disorder. With practice, the feeling of ‘normal’ (tone, reflexes, optic discs, tandem gait) becomes more

firmly established and it becomes possible to pick up minor abnormalities which may be diagnostically helpful.

Examination routine

• General observation—of the patient walking into the examination room (or lying in bed) gives an impression of the conscious level, demeanour, mood, gait, and the presence of movement disorders (

Movement disorders in psychiatry, p. 132).

• Gait Ask the patient to walk to the end of the room and turn round.

• Tandem gait—ask the patient to walk heel-to-toe across the room.

• Romberg’s sign—with the examiner’s hands on either side and

ready to support the patient, should they lose balance, ask the patient to stand with their feet together and eyes closed. The test is positive, suggesting impaired proprioception, if the patient loses balance.

• Cranial nerves—with the patient seated on a chair or an examination couch, cranial nerves I–XII may be quickly assessed using this routine:

• I: not routinely clinically tested, but ask about the sense of smell

—often lost (anosmia) after brain injury and in Parkinson’s


• II: test visual acuity using the Snellen chart; visual fields with a

‘wiggling finger’ or a red pin; and optic discs via fundoscopy. Test

pupillary reactions to light and accommodation.

• III, IV, and VI: test eye movements and observe any ptosis.

• V: test facial sensation in all three branches of the trigeminal

nerve, using cotton wool. Test jaw clench.

• VII: test facial movements, asking the patient to copy the

examiner—raise the eyebrows, close the eyes, and bare the


• VIII: test hearing by whispering in each ear.

• IX: gag reflex—not routinely tested.

• X: ask the patient to swallow and cough.

• XI: ask the patient to elevate their shoulders and to turn their

head left and right against resistance.

• XII: ask the patient to stick out their tongue.

• Muscle tone—with the patient seated or reclined on the examination couch, test muscle tone in upper and lower limbs. If tone is suspected, test for ankle clonus by rapidly dorsiflexing the foot at the ankle.

• Muscle power—test power in upper and lower limbs.

• Reflexes—test deep tendon reflexes at the knees, ankles, and elbows. The plantar reflex (Babinski) rewards the inconvenience of removing shoes with the reassurance that there is no significant

upper motor neuron lesion.

• Sensation—finally, an attempt at sensory examination may be

made using cotton wool (light touch), a tuning fork (temperature and vibration), and proprietary sensory-testing sharps (e.g.

‘NeurotipTM’); note that sensory testing relies entirely on the patient’s subjective report.

Examination findings in neuropsychiatric conditions

Some or all of the following signs may be observed or elicited on examination, aiding diagnosis.

• Vascular neurocognitive disorder (vascular dementia)—pyramidal

weakness with tone and brisk reflexes, dysphasia, hurried

shuffling gait (marche à petit pas).

• Parkinson’s disease—shuffling gait with stooped posture,

bradykinesia, asymmetrical pill-rolling tremor, cogwheel rigidity,

dysdiadochokinesia, positive glabellar tap test.

• Drug-induced Parkinsonism—similar to Parkinson’s disease, but

posture less stooped and rigidity and tremor are symmetrical.

• Functional neurological disorders—Hoover’s sign, intermittent ‘give way’ weakness, tight-roping (excessive, successfully corrected overbalancing) on tandem gait, non-anatomical sensory loss, tubular visual field defect, tremor ‘entrains’ to rhythm of repeated

voluntary movements in another limb.

• Raised intracranial pressure—papilloedema, drowsiness. There

may be signs of a localizing lesion (e.g. hemiparesis or aphasia due to tumour). Idiopathic intracranial hypertension is associated with papilloedema and most common in obese young women.

• Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)—hypokinetic gait—the patient looks ‘glued to the floor’. Ataxia.

• Advanced dementia—long tract signs, including brisk reflexes and upgoing plantars, may be present. Primitive reflexes are less specific.

• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/motor neuron disease (MND) —muscle wasting, fasciculation, dysarthria.

• Progressive supranuclear palsy—characteristic loss of downgaze, followed by loss of upgaze. Unsteady gait, dysarthria.

• Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD)—ataxia, myoclonus, visual impairment (blurred vision, visual agnosia, or cortical blindness).

• Wilson’s disease—Kayser–Fleischer rings, ataxia, masked facial appearance, dysarthria, late dystonia, rigidity, spasticity, and flexion contractures.

• Subacute combined degeneration of the cord—(caused by B12 deficiency and associated with a dementia syndrome) Spasticity in the legs with extensor plantars, but hyporeflexia at the knees and ankles. Peripheral sensory loss (especially to pain and temperature) and optic atrophy (pale discs).

• Neurosyphilis—ataxia, signs of stroke, reduced visual acuity, optic atrophy, Argyll Robertson pupils (small; accommodate but do not react), hearing loss, hypotonia and hyporeflexia, loss of proprioception and vibration sense, positive Romberg’s test.

Neurological investigations in psychiatry

Basic observations and blood tests to exclude reversible causes or comorbid physical illness should be routinely performed in all new presentations of psychiatric illness.

Standard blood tests in psychiatric practice

• FBC, U&Es, LFTs [including gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT) which is sensitive to alcohol excess], inflammatory marker [C- reactive protein (CRP) or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)], thyroid function, bone profile (calcium, phosphate).

• B12 and folate.

• Tests for relevant infections: HIV ( + viral hepatitis) where risk

factors; HIV and syphilis in subacute dementia.

• Blood or urine toxicology.

In certain circumstances, more invasive and/or expensive investigations may be useful, as follows.

Additional blood tests

• Autoimmune encephalitis antibodies —aypical psychosis (e.g. with alteration of consciousness or cognition, seizures, or movement disorder).

• Genetic tests for specific mutations—consider where history of early-onset and strong family history of dementia, e.g. dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) ( Alzheimer’s disease 1, p. 156), fronto-temporal disease (FTD) ( Fronto-temporal dementia, p. 160). Note ethical issues in testing for Huntington’s disease, which has implications for other family members ( Huntington’s disease, p. 166).


• CT brain—is usually performed in the investigation of cognitive impairment, in order to exclude tumour/space-occupying lesion (SOL) or NPH and to assess the extent of cerebrovascular disease and global and focal areas of atrophy.

• MRI brain—may be suggested to allow abnormalities on CT to be assessed in higher resolution or where the CT scan appears normal, but abnormalities are suspected. Changes after brain injury, in encephalitis, and after stroke may be evident on MRI, but not CT. Pacemakers and other metal implants are contraindications to MRI.

• PET/SPECT/dopamine active transporter (DAT)—radioisotope scans can be used to assess function. SPECT is helpful in discriminating DAT from FTD, and DAT can help with early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.


• Interictal EEG—in general, has a limited role in the differential diagnosis of epilepsy. A normal EEG does not exclude epilepsy, and epileptiform discharges are found in 1% of the general population and between 10% and 30% of people with other cerebral pathology or on psychotropic medication. In conditions other than epilepsy, the EEG is often non-specific—showing similar

patterns in most types of encephalopathy. However, there are notable exceptions where the EEG is distinctive: non-convulsive status epilepticus, CJD, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). EEG can be useful in distinguishing functional/psychogenic coma from organic causes of unconsciousness.

• Video EEG/video telemetry—can aid the diagnosis of epilepsy and dissociative (non-epileptic) seizures by recording a typical event, but only if an event is captured during recording.

Cerebrospinal fluid sampling (lumbar puncture)

• LP and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for protein, blood, and cytology should be considered where encephalitis (infective or autoimmune) is suspected.

• Oligoclonal bands in CSF which are not matched in the plasma (unpaired oligoclonal bands) suggest CNS inflammation.

• Test for CSF 14-3-3 protein in suspected CJD. Movement disorders in psychiatry

Movement disorders occur in three contexts within psychiatry: neurodegenerative disorders with psychiatric symptoms (e.g. Parkinson’s disease), psychiatric disorders with abnormal movements (stereotypies, tics), and medication-induced movement disorders (e.g. EPSEs).


Movement disorders commonly involve a disequilibrium of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine (DA), acetylcholine (ACh), and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), within the circuits of the basal ganglia. Levels of DA and ACh tend to be inversely related. For example, in Parkinsonism, there is DA with ACh; conversely, chorea is characterized by DA and ACh.


A syndrome characterized by four core symptoms: slow, ‘pill-rolling’ tremor (4Hz); rigidity; bradykinesia; and postural abnormalities.


• Degenerative diseases—idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (85% cases) and Lewy body dementia; progressive supranuclear palsy (PSNP); multisystem atrophy (MSA); corticobasal degeneration (CBD).

• Medication—antipsychotics; metoclopramide; domperidone.

• Toxins—cobalt; manganese; magnesium; organophosphates.

• Infections—encephalitis lethargica (post-influenza); CJD.

• Miscellaneous—cerebrovascular disease involving the basal

ganglia; trauma of the basal ganglia; NPH; neoplasia of the basal ganglia; dementia pugilistica (punch-drunk syndrome).

Tic disorders

Tics are spontaneous, repetitive, rhythmic movements that can be motor or vocal and usually involve DA in the basal ganglia. They are semi-voluntary and can only be resisted for a short time with difficulty. Tics are classified as primary or secondary and occur in:

• Tourette’s syndrome—multiple motor, and at least one vocal, tics many times per day for >1yr ( Tic disorders, p. 676).

• Chronic tic disorder—motor or vocal tics, but not both.

• Provisional tic disorder—childhood tics present for <1yr.

• Infection—CJD; Sydenham’s chorea; encephalitis.

• Drugs—levodopa; methylphenidate; cocaine; amphetamines.

• Other—carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning; stroke/trauma (rare).


• Exaggerated physiological tremor—(8–12Hz); occurs at rest and with action; causes: stress, anxiety, caffeine, medications.

• Essential tremor—(6–12Hz); at rest, with action and postural; most noticeable symmetrically in upper limbs.

• Extra-pyramidal—(4Hz); resting tremor; e.g. Parkinsonism.

• Cerebellar, midbrain, or red nucleus—(4–6Hz); intention tremor;

causes: trauma, vascular, MS, tumour.


( The catatonic patient, p. 1054)

• A motor syndrome with several causes, diagnosed (DSM-5) by the

presence of three or more of the following: • Stupor (no psychomotor activity).

• Catalepsy (passive induction of a posture held against gravity). • ‘Waxy flexibility’.

• Mutism.

• Negativism (opposition/no response to instructions or stimuli). • Posturing (active maintenance of postures against gravity).

• Mannerism.

• Stereotypy.

• Agitation (motor excitement not influenced by external stimuli). • Echolalia and echopraxia.

• Treatment—BDZs, ECT. Chorea

Brief, irregular, ‘dance’-like, unpredictable movements, which, in mild cases, may appear voluntary. There are many causes, including pregnancy, Sydenham’s chorea, drugs (antipsychotics, levodopa, OCP), and Huntington’s disease. Treatment—antipsychotics, BDZs, or tetrabenazine have been tried.


A rare and dramatic movement disorder. An extreme version of chorea in which a structural lesion or metabolic damage to the subthalamic nucleus causes involuntary flailing, ballistic movements of the limbs. Causes—include stroke and non-ketotic hyperglycaemia. Treatment—antipsychotics or tetrabenazine may help.

Alien hand syndrome

A complex movement disorder associated with a sense of loss of limb ownership. The patient’s hand performs complex, meaningful movements without being guided by the intention of the patient, who is unable to stop the hand from grasping objects. It occurs in 60% of

patients with corticobasal degeneration17 and has also been described after stroke.

Encephalitis lethargica

Roughly 20yrs after the great influenza epidemic of the 1920s, large numbers of patients who had suffered from influenza encephalitis during the epidemic developed this disorder (also called post-

encephalitic Parkinsonism), now thought to be an autoimmune condition. Clinical findings—Parkinsonism; oculogyric crises; pupillary abnormalities; psychosis. The disorder was the subject of the book (and film) by Oliver Sacks, entitled Awakenings.

Functional neurological symptoms


Functional neurological symptoms (also historically called hysterical, conversion, psychogenic, or medically unexplained) account, in whole or part, for up to 30% of presentations to neurology outpatient

clinics.18 Patients experience similar levels of disability to those with conditions such as MS, but greater levels of psychiatric comorbidity and emotional distress; up to 70% have depression or anxiety

disorders. Rates of misdiagnosis are low19 (see also unexplained symptoms 1: introduction, p. 858;

unexplained symptoms 2: clinical presentations, p. 860; unexplained symptoms 3: management principles, p. 862).

Clinical features

Medically Medically Medically

Symptoms often have a sudden onset, which may or may not follow a recent traumatic event, injury, illness (migraine is a common trigger), medical intervention, or anaesthetic. Symptoms may closely mimic those of neurological disease: weakness, sensory loss, dysphonia or dysarthria, muscle jerks, or seizures. Diagnosis requires positive clinical features of functional disorder (see Box 4.1). Aetiology is unclear; current research suggests that abnormal attentional focus may generate symptoms, and functional MRI (fMRI) studies show abnormal activation of the prefrontal cortex during attempted movement; dissociative seizures may relate to panic (although most patients do not experience typical anxiety symptoms). A history of prior trauma is no longer required for diagnosis (DSM-5); recent reviews suggest many, but importantly not all, patients have a history of stressful life events.

Box 4.1 Positive clinical features of functional neurological disorder

Prognostic factors

Symptoms with a short history and acute onset often get better within days or weeks; however, commonly, symptoms run a chronic course, with high levels of disability and distress ongoing after many years. Perpetuating factors may include: fear of neurological disease, avoidance of movement and normal activity, secondary anxiety or depression, and social adversity. As with most psychiatric and neurological conditions, litigation is the strongest predictor of poor outcome.


Even in the presence of positive clinical evidence of a functional disorder, it is generally sensible to perform relevant investigations— CT head, CT spine, neurophysiology—to be sure no organic pathology has been missed and to reassure the patient that their concerns have been taken seriously. Where it is not possible to witness or obtain a good witness account of dissociative seizures, video EEG can be extremely helpful.


• Explanation: where the diagnosis is clear, it can and should be confidently explained that this is a positive diagnosis, and not one

• Leg weakness and gait disturbance—Hoover’s sign, marked inconsistency on examination (e.g. able to walk but unable to move the leg during examination).

• Tremor—‘entrains’ to a rhythm tapped with the opposite hand or with the foot; disappears when distracted.

• Sensory symptoms—sharply demarcated and non-anatomical distribution of sensory loss, e.g. with a sharp midline boundary. Tubular visual field defect.

• Dissociative seizures—long duration, fluctuating course, asynchronous movements, side-to-side head and body movements, eyes closed, and ictal crying.

• Cognitive symptoms—detailed recall of ‘forgetting’ events; gross inconsistency in test performance vs observed or reported level of function; attending clinic alone.

of exclusion, and that the condition is familiar, common in

neurology clinics, and not a ‘medical mystery’.

• The condition may be described as a disturbance of function, but

not structure; some use the basic analogy of a ‘software’, rather than ‘hardware’, problem; other patients may be able to engage with an explanation of abnormal attentional focus disturbing processes which are usually automatic.

• If present, positive clinical signs, such as the Hoover’s sign or entrainment of tremor, can be positively used to demonstrate to the patient the unhelpful role of attention and therefore potential for


• For patients who do not improve after a clear explanation of

diagnosis, physiotherapy (ideally from a therapist with interest or

experience in functional disorders),21 or CBT may be effective.

Treat comorbid depression or anxiety.

• Follow-up for those with widespread symptoms may help to

prevent iatrogenic harm from over-investigation or from treatments that are likely to be unhelpful. BDZs and opiates, in particular, can worsen symptoms of dissociation and fatigue.

Neurodevelopmental disorders in adulthood

As the rates of diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders in children have in recent years, there is increasing recognition of the lifelong impact of neurodevelopmental disorders ( Attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder, pp. 668–672). Individuals, often without a previous diagnosis, may present complaining of difficulties associated with core symptoms of these disorders or due to associated psychopathology and social difficulties. Parents may recognize their own symptoms and seek diagnosis following the diagnosis in a child.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder


The estimated prevalence of ADHD in adults in the USA is 4.4%, and in the UK 2.3%. ♂:♀ 2:1. Some symptoms of childhood ADHD

persist in adulthood in 50–65%, with the full syndrome persisting in 15%.

Clinical features

Social problems as a result of inattentive and impulsive behaviours include:

• Difficulty maintaining relationships and employment.

• Poor engagement with medical care.

• Criminal behaviours. ADHD is common in prisons and young offender institutions.

• Substance misuse and addiction, particularly with stimulants, reflecting a combination of social disadvantage and self- medication. It may be difficult to disentangle symptoms of ADHD from symptoms of intoxication, withdrawal, or complications such as drug-induced psychosis.


Symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity:

• Impaired function.

• Present in different settings (e.g. home and work).

• Present from childhood, evidenced by collateral history from parent

± school reports.

• Must not be explained by another mental disorder, although the

presence of secondary mood, anxiety, or substance misuse disorders may make this difficult to establish.


(See NICE guidelines, 2008.)22

• Atomoxetine, methylphenidate, or dexamfetamine.

• Full medical examination and history, including assessment of

cardiac risk factors prior to treatment.

• Atomoxetine may cause agitation, suicidality, and idiosyncratic liver

reactions but is safest if there is a risk of diversion or misuse and is

less likely to cause psychosis.

• Monitor weight (risk of weight loss), blood pressure (BP), and pulse

on all stimulants.

• Offer CBT to those unable or unwilling to take medication.

Autism spectrum disorders

(See also Pervasive developmental disorders, p. 820; Autism spectrum disorders, p. 674.)

Clinical features

The core features are:

• Deficits in reciprocal social interaction.

• Restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests. • Communication impairments.

In adolescence and adulthood, communication skills often improve, but social deficits can be more problematic, perhaps

reflecting the more complex demands of adult relationships.23 Adults without a prior diagnosis of ASD may present with secondary anxiety or mood disorders.


Requires collateral history or supporting information (e.g. school reports) evidencing that deficits have been present since early childhood. The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) questionnaire can be helpful as a screening tool.


Supportive, including direction to available support agencies. Secondary mood disorders or anxiety disorders should be treated as for those without mood or anxiety disorders, including with psychological treatment where available.

Psychiatric aspects of epilepsy 1

An epileptic seizure is a transient occurrence of signs and/or symptoms due to abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. Epilepsy is a disease of the brain, characterized by an enduring predisposition to epileptic seizures. The prevalence of active epilepsy in the UK is estimated to be 5–10/1000. The clinical manifestation of a seizure depends on: the cause of epilepsy, the location of the epileptic focus, and the spread of the epileptic discharge within the brain. Seizures are broadly classified as generalized when arising in diffuse bilateral networks or focal when arising from specific areas of the brain. Epilepsy carries significant

disease burden and is associated with an risk of psychiatric disorders, the most common being depression and anxiety which affect up to 30% of people with epilepsy.

Psychological consequences of diagnosis

People with epilepsy have a significantly poorer health-related quality of life, when compared with the general population, associated with frequent seizures, medication side effects, social disability, and stigma, as well as cognitive and mood problems.

Neuropsychiatric effects of treatment

All antiepileptic drugs can induce psychiatric symptoms in people with epilepsy. Mood disorders are the most prevalent, followed by behavioural disturbances and, rarely, psychosis. Patients with a previous psychiatric history are at higher risk of developing these side effects. Specifically, phenobarbital, vigabatrin, tiagabine, topiramate, levetiracetam and zonisamide have been reported to trigger symptoms of depression, and vigabatrin, tiagabine, topiramate, and levetiracetam have been associated with psychosis. Aggressive behaviour and irritability have also been reported as a side effect of some antiepileptic drugs, particularly levetiracetam, perampanel, and topiramate.

Cognitive problems

Cognitive problems are common with multifactorial aetiology, depending on the underlying epilepsy-causing pathology, the frequency and localization of the seizures, the effects of medication, and psychiatric comorbidity. Early onset of seizures, long duration of epilepsy, and high frequency of seizures are associated with poorer cognitive outcome. Clinically, the most common presentation is of memory problems—in general, the result of sedation and slower processing speed secondary to medication. However, in TLE, there is a primary problem of encoding and consolidating information due to brain pathology.

Psychiatric disorders directly attributed to epilepsy— independent of seizures

Interictal depression

Depression is the most common psychiatric comorbidity in people with epilepsy. Prevalence ranges from 10% in people with well- controlled epilepsy to 50% for those with refractory epilepsy and symptomatic focal epilepsy (TLE). There is a bi-directional relationship between depression and epilepsy—people with a history of depression have a 7-times risk of developing epilepsy, suggesting a possible common pathogenic mechanism. Diagnosis—depression in people with epilepsy is often under-recognized; atypical depressive symptoms are sometimes attributed to ‘interictal dysphoric disorder’, and typical symptoms of depression, including fatigue, weight changes, sleep difficulties, and poor concentration, overlap with common side effects of antiepileptic drugs and/or the consequences of recurrent seizures. The Neurological Disorders

Depression Inventory for Epilepsy (NDDI-E)24 is a self-rated six-item questionnaire which has been validated to screen for depression in patients with epilepsy. Suicide rates in people with epilepsy are three times that of the general population, and suicide is the cause of up to 5% of all epilepsy deaths. Newly diagnosed patients are at higher risk of suicide. Treatment—there is some evidence that CBT is helpful. Antidepressants, usually SSRIs ( Prescribing for patients with epilepsy, p. 1038), may also be effective.

Interical anxiety

The prevalence of anxiety in people with epilepsy is higher than in the general population, with a significantly elevated risk of social phobias, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and agoraphobia. Anxiety is more common in people with focal epilepsy.

Interictal psychosis

The prevalence of psychosis among people with epilepsy is between 7% and 10%—6–10 times that of the general population. Risk factors include family history of psychosis, earlier age at onset of epilepsy, and low intellectual ability. A schizophrenia-like syndrome, characterized by an absence of negative symptoms and little deterioration of personality, has been described. More recent studies have found no differences in psychotic symptoms between patients with schizophrenia with or those without epilepsy, although there is evidence that people with epilepsy may have a less severe course

and a better response to antipsychotics. Treatment—antipsychotic medication, usually haloperidol or sulpiride ( Prescribing for

patients with epilepsy, p. 1038). There is little evidence for superiority of any particular medication, and choice represents a balance between effective treatment of psychosis and the risk of lowering the seizure threshold. In general, the chosen antipsychotic should be titrated slowly to the lowest effective dose. Most antipsychotics can cause non-specific changes on the EEG in patients with or without epilepsy. Clozapine can produce epileptiform discharges on the EEG, but this does not predict the occurrence of seizures.

Forced normalization or alternating psychosis

A relatively rare situation in which the patient’s presentation alternates between periods of frequent seizures with a normal mental state and periods of improved seizure control and normalization of the EEG, but with the emergence of psychotic symptoms. This phenomenon has been observed following the introduction of anticonvulsants.

Psychiatric aspects of epilepsy 2

Psychiatric disorders directly attributed to epilepsy—dependent on seizures

Pre-ictal symptoms

People with epilepsy may experience mood changes during the days and hours leading up to the seizure. These include symptoms of irritability, emotional lability, depression, anxiety, or (rarely) aggression, all of which subside after the seizure.

Ictal symptoms

Changes in mental state as a direct expression of the seizure activity begin abruptly, are short-lasting and stereotyped, and are often accompanied by other ictal symptoms like motor automatisms. Ictal fear and anxiety are a common experience, particularly in patients with TLE. Psychotic-like symptoms include brief experiences of visual, auditory, or gustatory hallucinations, usually with preserved

insight. In non-convulsive status epilepticus, these psychotic-like symptoms can persist and can be distinguished from a primary psychiatric disorder by the presence of confusion and other ictal features. Ictal aggression is very rare.

Post-ictal symptoms

Post-ictal confusion

Characterized by an altered state of consciousness following a seizure, resulting in agitated and confused behaviour, lasting between minutes to an hour. Aggressive behaviour may be a feature; however, it is often non-directed, unintentional, and brief.

Post–ictal depression

The most commonly reported mood disturbance following a seizure. Depressive symptoms range from mild to moderate and are often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety. Some patients, particularly if they have a history of mental illness, will experience suicidal ideation. Post-ictal depression symptoms often resolve within 24hrs, although they can at times last for several days after the seizure.

Post-ictal psychosis

This affects 7–10% of people with epilepsy. Risk factors include a >10yr history of seizures, bilateral ictal foci, structural brain abnormalities, and a previous history of psychiatric disorders. Episodes are often triggered by a cluster of, or a marked increase in, generalized seizures, followed by a 24–72hr period of normal mental state, after which psychotic symptoms develop. Psychotic symptoms include delusions (paranoid, persecutory, religious) and visual and auditory hallucinations. There is frequently a marked affective component and a degree of confusion or delirium. Symptoms resolve spontaneously within days or weeks, but during the acute phase, BZDs or antipsychotics may be required. In the long term, improving seizure control will reduce the chances of further episodes (see Box 4.2).

Box 4.2 Post-ictal psychosis diagnostic criteria

The ecstatic seizures of Prince Myshkin

He was thinking, incidentally, that there was a moment or two in his epileptic condition almost before the fit itself (if it occurred in waking hours) when suddenly amid the sadness, spiritual darkness, and depression, his brain seemed to catch fire at brief moments … His sensation of being alive and his awareness increased tenfold at those moments which flashed by like lightning. His mind and heart were flooded by a dazzling light. All his agitation, doubts, and worries seemed composed in a twinkling, culminating in a great calm, full of understanding … but these moments, these glimmerings were still but a premonition of that final second (never more than a second) with which the seizure itself began. That second was, of course, unbearable.

Dostoyevsky: The Idiot http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2638

Parkinson’s disease and related syndromes

Parkinson’s disease results in progressive impairment of voluntary initiation of movement, associated with dementia of variable severity,

• Episode of psychosis (often with confusion and delirium), developing within 1wk of a seizure or cluster of seizures.

• Psychosis lasting at least 15hrs and <2mths.

• Mental state characterized by delirium or delusions (e.g.

paranoid, non-paranoid, delusional, misidentifications) or hallucinations (e.g. auditory, visual, somatosensory, olfactory) in clear consciousness.

• No evidence of:

• A history of treatment with antipsychotic medications or

psychosis within the past 3mths.

• Antiepileptic drug toxicity.

• An EEG demonstrating non-convulsive status.

• A recent history of head trauma or alcohol/drug intoxication or

withdrawal (other than BZDs used for epilepsy).

Reprinted from Logsdail SJ, Toone BK. Post-ictal psychoses. A clinical and phenomeno- logical description. Br J Psychiatry 1988;152 with permission from Cambridge University Press.

as well as psychiatric morbidity. It is caused by a gradual loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra (pars compacta). This results in DA and ACh in the basal ganglia. The remaining cells of the substantia nigra contain Lewy bodies.


Occurs in 20/100,000 people; typically has its onset in the 50s and peaks during the 70s; ♂:♀ = 3:2; 5% of cases are familial; 25% of patients are disabled or die within 5yrs and ~60% within 10yrs; rare survival ~20yrs.

Symptoms and signs of Parkinson’s disease

• Tremor—resting, ‘pill-rolling’ tremor of 4Hz; this is an early sign that may start unilaterally and may be asymmetrical in intensity; tremor increases with excitement or fatigue and diminishes during sleep.

• Rigidity—‘lead-pipe’ or ‘cog-wheel’ rigidity, especially in flexor muscles.

• Bradykinesia—slowness; difficulty initiating movement; reduced facial expression and blinking; ‘mask facies’; reduced arm swing; ‘festinating gait’; reduced voluntary speech; micrographia; ‘freezing’ episodes.

• Postural abnormalities—flexed posture; postural instability, with frequent falls.

• Autonomic instability—postural hypotension; constipation; urinary retention; sweaty, greasy, seborrhoeic skin; hypersalivation with drooling.

• Positive glabellar tap. Differential diagnoses

• MSA—Parkinsonism; ataxia; vertical gaze palsies; pyramidal signs; autonomic abnormalities.

• PSNP—also known as Steele–Richardson–Olszewski syndrome; has its onset in the 50s and 60s and is characterized by a tetrad of: subcortical dementia, pseudobulbar palsy, supranuclear palsy, and dystonia (of the head and neck).

• Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) ( Dementia with Lewy bodies, p. 162).

Dementia in Parkinson’s disease

Fifty to 80% of patients develop dementia. Risk of dementia increases with increasing age, increasing severity of symptoms, and coexisting cardiovascular disease. Patients who do not develop dementia may develop subtle cognitive deficits such as rigidity and difficulty sequencing multi-stage tasks.

Clinical features Usually a subcortical dementia with slowing, impaired executive function, personality change, and memory impairment. Hallucinations and paranoia are common, and the later picture is as in DLB ( Dementia with Lewy bodies, p. 162).

Pathology Indistinguishable from that of DLB. Depression in Parkinson’s disease

Very common finding, with 40–70% of patients affected. While depression may arise in the context of adjustment to diagnosis and worsening Parkinson’s disease symptoms, reduced levels of monoamines [DA, noradrenaline (NA), 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)]) and degeneration of subcortical pathways are likely to be important causative factors. Mood fluctuations are often noted in association with changes in plasma DA levels.

Treatment SSRIs; ECT (improves the depressive illness but can precipitate delirium).

Psychosis/delirium in Parkinson’s disease

Psychosis occurs in some cases and is commonly due to medications used in Parkinson’s disease such as:

• Anticholinergics—delirium, agitation, hallucinations, etc.

• levodopa and DA agonists can cause psychiatric complications,

including delirium, psychosis, mania, and impulse-control disorders (ICDs).

Treatment Removal or dose adjustment of causative agents; occasionally, atypical antipsychotics with a lower risk of EPSEs may be used cautiously.

Impulse-control disorders

( Impulse-control disorders 1, p. 422; Impulse-control disorders 2, p. 424; Impulse-control disorders 3, p. 428.)

ICDs, in the form of pathological gambling, hypersexuality, compulsive eating, or compulsive shopping, are recognized complications of treatment with dopamine agonists and occur in ~14% of patients with Parkinson’s disease (also in patients receiving treatment with dopamine agonists for other conditions such as restless legs syndrome, MS, and PSNP).

Treatment Patients must be warned of the risk of ICDs prior to commencing treatment. Decrease or discontinue dopamine agonist if symptoms develop.

Dopamine dysregulation syndrome

Patients develop addictive behaviours towards prescribed dopamine agonist medication, taking doses in excess of those required to treat motor symptoms. Resulting dopaminergic excess can cause ‘punding’ (repetitive, purposeless, complex motor behaviours such as collecting or rearranging objects), ICDs, and psychosis.

Treatment Reduction and supervision of medication. Neuropsychiatric aspects of central nervous system


Viral encephalitis

• Mumps, varicella-zoster, arbovirus, rubella—may cause encephalitis, resulting in behavioural problems, learning difficulties, and ADHD-like symptoms in children.

• HSV 1—involves inferior frontal and anterior temporal lobes, resulting—in the acute phase—in delirium, hallucinations, and TLE. Chronic outcomes include an isolated amnestic syndrome, dementia, and Klüver–Bucy syndrome. EEG: slowing, with bursts of slow wave in the temporal region. Treatment: early treatment with intravenous (IV) aciclovir (before diagnosis is confirmed) reduces long-term disability.

• Measles—can cause both an acute viral encephalitis and rarely SSPE, a slow viral infection with onset of symptoms years after initial measles infection. Clinical features: behavioural problems, deteriorating intellectual function, movement disorders (ataxia, myoclonus), seizures, and, finally dementia and death. Pathology:

white and grey matter changes to the occiput, cerebellum, and basal ganglia. EEG: periodic complexes.


• TB meningitis—in high-prevalence areas most common in children, and in low-prevalence areas more common in adults; caseating exudate covers the base of the skull, leading to vascular infarcts and hydrocephalus; cranial nerves may become involved. Psychiatric symptoms: apathy, withdrawal, insidious personality changes, delirium, hallucinations, chronic behavioural problems.

• Tuberculoma—presents with focal signs, seizures, raised intracranial pressure (ICP).


Historically known as general paresis of the insane (GPI) or Cupid’s disease, neurosyphilis is a chronic outcome of spirochaetal infection of the brain parenchyma. It manifests roughly 15–20yrs after infection. The spirochaetes have a predilection for frontal and parietal lobes, and the disease typically presents as a progressive frontal dementia.

Classic symptoms Grandiosity, euphoria, and mania with mood- congruent delusions. Disinhibition, personality change, and memory impairment are also common.

Neurological features Argyll Robertson pupils, ‘trombone tongue’, tremor, ataxia, dysarthria, myoclonus, hyperreflexia, spasticity, and extra-pyramidal signs.

Megalomania in general paralysis

Gentlemen,—You have before you today a merchant, aged forty- three, who sits down with a polite greeting, and answers questions fluently and easily … His illness began about two years ago. He became absent-minded and forgetful, to such an extent at last that he was dismissed by the firm for whom he had worked. Then, a year ago, he became excited, made extensive purchases and plans, weeping now and then in the deepest despair, so that he had to be taken into the hospital. On admission, he felt full of energy … and intended to write verses here, where he was particularly comfortable. He could write better than Goethe, Schiller, and Heine. The most

fabulous megalomania quickly developed. He proposed to invent an enormous number of new machines, rebuild the hospital, build a cathedral higher than that at Cologne, and put a glass case over the asylum. He was a genius, spoke all the languages in the world, would cast a church of cast-steel, get us the highest order of merit from the Emperor, find a means of taming the madmen, and present the asylum library with 1000 volumes, principally philosophical works. He had quite godly thoughts … When at its height, the disease may present a great resemblance to maniacal states, but the physical examination and proof of the defective memory will save us from confusing it with them. So also will the senseless nature of the plans and the possibility of influencing them, and the feebleness and yielding character of the manifestations of the will, which are all greater in general paralysis.

Kraepelin E (1913) Lectures on Clinical Psychiatry, 3rd nglish edn. London: Baillière, Tindall and Cox

HIV/AIDS and psychiatry 1

Highly active antiretroviral rherapy (HAART) has, in many countries, resulted in greatly life expectancy for those living with HIV infection. Nevertheless, neuropsychiatric complications are not uncommon, particularly in developing countries where rates of infection remain high, and in other circumstances where HIV/AIDS remains undiagnosed, where treatment is unavailable, or where treatment is available but social or psychological factors prevent compliance with treatment. In addition, a diagnosis of HIV and associated morbidity and mortality may have major consequences for the psychological and social functioning of individuals, families, and communities. People with HIV/AIDS are subject to prejudice and stigma as a result of the diagnosis, but also due to historical association with socially marginalized groups. Stigma contributes to the psychological burden of infected individuals and their families.

The responsibility of carers working with patients with HIV/AIDS goes far beyond that of treating immediate physical problems. Holistic practice requires the healthcare professional to adopt a true biopsychosocial approach with appreciation of the emotional state of

the patient, as well as the host of social, economic, spiritual, and ethical challenges accompanying the diagnosis with the disease.

Contexts in which psychiatric problems may arise

There are a number of contexts in which psychiatric problems may arise in relation to HIV/AIDS:

• Health anxiety in non-infected individuals who may be concerned

about being infected due to contact with HIV +ve individuals.

• Pre-test anxiety.

• Post-test stress may precipitate a psychiatric illness such as

adjustment disorder, a major depressive episode, and suicidality.

• Living with HIV/AIDS often results in stressful life events (e.g. losing a job, becoming economically disadvantaged, experiencing

social alienation).

• In some cases, individuals with psychiatric needs (e.g. victims of

abuse, patients with learning disabilities) may be more vulnerable

to becoming infected with the virus.

• HIV can directly infect neurons in the brain, causing

neuropsychiatric symptoms.

• HIV +ve individuals are susceptible to secondary opportunistic

infections and/or tumours of the CNS, which may manifest with

neuropsychiatric symptoms.

• Antiretroviral medications may cause psychiatric symptoms.

Efavirenz can cause depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Zidovudine (AZT [azidothymidine]) may precipitate both depression and mania, especially at high doses, while isoniazid prophylaxis has been known to precipitate a psychotic illness.

Counselling HIV/AIDS patients

• Pre-test counselling—consider: meaning of a +ve result; what actions the individual will take; confidentiality issues; fears of the individual; high-risk behaviours; reactions to stress; social and other implications of +ve result.

• Post-test counselling—clarify distortions; assess emotions; decide who to tell; discuss the prevention of transmission; offer support to the individual and family.

Ethical issues

• HIV testing—issues of informed consent; only test without consent if a test result will significantly alter clinical management.

• Confidentiality—encourage the individual to tell their sexual partner and other medical personnel; if the individual refuses, one may be obliged to inform without consent.

• Resource allocation—e.g. availability of antiretroviral drugs. HIV/AIDS and psychiatry 2: clinical presentations


At least 30–50% of individuals suffer a major depressive episode at some time following diagnosis, and depression can contribute to treatment non-adherence. Depression in HIV often has multiple causes. Depressive illness should be differentiated from the physical effects of HIV-related illness (e.g. weight loss, loss of energy) and from HIV-associated dementia. Treatment—is as for individuals without HIV, although the choice of antidepressant may be influenced by HIV-related comorbidities.


Although suicide rates have declined since the introduction of HAART, there is still a nine times risk of suicide in individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Risk factors include younger age, psychiatric illness, social isolation/alienation, and exposure to efavirenz.


Manic symptoms may develop in the context of HIV psychosis or as a result of treatment with antiretroviral agents such as zidovudine (AZT). Treatment—lithium is preferable (beware risk of toxicity), since there is some evidence suggesting that sodium valproate may increase viral replication.


Infection with the virus is associated with an risk of GAD, panic disorder, PTSD, and OCD.

Chronic pain

Up to 80% of patients experience chronic pain at some point, in particular chronic headache. This may lead some individuals to self-

medicate, putting them at risk of substance dependence.


Delirium occurs in up to 30% of patients with advanced illness (AIDS). It can be caused by direct infection of the brain by the virus, secondary infections and/or tumours, or substance withdrawal.


A psychotic illness characterized by fluctuating symptoms that may alter over hours to days may occur in the context of HIV infection. Atypical bizarre psychotic symptoms may give way to prominent mixed affective symptoms, which, in turn, may change to a withdrawn apathetic state.

Aetiological factors Include the effects of stress, medications, and secondary infections/tumours, superimposed on the effects of direct infection of the brain by the virus. Psychosis is a common early manifestation of HIV-associated dementia, and it is likely that mild cognitive deficits coexist with the psychotic illness.

Preferred treatment Low-dose haloperidol or an atypical antipsychotic (e.g. olanzapine, quetiapine) due to sensitivity to EPSEs. Antiretroviral agents, such as zidovudine (AZT), may also reduce psychotic symptoms.

HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND)

HIV-associated dementia (HAD; previously termed AIDS dementia complex) is relatively common in advanced HIV (AIDS), although the incidence has declined significantly with HAART.


Ninety per cent of AIDS patients have CNS changes post-mortem; 70–80% develop a cognitive disorder; 30% develop HAD. Mean survival after diagnosis with HAD is 6mths.


Direct central nervous system infection

HIV is neurotropic, entering the brain through endothelial gaps; the virus attaches to group 120 on CD4 +ve sites of microglial cells; a cascade opens calcium channels, leading to excitotoxicity and

causing neuronal death and apoptosis in the basal ganglia and subcortical and limbic white matter.

Opportunistic infections/tumours

Toxoplasmosis, papovavirus, cytomegalovirus (CMV), HSV, non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Kaposi’s sarcoma give rise to variable neuropathology, including encephalitis and focal necrosis.

Clinical presentation

Mild neurocognitive disorder

Asymptomatic HIV +ve patients may have very early CNS infection that is often discounted as stress. Symptoms include cognitive slowing and memory deficits, as well as motor slowing and subtle incoordination.

HIV-associated dementia

With worsening of symptoms, the clinical picture constitutes a dementia syndrome and is an AIDS-defining disorder. Clinical features are classified as cognitive (subcortical dementia, focal cognitive deficits, amnesia, mutism), motor (movement disorders, e.g. tremor, ataxia, choreo-athetosis, spasticity, myoclonus), and affective (depression, apathy, agitation, disinhibition, mania). The

HIV Dementia Scale (HDS)25 can be used to screen for HAD. Investigations—CT/MRI: atrophy, T2 signal; CSF: opportunistic infection, cytology, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) +ve; EEG: generalized slowing. Treatment—with HAART can slow progression.

Autoimmune and connective tissue disorders

Autoimmune (limbic) encephalitis

Over the last 10yrs, there has been a great increase in recognition, understanding, and detection of a range of neuropsychiatric conditions caused by auto-antibodies to brain substrates. A case series of patients with anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) encephalitis found that 4% of patients presented with isolated psychiatric symptoms, although most of these cases presented during a relapse and only a minority (0.8%) at disease onset.

Clinical features Vary between conditions and patients. Typically subacute or acute onset of anxiety, psychosis, cognitive impairment, seizures, and sometimes movement disorder.

Investigations Blood should be sent for testing in cases of acute/subacute cognitive impairment ± anxiety or psychosis, especially with a history of seizures where alternative causes are not clear. Some would suggest testing all new presentations of psychosis, although resources may prevent this.

Clinical subtypes

• Voltage-gated potassium channel (VGKC) antibodies—target the hippocampus, leading to pure amnestic deficit. Seizures are common, and neuromyotonia (writhing fasciculations), sleep disturbance, or autonomic disturbance may also be present.

• NMDA receptor antibody encephalitis—is more common in young women and often associated with ovarian teratoma (removal of which is associated with good prognosis). Symptoms: fluctuating anxiety, global cognitive impairment, psychosis, seizures.

• Paraneoplastic encephalitis—antibodies associated with small cell lung cancer (anti-Hu), testicular cancer (anti-Ma2), and thymoma (CRMPS) lead to varying patterns of neuropsychiatric symptoms.

• Other antibodies—other antibodies recently associated with autoimmune encephalitis include those to the AMPA (α-amino-3- hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid) receptor (limbic encephalitis), GABA B receptor (seizures and limbic encephalitis), and glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) (TLE with cognitive


Systemic lupus erythematosus

This multisystem autoimmune disorder is most common in women in their 30s. Neuropsychiatric symptoms are common and may be due to the activity of auto-antibodies (30%), cerebral microvasculopathy and thrombosis, disease activity in other systems (uraemia, hypertension, inflammatory mediators), or side effects of medication (e.g. steroids, isoniazid, hydralazine). Seizures, cranial nerve palsies, peripheral neuropathy, ‘spinal stroke’, and other focal signs may occur, in addition to the common dermatological, rheumatological, haematological, and cardiovascular manifestations

of the disorder. Psychiatric symptoms occur in 60% of cases, and syndromes include:

• Lupus psychosis—transient psychotic episodes with a recurrent

and fluctuating course. Relapses are frequent, and symptoms are variable with auditory and visual hallucinations, as well as paranoia, affective instability, and disturbed sensorium, characteristic of the illness. Severe prolonged cerebral vasculitis may result in vascular dementia.

• Depression—up to 30% of SLE patients experience clinically significant depressive illness.

• Schizophrenia-like psychosis—a rare finding in SLE. Polyarteritis nodosa

Most common in young men, polyarteritis nodosa (PAN) is an immune-mediated necrotizing vasculitis, characterized by saccular aneurysms and infarction. Neuropsychiatric findings include: stroke, focal signs, seizures, ‘spinal stroke’, delirium, and auditory and visual hallucinations.


Sarcoidosis is a multisystem inflammatory disorder of unknown cause. Central or peripheral nerve involvement (neurosarcoid) is rare, but diffuse vasculopathy may cause delirium, dementia, or seizures, and granulomatous infiltration of the CNS may cause a

range of neuropsychiatric symptoms.27,28

Investigations Lesions may be visible on MRI, and there may be

elevated protein in the CSF. Histological diagnosis of an accessible lesion (e.g. skin, lung) reveals caseating granulomata.

Treatment Corticosteroids, methotrexate, or immunomodulators, e.g. infliximab.

Dementia: general overview


Dementia is a syndrome characterized by progressive, irreversible global cognitive deficits. Different patterns of deficits occur, depending on the underlying pathology. For a diagnosis to be made, there must be significant impairment of functioning and other

possible diagnoses should be excluded ( Reversible causes of cognitive impairment, p. 154).


• Parenchymal/degenerative—Alzheimer’s disease (50–70%); Lewy body dementia (<5%) and dementia in Parkinson’s disease; FTD (5–10%); MS; PSNP; corticobasal degeneration; MND; Huntington’s disease; Wilson’s disease.

• Intracranial—vascular dementia (20–30%); NPH (reversible in some cases).

• Infection—CJD (prion disease); neurosyphilis; HAND; TB; SSPE.

• Toxins—prolonged alcohol misuse [alcohol-related brain damage

(ARBD)]; heavy metal poisoning.

Clinical features

(See Box 4.3.)

• Cognitive impairment—characteristic patterns of impairment occur

in different types of dementia. Most typically, initial impairment of episodic (short-term) memory progresses to more extensive memory impairment, apraxia, agnosia, and dysphasia.

• History of personality change—social withdrawal, disinhibition, diminished self-care, apathy, deteriorating executive function.

• Hallucinations and delusions—often paranoid (20–40%) and poorly systematized.

• Anxiety and/or depression—in 50%.

• Neurological features—seizures, primitive reflexes, pseudobulbar

palsy, long tract signs (e.g. hyperreflexia or upgoing plantars.

• Emotional lability/pseudobulbar affect—(in stroke) ( Psychiatric

sequelae of stroke, p. 176).

• Sundowning syndrome—as evening approaches, confusion and

restlessness increase.

Differential diagnosis

Delirium; depression (pseudodementia; Pseudodementia, p. 552); other reversible causes of cognitive impairment ( Reversible

causes of cognitive impairment, p. 154); amnestic disorders ( Amnestic disorders, p. 170); intellectual disability (ID); psychotic disorders; normal ageing ( Normal ageing, p. 544).


FBC; LFT; U&Es; glucose; ESR; thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH); calcium; phosphate; syphilis serology; HIV; vitamin B12 and folate; CRP; blood culture; LP; EEG; chest X-ray (CXR); ECG; CT; MRI; SPECT.

Principles of management

• Assessment—diagnostic, functional, and social.

• Cognitive enhancement—acetylcholinesterase inhibitors

(donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine); glutamate receptor

antagonist (memantine).

• Treat psychosis/agitation—consider antipsychotics.

• Treat depression/insomnia—SSRIs; hypnotics.

• Treat medical illness—avoid drugs which may worsen cognitive

impairment (e.g. opiates, BZDs, anticholinergics).

• Psychological support—to both patient and caregivers.

• Functional management—maximize mobility; encourage


with self-care, toilet, and feeding; aid


• Social management—accommodation; activities; financial matters;

legal matters (power of attorney, wills, and curatorship).

Box 4.3 Clinical syndromes of dementia

Dementias may be classified in terms of the primary site of pathology. Since the site of pathology in the brain correlates with neuropsychiatric symptomatology, this is a useful system of classification.

• Cortical dementias Primarily involve the cortex:

• bvFTD/PPA ( Fronto-temporal dementia, p. 160).

Characterized in the frontal (behavioural) variant by prominent personality change, including either disinhibition and social indiscretion or profound apathy, and in temporal lobe variants by language impairments. A common cause of early-onset dementia, it is often undiagnosed or mistaken for psychiatric illness. CT and MRI show fronto-temporal atrophy; SPECT

Reversible causes of cognitive impairment

An important aim of the assessment of a patient with suspected dementia is to exclude and treat any reversible causes of cognitive impairment. The disorders listed below may be produced by a dementia-like syndrome, which, in many cases, can be reversed with treatment.


• Intracranial—NPH; chronic subdural haematoma (SDH); posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome; autoimmune encephalitis ( Autoimmune (limbic) encephalitis, p. 150).

shows fronto-temporal hypoperfusion, and FDG-PET shows

reduced fronto-temporal glucose metabolism.

• Posterior–parietal, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease ( Alzheimer’s

disease 1, p. 156). Characterized by early memory loss and focal cognitive deficits. Personality changes are later manifestations. Language impairments involve problems with word-finding (lexical anomia). CT shows thinning (<12mm) of the cortex of the medial temporal lobe.

• Subcortical dementias Parkinson’s disease ( Parkinson’s disease and related syndromes, p. 142); Huntington’s disease ( Huntington’s disease, p. 166); Wilson’s disease ( Wilson’s disease, p. 166); Binswanger encephalopathy ( Vascular

dementia (vascular neurocognitive disorder), p. 164); PSNP ( Progressive supranuclear palsy, p. 142); HIV-associated dementia ( HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND), p. 149); NPH ( Normal pressure hydrocephalus, p. 154). Clinical features: gross psychomotor slowing, depressed mood, movement disorders, mild amnesia, and personality changes.

• Cortical–subcortical dementias, e.g. Lewy body dementia ( Dementia with Lewy bodies, p. 162). Clinical features: cortical and subcortical symptoms.

• Multifocal dementias, e.g. CJD and other prion diseases ( Prion diseases, p. 168). Clinical features: rapid onset and course; involves the cerebellum and subcortical structures.

• Psychiatric/functional—depression (‘pseudodementia’); psychosis; functional or anxiety-related cognitive impairment.

• Infection—HSV encephalitis; neurosyphilis; HAND ( HIV- associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND), p. 149); TB.

• Endocrine—hypothyroidism; hyperparathyroidism; Cushing’s and Addison’s disease.

• Metabolic—uraemia; hepatic encephalopathy; hypoglycaemia; calcium imbalance; magnesium imbalance; electrolyte imbalance.

• Vitamin deficiency—B12; folate; pellagra (niacin); thiamine.

• Drugs/medications—BZDs, opiates, and anticholinergic medications, in particular, cause a degree of cognitive impairment, which may be clinically significant in vulnerable individuals or those

with comorbid dementia or brain injury.

• Toxins—prolonged alcohol misuse; heavy metal poisoning; CO


Normal pressure hydrocephalus

A syndrome where there is dilatation of cerebral ventricles (especially third ventricle), but normal CSF pressure at LP. It typically presents with the triad of dementia, gait disorder, and urinary incontinence. Importantly, the dementia is potentially reversible if NPH is treated promptly.

Aetiology Fifty per cent of cases are idiopathic; 50% are secondary to mechanical obstruction of CSF flow across the meninges (e.g. meningitis, subarachnoid haemorrhage, trauma; radiotherapy).

Clinical features There is progressive slowing of cognitive and motor functioning, consistent with a pattern of subcortical dementia. Gait is broad-based, bradykinetic, and shuffling. Urinary incontinence is a late symptom.

Investigations CT scan shows isize of the lateral ventricles and thinning of the cortex; 24hr ICP monitoring shows abnormal pulsatility.

Treatment Abnormal pulsatility on 24hr CSF pressure monitoring, short duration of symptoms, improvement of symptoms after therapeutic removal of 40–50mL of CSF, and NPH secondary to an

identified cause are predictors of good response to ventriculo- peritoneal shunt.

Chronic subdural haematoma

An insidious and fluctuating syndrome of cognitive and motor impairment may result from an undetected chronic SDH. An SDH results from rupture of the bridging veins between the dura and arachnoid mater and tends to occur over the frontal and/or parietal cortices. In 30% of cases, there is bilateral SDH. SDH should be suspected where there is a fluctuating pattern in cognitive function, especially if risk factors for SDH exist: elderly after a fall, infancy, cerebral atrophy (e.g. chronic alcoholism), clotting disorders, or anticoagulant treatment.

Clinical features An SDH may only manifest with symptoms months after it develops; therefore, there may be no history of recent trauma. Headache, altered level of consciousness, and amnesia may all occur, often with fluctuations in severity. Typically, the mental state may be variable on different occasions, and there may be periods of unusual drowsiness, as well as both cognitive and physical slowness and sluggishness. Minor focal signs are sometimes detected. The general picture is of a subcortical dementia of relatively rapid onset.

Investigations CT scan during the first 3wks may not show the SDH, as it is isodense during the early phase. Therefore, contrast should be used. Later on, as the SDH liquefies, a low-density convexity may be detected over the fronto-parietal cortex.

Treatment Surgical drainage of SDH via burr holes. Steroids may be helpful for conservative treatment.

Alzheimer’s disease 1

Also termed ‘dementia of the Alzheimer type’ (DAT), this is the most common cause (70%) of dementia in older people. It is a degenerative disease of the brain, with prominent cognitive and behavioural impairment that is sufficiently severe to interfere significantly with social and occupational function. It affects ~850,000 people in the UK and >46 million worldwide. As the percentage of

the total population aged over 65 in the developed world continues to increase, the burden of DAT-related healthcare is also increasing.


Risk of DAT increases with age: 1% at age 60yrs; doubles every 5yrs; 40% of those aged 85yrs. Age-specific incidence is the same for men and women— ~50% excess prevalence in women is explained by their longer lifespan. Mean survival from time of diagnosis is 4–8 years; most will be fully dependent within 4yrs.

• Risk factors—increasing age, Down’s syndrome, apolipoprotein ε4 allele, diabetes, smoking, hypertension in middle age.

• Protective factors—apolipoprotein ε2 allele, higher level of premorbid education, higher level of physical activity in middle age, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

• Genetics—first-degree relatives are at a slightly risk. Carriers of the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele on chromosome 19 (15% of Europeans) are at further risk; apolipoprotein E ε2 is protective. Single-gene autosomal dominant inherited DAT is rare, affecting <1% of those with DAT and associated with early onset; identified mutations include amyloid precursor protein (APP) on chromosome 21 and the genes for presenilin 1 (PSEN1) and presenilin 2 (PSEN2).


• Amyloid plaques—insoluble β-amyloid peptide deposits as senile plaques or β-pleated sheets in the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebral cortex. density with advanced disease.

• Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs)—consist of phosphorylated tau protein and are found in the cortex, hippocampus, and substantia nigra. Also found in normal ageing, Down’s syndrome, and PSNP.

• The co-occurrence of amyloid plaques and NFTs was described by Alois Alzheimer in his 1906 description of the disorder and is still accepted universally as a hallmark of the disease.

• Up to 50% loss of neurons and synapses in the cortex and hippocampus.

• Cholinergic hypothesis—the pathological changes lead to degeneration of cholinergic nuclei in the basal forebrain (nucleus basalis of Meynert). This results in dcortical ACh.


• Detailed history—including an informant history is essential. Informant rating scales, such as IQCODE, are helpful. Physical examination, including full neurological examination ( Neurological examination in psychiatry, p. 128), and blood tests ( Neurological investigations in psychiatry, p. 130) should be performed to rule out reversible causes ( Reversible causes of cognitive impairment, p. 154).

• Cognitive testing—may begin with MMSE, MOCA, or ACE-III.

• Imaging—CT: cortical atrophy, especially over parietal and temporal lobes, and ventricular enlargement. MRI: atrophy of grey matter (hippocampus, amygdala, and medial temporal lobe). Where diagnosis remains uncertain: SPECT shows temporal and posterior parietal hypoperfusion and fludeoxyglucose-PET (FDG- PET) shows reduced metabolism in temporal and posterior parietal


Clinical features

• Early—failing memory, disorientation in time, muddled efficiency with activities of daily living (ADLs), spatial dysfunction, and changes in behaviour (e.g. wandering and irritability). By the time the patient presents, cognitive deficits are usually apparent.

• Middle—global intellectual deterioration—aphasia, apraxia, agnosia, impaired visuospatial skills, and executive dysfunction.

• Late—fully dependent. Physical deterioration, incontinence, gait abnormalities, spasticity, seizures (3%), tremor, weight loss, primitive reflexes, extra-pyramidal signs.

• Behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia (BPSD)— delusions (15%) usually of a paranoid nature. Auditory and/or visual hallucinations (10–15%). Depression in up to 20% of patients. Behavioural disturbances include aggression, wandering, explosive temper, sexual disinhibition, inappropriate toileting, excessive eating, and searching behaviour.

Clinical subtypes and overlapping syndromes

• Posterior cortical atrophy—an atypical variant of DAT in which the parietal, occipital, and occipito-temporal cortices are first affected;

memory and language are relatively preserved in early stages, but impairments of visuospatial function are prominent. Gerstmann’s syndrome (acalculia, agraphia, finger agnosia, left–right disorientation) and/or Balint’s syndrome (simultanagnosia, oculomotor apraxia, optic ataxia, environmental agnosia) may be present. Progresses to global impairment.

• Logopenic aphasia—a subtype of semantic dementia, with verbal output, phonological errors with preserved grammar, and impaired sentence repetition. Most have DAT pathology.

Pray, do not mock me: I am a very foolish fond old man,

Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less;

And, to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind. Methinks I should know you and know this man;

Yet I am doubtful: for I am mainly ignorant what place this is, and all the skill I have remembers not these garments;

nor I know not where I did lodge last night.

Do not laugh at me;

For as I am a man, I think this lady to be my child Cordelia. Shakespeare: King Lear, Act II Scene 7

Alzheimer’s disease 2: pharmacological treatments

There are as yet no truly disease-modifying drugs available for DAT; available drugs provide mild symptomatic benefits in some patients. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs) were the first drugs to be licensed for the treatment of DAT. They act by enhancing ACh at cholinergic synapses in the CNS and, in this way, may cause mild clinical improvements in cognitive, functional, and behavioural symptoms, reducing time spent in full nursing care. They are recommended as first-line agents in the treatment of mild to moderate DAT (see Box 4.4).

Box 4.4 NICE guidance on donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine, and memantine for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (TA217)

AChEIs—donepezil, rivastigmine, or galantamine—are recommended:

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors

Similar efficacy over 6mths; long-term efficacy unknown. Switching between agents is acceptable.

• Donepezil—piperidine derivative, developed in 1996;

gastrointestinal tract (GIT) absorbed, with liver metabolism; long half-life (70hrs); highly selective (acts centrally only); linear kinetics. Problems: GIT side effects at high dose; bradycardia; GIT bleed (rare); contraindicated in asthma. Benefits: selective, therefore side effects; no liver toxicity; predictable kinetics; narrow dose range; 1× daily dosage. Dose: 5–10mg/day.

• Rivastigmine—developed in 1998; short half-life (12hrs); inhibits acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase in CNS. Problems: GIT side effects; twice daily dosage. Benefits: not metabolized by the liver and least likely to cause drug–drug interactions. Dose: start with 1.5mg twice daily (bd); increase to 3–6mg bd—now

• For managing mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Memantine is recommended:

• For moderate Alzheimer’s disease in patients who are intolerant to, or have a contraindication to, AChEIs.

• In severe Alzheimer’s disease. For all of the above medications:

• Treatment should be started on the advice of either a secondary care medical specialist (psychiatrist, geriatrician, and neurologist) or by another healthcare professional (e.g. GP, nurse specialist) with specialist expertise in diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.

• Treatment should be continued only while it has a worthwhile effect on cognitive, global, functional, or behavioural symptoms. Non-Alzheimer dementias and mild cognitive impairment (MCI):

• AChEIs and memantine should not be prescribed for VaD or MCI, except as part of properly constructed clinical research studies.

• People with DLB who have non-cognitive symptoms causing significant distress to the individual, or leading to behaviour that challenges, should be offered an AChEI.

Source: Data from https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ta217 [accessed 30 May 2018].

available in a modified-release once-daily (od) form or 24hr patch

[thought to be helpful in reducing gastrointestinal (GI) side effects]. • Galantamine—selectively inhibits acetylcholinesterase and acts as an allosteric ligand at nicotinic ACh receptors; metabolized in the liver; short half-life (5hrs); selective. Problems: twice daily dosage.

Dose: 4–12mg bd. Other drugs

• Memantine—a partial NMDA receptor antagonist that may protect neurons from glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity. Trials show benefits of memantine augmentation of donepezil. A Cochrane

review indicates mild benefit in moderate to severe DAT.29 Future treatment strategies?

Although only at experimental stages, there is some evidence for other approaches to DAT. These include: monoclonal antibodies to amyloid-B (crenezumab; solanezumab); anti-inflammatories; secretase inhibitors; drugs targeting insulin resistance; and vaccination against abnormal forms of tau protein.

Mild cognitive impairment

(See Box 4.5.)

Box 4.5 Mild cognitive impairment

The term mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is widely used in the dementia research community but does not translate well to clinical practice. MCI refers to patients with mild cognitive symptoms not severe enough to meet diagnostic criteria for dementia. Recent research suggests that the pathological changes of Alzheimer’s disease begin to appear many years before clinical symptoms develop. Researchers are keen to identify those with the earliest clinical manifestations, as ‘conversion’ to Alzheimer’s disease is therefore a key target for study and treatment. MCI (particularly amnestic MCI) is therefore currently used as a proxy measure to identify this ‘at-risk’ group. However, in clinical practice, MCI is an imperfect construct, a description of symptoms, rather than a diagnosis, with the

Fronto-temporal dementia

The FTDs are a set of overlapping clinical syndromes caused by

disease primarily affecting the frontal and temporal lobes.30,31,32 FTDs account for ~20% of cases of early-onset dementia. Personality change and social disinhibition or language impairment often precede memory impairment ( Box 4.9, p. 171). Early disease is commonly mistaken for primary psychiatric disorder.


Fronto-temporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) refers to a range of underlying pathologies: neuronal loss, gliosis, and protein inclusions consisting of either tau (Pick bodies) in 40% (FTLD-tau), TDP-43 in 50% (FTLD-TDP), and FUS in some cases (FTLD-FUS).


Forty per cent have a positive family history, 10% due to autosomal dominant mutations—the most common are MAPT, GRN, and C9ORF.

Clinical subtypes

• Behavioural variant FTD (bvFTD) (Pick’s Disease)33—most common subtype. Onset usually 45–65yrs. Mean survival from diagnosis: 8yrs (range 2–20).

• Clinical features: disinhibition, loss of social empathy with

tactlessness and breaches of etiquette, apathy, stereotypic behaviours (without anxiety, unlike OCD), changes in food preference (overeating and preference for sweet foods). Early cognitive symptoms of poor attention and executive dysfunction progress to include all cognitive domains.

• Neurological: a minority have signs of MND (up to 15% with MND develop a bvFTD syndrome).

potential to cause great anxiety in patients and families. Although around 10% of elderly individuals with MCI will progress to dementia each year, others will never develop dementia and some return to normal levels of cognition.

• Investigations: imaging may be normal; or CT/MRI: bilateral (asymmetrical) abnormalities of frontal/temporal lobes; and SPECT: frontal and/or temporal lobe abnormalities. EEG is normal.

• Diagnosis: based on clinical criteria (see Box 4.6).

• Primary progressive aphasia (PPA)—initial symptoms are due to impaired language function, caused by temporal lobe disease, but symptoms of bvFTD may also be present or may develop as

disease progresses.

• Progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA)—non-fluent, effortful

speech with agrammatism. Pathology: atrophy in Broca’s area. •Semantic dementia (SD)—fluent speech with loss of concepts/meaning. Pathology: left > right temporal lobe atrophy

(sometimes called temporal variant or tvFTD).

• Logopenic progressive aphasia (LPA)—impaired sentence

repetition. A variant of Alzheimer’s type dementia. Management: currently, no specific treatments; SSRIs of limited benefit for behavioural symptoms (disinhibition, overeating, and compulsions).

Box 4.6 International consensus criteria for bvFTD

There must be a progressive deterioration of behaviour and/or cognition, and symptoms must not be better accounted for by a psychiatric, non-degenerative neurological or medical disorder.

Possible bvFTD

Three of the following behavioural/cognitive symptoms are persistent or recurrent:

• Early behavioural disinhibition (one of: socially inappropriate

behaviour; loss of manners or decorum; impulsive, rash or

careless actions).

• Early apathy or inertia.

• Early loss of sympathy or empathy (one of: diminished response

to other people’s needs and feelings; diminished social interest,

interrelatedness, or personal warmth).

• Early perseverative, stereotyped, or compulsive/ritualistic

behaviour (one of: simple repetitive movements; complex,

Dementia with Lewy bodies34

Common form of dementia in the elderly (~20% of new diagnoses of

dementia in hospital35 and 4% of new community cases) that lies on a clinical and pathological continuum with Parkinson’s disease.


Age of onset: 50–83yrs. Age at death: 68–92yrs. ♂ > ♀.

Clinical features

Dementia with fluctuating cognitive performance and consciousness and early sparing of memory; Parkinsonism (70%: bradykinesia, rigidity, gait disorder, tremor); complex hallucinations—visual (~60%: often people and animals) and auditory (~20%)—with associated emotional responses varying from fear to amusement); significant

compulsive, or ritualistic behaviours; stereotypy of speech).

• Hyperorality and dietary changes (one of: altered food preferences; binge eating, consumption of alcohol or

cigarettes; oral exploration or consumption of inedible objects).

• Neuropsychological profile: executive/generation deficits with relative sparing of memory and visuospatial functions (all of: deficits in executive tasks; relative sparing of episodic memory;

relative sparing of visuospatial skills).

Probable bvFTD

• Meets criteria for possible bvFTD.

• Exhibits significant functional decline (by caregiver report or

rating scale).

• Imaging consistent with bvFTD (one of: frontal and/or temporal

atrophy on MRI or CT; frontal and/or temporal hypoperfusion or hypometabolism on PET or SPECT).

Definite bvFTD

• Meets criteria for possible or probable bvFTD.

• Histopathological evidence of FTLD on biopsy or at post-mortem

OR presence of a known pathogenic mutation.

Source: data from Lanata, S.C. and Miller, B.L. (2016) The behavioural variant fronto- temporal dementia (bvFTD) syndrome in psychiatry. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 87:501–11.

depressive symptoms (~40%); recurrent falls/syncope (~30%: due to autonomic dysfunction), transient disturbances of consciousness (mute and unresponsive for several minutes); antipsychotic sensitivity (~60%). The mean survival time/rate of cognitive decline is similar to Alzheimer’s disease (but rapid deterioration over 1–2yrs does occur). See Box 4.7 for a summary of diagnostic criteria.

Pathological features

Eosinophilic A–synuclein neuronal inclusions (Lewy bodies), with neuronal loss in brainstem nuclei (especially basal ganglia) and paralimbic and neocortical structures. Associated neuronal loss. Lewy neurites—distinctive pattern of ubiquitin and A-synuclein immunoreactive neuritic degeneration—in the substantia nigra, hippocampal region (CA2/3), dorsal vagal nucleus, basal nucleus basilis of Meynert, and transtentorial cortex. Alzheimer-type changes —senile plaques present in a similar density and distribution, fewer NFTs, less tau pathology. Vascular disease—in ~30%.

Differential diagnosis

Other dementia syndromes (especially DAT), delirium, Parkinson’s disease (in which motor symptoms appear ≥1yr prior to cognitive symptoms; 80% ultimately develop dementia which is pathologically equivalent to DLB), PSNP, MSA, CJD, psychiatric disorders (e.g. late-onset delusional disorder, depressive psychosis, mania).


• CT/MRI—relative sparing of medial temporal lobes in most cases. Moderate increases in deep white matter lesions, frequent periventricular lucencies on MRI.

• HMPAO SPECT scan—(blood flow) Global (especially occipital), medial, temporal lobes relatively preserved.

• FP-CIT SPECT—(presynaptic dopamine transporter) Reduced in the putamen, as in Parkinson’s disease.


• Antipsychotics—avoid/use with great caution: severe sensitivity reactions (40–50%), e.g. irreversible Parkinsonism, impairment of consciousness, neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS)-like autonomic disturbances—2- to 3-fold increase in mortality.

• AChEIs—recommended by national guidelines for treatment of non-cognitive symptoms (e.g. apathy/psychosis/agitation).

• Other—no clear evidence for antidepressants, anticonvulsants, or BDZs. Clonazepam may be useful for sleep disturbance (vivid dreams, muscle atonia, excessive jerking, and other complex movements). Anti-Parkinsonian medication—use cautiously for clinically significant motor symptoms, but note the risk of exacerbating psychotic symptoms.

Box 4.7 Consensus criteria for the diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies

• Central feature required for a diagnosis of DLB:

• Progressive dementia severe enough to interfere with normal

social or occupational function.

• Deficits on tests of attention, executive function, and

visuospatial ability might be especially prominent.

• Two of the following core features are essential for a probable diagnosis of DLB; one is essential for a possible diagnosis of


• Fluctuating cognition.

• Recurrent visual hallucinations.

• Spontaneous motor features of Parkinsonism.

• Features supportive of the diagnosis are:

• Repeated falls, syncope, transient unexplained LOC, severe

autonomic dysfunction, non-visual hallucinations, systematized delusions, depression, relative preservation of medial temporal lobe structures, generalized low uptake on SPECT or PET with reduced occipital activity, abnormal myocardial scintigraphy, prominent slow wave activity on EEG with temporal lobe transient sharp waves.

• A diagnosis of DLB is less likely if:

• Cerebrovascular disease accounts for part or all of the clinical

signs and symptoms.

• Parkinsonism does not appear until severe dementia.

Source: data from McKeith, I. G., et al. (2005). Diagnosis and management of dementia with Lewy bodies third report of the DLB consortium. Neurology 65: 1863–1872.

Vascular dementia (vascular neurocognitive disorder)

Vascular dementia (VaD) is the second most common cause of

dementia after DAT,36 accounting for 20% of cases. It often coexists with DAT and results from thromboembolic or hypertensive infarction of small and medium-sized vessels. Features that suggest a vascular cause of cognitive impairment include: sudden onset, stepwise deterioration, and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Its presentation is variable, and three syndromes of vascular

cognitive impairment are commonly recognized:37

1. Cognitive deficits following a single stroke Not all strokes result in cognitive impairment, but when they do, the deficits depend upon the site of the infarct. Difficulties with language, praxis, or executive function are most common; isolated memory symptoms are unusual. Cognitive deficits may remain fixed or recover, either partially or completely.

2. Cognitive deficits as a result of multiple strokes (multi-infarct dementia) Multiple strokes lead to stepwise deterioration in cognitive function. Between strokes, there are periods of relative stability. There are often risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

3. Progressive small-vessel disease (Binswanger disease) Multiple microvascular infarcts of perforating vessels lead to progressive lacunar formation and white matter hyperintensities on MRI. This is a subcortical dementia with a clinical course characterized by gradual intellectual decline, generalized slowing, and motor problems (e.g. gait disturbance and dysarthria). Depression and pseudobulbar palsy are not uncommon.


Most common onset: age 60–70yrs; ♂ > ♀ . Other risk factors include: family or personal history of cardiovascular disease, smoking, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, polycythaemia, coagulopathies, sickle-cell anaemia, valvular disease, atrial myxoma, and carotid artery disease. There are rare familial cases with onset in the 40s—cerebral autosomal dominant

arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL).

Clinical features

Onset may follow a stroke, with associated motor symptoms, and is more acute than DAT. Emotional, personality, language, and executive impairments are common and often early; memory impairments occur later. Symptoms may fluctuate in severity. Depression and emotional lability are common, and catastrophic emotional reactions are sometimes reported. Physical signs include features of generalized vascular disease, together with neurological impairments (e.g. rigidity, akinesia, brisk reflexes, pseudobulbar palsy). Ten per cent have seizures at some point. Prognosis is poorer than in DAT, with an average lifespan of 5yrs from onset. Cause of death is usually ischaemic heart disease (50%), stroke, or renal failure.


• Routine ‘dementia screen’ ( Standard blood tests in psychiatric practice, p. 130).

• Serum cholesterol, clotting screen, vasculitis screen [ESR, CRP, complement, anti-nuclear factor (ANF), rheumatoid factor, anti- DNA antibodies, antiphospholipid antibodies, etc.), and syphilis serology are additional tests in unusual cases (e.g. ‘young strokes’).

• ECG, CXR, CT, and MRI are essential.

• Other investigations may include: echocardiography (for

cardiac/valvular defects or ventricular failure) and carotid artery Doppler ultrasound.


• Establish causative factors. Contributory medical or surgical conditions should be treated early.

• There is no evidence that daily aspirin is effective in delaying the course of VaD, and it is associated with a risk of haemorrhage.

• General health interventions include changing diet, stopping smoking, managing hypertension, optimizing diabetic control, and increasing exercise.

Other specific neurodegenerative conditions

Huntington’s disease

A genetic disease characterized by a combination of dementia and worsening chorea. There is autosomal dominant inheritance with 100% penetrance; thus, 50% of a patient’s offspring will be affected. Genetic testing allows presymptomatic diagnosis, but as no treatment is available and a positive test has implications for other family members, there are ethical issues around presymptomatic testing.

Pathology The genetic defect is a trinucleotide repeat of CAG— between 37 and 120 repeats on chromosome 4. GABA neurons in the basal ganglia; this leads to stimulation of the thalamus and cortex by the globus pallidus. Also increase in DA transmission.

Clinical features Chorea, dementia, and a family history of HD. Chorea is a movement disorder characterized by initial jerks, tics, gross involuntary movements of all parts of the body, grimacing, and dysarthria. There is tone, with rigidity and stiffness, positive primitive reflexes, and abnormal eye movements.

Clinical course Onset usually during 30s and 40s; a small number of juvenile-onset cases; deteriorating course to death within 10– 12yrs.

Psychiatric syndromes Occur in 60–75% of patients with HD. • Anxiety and depression are common.

• Psychosis is common and often occurs early.

• Executive dysfunction with impulsivity and aggression.

• Subcortical dementia—slowing, apathy, and amnesia.

Investigations EEG: slowing. CT/MRI: atrophy of the basal ganglia, with ‘boxing’ of the caudate and dilatation of the ventricles. PET: metabolism in the basal ganglia.

Treatment No treatment arrests the course of the disease. Antipsychotic and antidepressant medications may provide symptomatic relief of psychiatric symptoms. Tetrabenazine, antipsychotics, and BDZs may help reduce abnormal movements.

Wilson’s disease

A rare genetic disease caused by a mutation of the APT7B gene on chromosome 13, which prevents normal hepatic excretion of excess

copper into bile. Inheritance is autosomal recessive. Copper deposits in the liver cause cirrhosis and in the basal ganglia result in degeneration of the lentiform nucleus (hepato-lenticular degeneration).

Clinical features Onset in childhood or early adulthood. Liver cirrhosis. Extra-pyramidal signs include: tremor, dystonia, tone, flapping tremor of the wrists, wing-beating tremor of the shoulders, risus sardonicus of the face, bulbar signs (dysphagia, dysarthria), and Kayser–Fleischer rings (green-brown corneal deposits).

Psychiatric syndromes

• Mood disturbances—common. • Subcortical dementia—25%.

• Psychosis—rare.

Investigations serum/urine copper; caeruloplasmin. Treatment Copper-chelating agents: penicillamine or trientine.

Pantothenate kinase-2-associated neurodegeneration (PKAN)

One of a group of rare inherited conditions responsible for

neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation (NBIA),38 which are associated with abnormal accumulation of iron in the brain. PKAN

(formerly Hallervorden–Spatz syndrome)39 is an autosomal recessive disorder with onset typically in childhood or early adulthood.

Clinical features Symptoms include dystonia, Parkinsonism, spasticity, seizures, ID or dementia, optic atrophy, and pigmentary retinopathy.

Psychiatric syndromes

• OCD.

• Schizophrenia-like psychosis. • Depression.

Investigations Characteristic ‘eye of the tiger’ sign on T2-weighted MRI, caused by iron deposits in the basal ganglia. Genetic tests are available.

Treatment There is no treatment available to reverse the condition. Iron-chelating agents (e.g. desferrioxamine) may slow progression.

Prion diseases

Prion diseases are rare, rapidly progressive dementing illnesses caused by the spread of deposits of abnormal prion protein (PRNP) throughout the brain as a result of either inherited genetic mutation, sporadic mutation, or infection. The typical pathological finding is spongy encephalopathy, and in terms of the nosology of the dementias, prion disease is considered a multifocal dementia. While prion diseases tend to respect the species barrier (e.g. ‘scrapie’ is a prion disease limited to sheep), this is not always the case (e.g. vCJD).

Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease

A rare disease of 50–70yr olds, with equal sex distribution, resulting in around 100 UK deaths per year. Eighty-five per cent of cases result from spontaneous mutation of PNRP, 10% from inherited mutations, and 5% resulting from vCJD or iatrogenic transmission during transplant surgery of dura, corneal grafts, and pituitary growth hormone. The clinical picture is one of rapidly progressive dementia, cerebellar and extra-pyramidal signs, myoclonus, and death within a year. EEG shows periodic complexes. CT atrophy of the cortex and cerebellum. Elevated levels of 14-3-3 protein are found in the CSF.

New variant CJD—bovine spongiform encephalopathy

The rise of vCJD followed an epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle. BSE is a prion disease of cows that is thought to have been spread by cattle feeds that contained CNS material from infected cows. The disease in humans affects mainly young people in their 20s and is characterized by early anxiety and depressive symptoms, followed by personality changes, and finally a progressive dementia. Ataxia and myoclonus are prominent, and the typical course is 1–2yrs until death. EEG changes are only seen late in disease.

Rare inherited prion diseases

• Fatal familial insomnia (FFI)—causes progressive and profound insomnia, anxiety, hallucinations, and ultimately rapidly progressive dementia. Inherited PRNP mutation.

• Gerstmann–Sträussler–Scheinker syndrome (GSS)—causes dysarthria, ataxia, memory problems, and rapidly progressive dementia. Inherited PRNP mutation.


This was a rare disease of Papua New Guinea cannibals who ate the brains of their deceased relatives. The incubation period was prolonged—up to 40yrs before disease onset, then progression was rapid and fatal (see Box 4.8).

Box 4.8 A ‘cannibalism genotype’ protects against CJD

Researchers at University College London in 2003 suggested that cannibalism was common and widespread in human ancestors. They analysed DNA from 30 elderly Fore women from Papua New Guinea who had participated in many cannibalistic feasts before they were banned by the Australian government in the 1950s. It was the practice of the Fore for women and children to consume the brains of dead kin in the belief that this act would ‘recycle’ the spirit of the dead within the living. At the peak of the epidemic (1920–1950), kuru—an acquired prion disease—killed up to 2% of the population annually. Most of the women survivors tested by researchers had a novel PrP variant G127V that was much less common in the younger population, indicating that it conferred substantial protection against the disease. At the time of publication in 2003, none of the patients who had, to date, contracted new vCJD in Britain carried the protective genotype. This suggests that this genotype is protective against prion diseases in humans. The researchers then examined DNA from various ethnic groups around the world and found that all, except the Japanese, carried the protective genotype to a similar degree. Genetic tests showed that this gene could not be there by chance but was a result of natural selection. This implies that ancestral human populations were exposed to some form of prion disease. Researchers concluded that frequent epidemics of prion disease caused by cannibalism in human ancestors would explain the worldwide existence of the protective genotype in modern humans.

Amnestic disorders

Amnestic disorders are syndromes characterized by memory impairment (anterograde and/or retrograde amnesia), which are caused by a general medical condition or substance use and where delirium and dementia have been excluded as causative of the amnesia. Amnestic disorders may be transient or chronic (< or >1mth). Amnestic conditions usually involve some or all of the following neuroanatomical structures: frontal cortex, hippocampus and amygdala, dorsomedial thalamus, mamillary bodies, and periaqueductal grey matter (PAG). In terms of neurochemistry, glutamate transmission at the NMDA receptor is often implicated in amnesia, mainly due to its role in memory storage in the limbic system—long-term potentiation (LTP). A number of amnestic disorders are recognized:

Wernicke’s encephalopathy

An acute syndrome, with a classic triad of symptoms (ataxia, ophthalmoplegia/nystagmus, and altered mental status), caused by thiamine depletion, usually related to alcohol abuse, and associated with pathological lesions in the mamillary bodies, PAG, thalamic nuclei, and the walls of the third ventricle ( Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, p. 606).

Korsakoff psychosis

Amnesia and confabulation with atrophy of the mamillary bodies, associated with alcohol excess and Wernicke’s encephalopathy ( Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, p. 606).

Vascular disease

Aneurysm of the anterior communicating artery may result in amnestic disorder, but amnesia due to stroke is rare.

Brain injury

Source: data from Mead S, Stumpf MP, Whitfield J, et al. (2003) Balancing selection at the prion protein gene consistent with prehistoric kurulike epidemics. Science 300: 300, Issue 5619, pp. 640–643.

An open or closed brain injury involving acceleration or deceleration forces may result in injury to the anterior temporal poles (as this structure collides with the temporal bone). Anterograde post- traumatic amnesia (PTA) is prominent, with retrograde amnesia relatively absent ( Traumatic brain injury, p. 172).

Herpes simplex virus encephalitis

Affects the medial temporal lobes and results in deficits in short-term memory (STM) storage. Treatment with IV aciclovir where the condition is suspected may prevent deficits from becoming permanent.

Hypoxic brain damage

Hypoxia following asphyxia from CO poisoning, near drowning, etc. may damage sensitive CA1 and CA3 neurons in the hippocampus. This results in problems with STM storage.

Alcohol blackouts (‘palimpsest’)

Significant alcohol intoxication may lead to amnesia for the period of intoxication, usually in the context of chronic alcohol misuse.

Electroconvulsive therapy

There may be a period of mild anterograde and/or retrograde amnesia for a few hours following administration of ECT. In exceptional cases, there may be reported ongoing patchy memory loss for up to 6–9mths ( Does ECT cause brain damage? p. 308).

Transient global amnesia (TGA)

This is a syndrome of amnesia and disorientation with repetitive questioning lasting 4–10hrs. Age 40–80. Aetiology remains unknown.

Transient epileptic amnesia (TEA)

Recurrent episodes of amnesia and disorientation lasting 30mins to 1hr, often occurring from sleep or on waking, due to medial temporal lobe seizures in epilepsy. Interictal EEG suggestive in 30%. Accelerated long-term forgetting leads to lacunes in remote autobiographical memory.

Dissociative amnesia

Sudden retrograde autobiographical memory loss, ranging from hours to years. May be associated with depersonalization or derealization ( Dissociative (conversion) disorders, p. 869).

Other causes of amnesia

Substances (BDZs, anticholinergics); SOLs (e.g. tumours); hypoglycaemia. NMDA receptor antibody encephalitis. (See Box 4.9.)

Box 4.9 Patient HM

On 23 August 1953, patient HM underwent a bilateral medial temporal lobotomy in an attempt to control his epileptic seizures. This resulted in severe anterograde memory impairment that made HM one of the most studied patients in the history of cognitive psychology, up until his death in 2008.

HM’s syndrome was surprisingly isolated, with impairment mostly limited to his inability to register new facts into long-term memory, despite immediate memory being preserved for both verbal and non-verbal tasks. Although his operation was performed when he was 27, his memories were intact until age 16, with an 11-year retrograde amnesia.

His IQ was above average, with almost normal language production and comprehension—he could understand and produce complex verbal material (but was impaired on tests of semantic and symbolic verbal fluency). His perceptual abilities were normal, except for his sense of smell (secondary to damage of the olfactory tracts). Despite the fact that some of his spatial abilities were compromised, he did not have any attentional deficit.

Psychiatric aspects of brain injury


Acquired brain injury (ABI) can occur as a result of trauma [traumatic brain injury (TBI)], hypoxia/ischaemia, stroke, toxic or metabolic insult, infection, or any pathological process causing sudden,

irreversible, and non-progressive damage to the brain after the neonatal period.

Management of brain injury

• The acute psychiatric effects of brain injury can be challenging to manage. Those who require psychiatric input after the acute period have emotional and cognitive symptoms ranging from subtle to severe.

• There is strong evidence for benefits of early intensive neurorehabilitation after moderate and severe brain injury; after mild brain injury, patients benefit from information, advice, and follow-up ( Mild traumatic brain injury, p. 174).

Traumatic brain injury

TBI is a common cause of death and lifelong disability (largely due to neuropsychiatric sequelae) in young adults. Common causes are road traffic accidents, falls, and assaults; ♂ > ♀; alcohol is often a contributory factor. Improved life expectancy has, however, led to an increase in TBI in the frail elderly in high-income countries, shifting the age of peak incidence from 20s to 40s.

Acute effects of traumatic brain injury

• PTA (post-traumatic delirium)—extends from the time of the injury until normal memory resumes. PTA may end abruptly or merge gradually into persisting deficits.

• Retrograde amnesia (RA)—includes the period between the last clearly recalled memory prior to the injury and the injury itself. It is usually a dense amnesia, lasting seconds or minutes, but can be difficult to assess where there has been prolonged PTA.

Factors associated with poorer long-term outcome after traumatic brain injury

• Conscious level post-injury (mild: GCS score 13–15; moderate: GCS score 9–12; severe: GCS score <8).

• Duration of loss of consciousness.

• duration of PTA (>24hrs, poorer outcome).

• Age (older—poorer prognosis).

• Pre-injury educational or occupational level.

• Reduced pre-injury cognitive reserve, e.g. due to cerebrovascular disease or alcohol dependence.

Long-term sequelae of moderate/severe acquired brain injury

Memory Difficulties learning new information are common after brain injury, especially involving damage to frontal or temporal lobes. Bilateral hippocampal damage after hypoxic–ischaemic injury (HII) can cause an amnestic syndrome. Treatment: frequent orientation, cognitive rehabilitation.

Executive dysfunction Diffuse or prefrontal lesions can cause a dysexecutive syndrome: difficulties with planning, judgement, abstract thought, sustained attention, and social cognition, leading to impulsive, socially inappropriate behaviour, poor frustration tolerance with aggressive outbursts, and disorganization. This can cause significant disability and family distress, even in the absence of significant memory impairment. Treatment: aggression and irritability may respond to propranolol where there are no contraindications (e.g. asthma).

Perceptual problems Visuospatial neglect or agnosia, cortical blindness (especially after HII), or optic nerve damage may be missed as reasons for failure to progress with rehabilitation. Visual or auditory misinterpretations may be mistaken for psychosis. Treatment: occupational therapy (OT) input and adaptations.

Speech and language disorders Dysphasia, dysarthria.

Mood and anxiety disorders Depression occurs in 25% of individuals after TBI and should be considered where cognitive or behavioural symptoms worsen months or years after injury. Apathy or emotional lability due to damage to the prefrontal cortex or limbic lobe are less likely to respond to treatment. Anxiety occurs commonly. Treatment: SSRIs; consider duloxetine if comorbid pain.

Psychosis Psychotic symptoms may appear as part of a post- traumatic delirium following brain injury. A schizophrenia-like psychotic disorder after brain injury occurs relatively rarely 1–5yrs after injury and is associated with frontal and temporal damage. Premorbid psychosis is a risk factor for brain injury. Treatment: antipsychotics.

Sequelae in children

Less psychopathology after ABI due to brain plasticity. Recovery may continue for up to 5yrs after injury (as opposed to ~2yrs in adults). Problems may include aggression and ADHD-like syndromes.

Complications associated with neuropsychiatric deterioration

• Hydrocephalus—can occur days to months after injury and is associated with deteriorating cognitive function, gait, incontinence, and depressed conscious level. Treatment: neurosurgical.

• Post-traumatic epilepsy—occurs in 5% of closed and 30% of open head injuries, usually during the first year, and worsens prognosis. Treatment: antiepileptic medication.

Mild traumatic brain injury (concussion)


The majority of presentations to hospital after TBI are with mild TBI. Although in the majority, symptoms resolve within days to weeks; a minority are troubled by persistent symptoms and may seek psychiatric advice.

Definition (WHO)

• GCS score of 13–15 30mins post-injury.

• Loss of consciousness (LOC) 30mins or less.

• PTA <24hrs.

• Not due to alcohol, medications, penetrating craniocerebral injury,

or treatment of other medical conditions or injuries.

Clinical course

Early (first 24hrs) Headache, blurred vision, dizziness, confusion, memory problems, fatigue, sleep disturbance. Depersonalization/derealization may be described as dizziness or confusion.

First month after injury In most, all symptoms will resolve in the first days after mild TBI. Headache, dizziness [persisting dizziness should raise suspicion of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), common after mild TBI and easily treatable], mild cognitive symptoms, and fatigue may persist in a few.

Symptoms persisting >3mths after injury Cognitive function usually returns to baseline within 3mths. A minority of patients develop persistent symptoms such as memory and concentration difficulties, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and sleep disturbance. Psychological factors related to injury are likely to be important—similar symptoms occur in non-brain-injured trauma patients. In many, the ‘post- concussional syndrome’ (a term best discarded) can be considered a secondary functional neurological disorder.

Risk factors for persistent (‘post-concussional’) symptoms

• Alcohol excess—alcohol excess is a risk factor for mild TBI; post- injury memory and concentration problems, fatigue, headache, irritability, and sleep difficulties may reflect ongoing alcohol use, and alcohol is likely to underpin the apparent risk of epilepsy after mild TBI.

• Age—older age is associated with persistent symptoms.

• Social stressors—may be premorbid or relate to circumstances of

the injury (commonly assault) or to lost income due work absence.

• Depression and anxiety—psychological distress around the injury can give rise to specific or generalized anxiety, PTSD, or depression, all of which perpetuate fatigue and cognitive


• Unhelpful illness beliefs—beliefs that the brain has been

irreversibly damaged or that there is a high risk of dementia seem

more common in those with persisting symptoms.

• Litigation/compensation issues—ongoing litigation is strongly

associated with persisting symptoms.


Clear, reassuring explanation and advice soon after mild TBI may help to prevent persistent symptoms.


(See also http://www.headinjurysymptoms.org)

• Mild TBI has a good prognosis and rarely causes lasting problems.

• Common symptoms occurring in the first few days—headache,

poor concentration, tiredness, or dizziness—do not indicate ‘brain damage’.

• The risk of developing serious complications is low. If ‘red flag’ symptoms (LOC, drowsiness, seizure, CSF leak, severe headache, or focal neurological symptoms) occur, return to the Emergency Department as soon as possible. Serious problems are rare beyond the first week.

• Prolonged rest is likely to be unhelpful, and return as soon as is comfortable to normal activities should be recommended.

• Severe disabling symptoms may benefit from CBT or graded exercise therapy (GET) where fatigue is prominent.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy

(See Box 4.10.)

Box 4.10 Chronic traumatic encephalopathy

‘Punch drunk’ syndrome, or encephalitis pugilistica, was a condition of cognitive and neurological deterioration first noted in retired professional boxers in the early 1900s. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a more recently described syndrome, in which neuropsychiatric symptoms (e.g. cognitive impairment, personality change, fatigue, depression, and suicidality) occur many years after mild TBI, particularly in retired professional sports people who have sustained multiple concussions. Although CTE has been the subject of extensive media attention, its definition and existence are not strongly supported by scientific evidence. There have been no prospective longitudinal studies. Retrospective studies, vulnerable to inclusion and recall bias, revealed multiple confounding risk factors, including strikingly high levels of drug and alcohol use in retired professional sports people. In fact, review of all pathologically described cases has cast doubt on the existence of CTE as a widespread problem in

American footballers;* neuropathological findings overlap with many common neurodegenerative disorders, and there appears to

be no risk of dementia after mild TBI.** So while concussion is best avoided, patients can be assured that current evidence suggests that mild TBI does not increase the risk of later-life dementia.

Psychiatric sequelae of stroke

A range of psychiatric problems may occur following stroke. These include the following.

Cognitive disorders

• Vascular neurocognitive disorder ( Vascular dementia (vascular neurocognitive disorder), p. 164).

• Non-progressive, e.g. after a single stroke.

• Progressive—also called VaD.

• Amnestic disorder—e.g. after ruptured anterior communicating artery (ACOM) aneurysm ( Amnestic disorders, p. 170).

Post-stroke depression

Depressive illness is common, occurring in around a third of patients

after stroke.40 Depression may occur early or late during stroke recovery and may be missed in the presence of cognitive or communication impairment, and it is associated with poor functional

outcome and excess morbidity and mortality.41 Risk factors for post-stroke depression

Physical disability, stroke severity, and cognitive impairment are the most consistent predictors of depression after stroke. Women are

affected slightly more often than men.42 Lesion location does not

influence depression risk.43 Treatment: antidepressants are effective, especially for severe depression, although after stroke, they may bring a higher risk of adverse effects. SSRIs are most widely used

and usually well tolerated.44

Personality changes and executive dysfunction

* Maroon JC, Winkelman R, Bost J, Amos A, Mathyssek C, Miele V (2015) Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in contact sports: a systematic review of all reported pathological cases. PLoS One 10:e0117338.

** Godbolt AK, Cancelliere C, Hincapié CA, et al. (2014) Systematic review of the risk of dementia and chronic cognitive im-pairment after mild traumatic brain injury: results of the International Collaboration on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Prognosis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 95:S245–56.

Damage to frontal lobes can cause a constriction in the range of interests, loss of intellectual flexibility, apathy and loss of volition, irritability, and loss of social sensitivity.

Pseudobulbar affect

Also called pathological emotionalism, emotional incontinence, or pathological laughter/crying. Present in up to 50% after stroke and in many other neurological disorders. Presentation involves emotional lability with unprovoked and uncontrollable crying or laughter, inconsistent with the patient’s subjective emotional state. May respond to treatment with an SSRI or amitriptyline.


Circumscribed delusions may arise in individuals with profound anosognosia or somatoparaphrenia (denial of ownership of a limb or half of one’s body), almost always due to right-sided lesions. Schizophrenia-like psychotic disorders occur rarely and have also been associated with right-sided lesions. Peduncular hallucinosis is a rare syndrome of complex visual hallucinations associated with infarcts involving the pons and the midbrain.

1 Griesinger’s ideas were a reaction to gross German materialism. He was keen on emerging physiological ideas of the time, and it was in this new ambiguous space that he located mental disorders (i.e. not neuroanatomically). His related view that many psychological events occur in non-conscious spaces has led some to consider him a ‘pioneer’ of psychodynamic psychiatry.

2 Georget introduced the still popular ‘technology alibi’ that, although all mental disorders are caused by changes in the brain, in some cases, we cannot yet demonstrate this due to a lack of appropriate technology. (Caveat lector: this is not a scientific hypothesis, but rather a hypothetical syllogism based upon a foundational claim that the mind is represented in the brain).

3 In The Physiology and Pathology of Mind (1867), Maudsley states: ‘Mental disorders are neither more nor less than nervous diseases in which mental symptoms predominate’.

4 Wernicke is one of the most important psychiatrists of the late nineteenth century, and had he not died young, psychiatry might now be a ‘Wernickian world’, as his views on classification, mental symptoms, and the relationship between brain and behaviour could have superseded Kraepelin’s.

5 Lishman WA (1992) What is neuropsychiatry? J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 55:983–5.

6 There is no doubt that WA Lishman (1931–) has been a major influence in the field of neuropsychiatry, both as a teacher and trainer of generations of neuropsychiatrists at the Institute of Psychiatry/Maudsley and through his textbook Organic Psychiatry: The

Psychological Consequences of Cerebral Disorder’ (1978, 1987, 1997, and multi-author 2012).

7 Martin JB (2002) The integration of neurology, psychiatry, and neuroscience in the 21st century. Am J Psychiatry 159:695–704.

8 Stone J, Hallett M, Carson A, Bergen D, Shakir R (2014) Functional disorders in the Neurology section of ICD-11. A landmark opportunity. Neurology 83:2299–301.

9 Berrios GE, Markova IS (2002) The concept of neuropsychiatry: a historical overview. J Psychosom Res 53:629–38.

10 ‘Neuropsychiatry’, as defined in Campbell’s Psychiatric Dictionary, 9th edn (2009), Oxford University Press.

11 Claimed as the founder of phrenology, Gall’s ideas that a person’s personality could be determined from the shape of their skull, although controversial and repeatedly disproven, did promote the idea of functional localization within the brain—an idea originally put forward by French naturalist and philosopher Charles Bonnet (1720–1793) over 60 years earlier.

12 Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology. http://the-sbcn.org/ [accessed 30 May 2018].

13 Professor of Neurology and Health Psychology, Director of University of Florida Memory Disorders Clinic, Center for Neuropsychological Studies, and the Behavioral Neurology- Neuropsychiatry Fellowship Program. http://neurology.ufl.edu/divisions-2/memory-and- cognitive-disorders/memory-and-cognitive-faculty/kenneth-heilman-m-d/ [accessed 30 May 2018].

14 Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California and an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute. He has written a number of books, including Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain (1994), which is regarded as one of the most influential popular science books of the twentieth century. https://dornsife.usc.edu/cf/faculty-and-staff/faculty.cfm?pid=1008328 [accessed 30 May 2018].

15 First proposed in 1993 by Anthony S David, now Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry at King’s College London (David AS (1993) Cognitive neuropsychiatry? Psychol Med 23:1– 5) as ‘a systematic and theoretically driven approach to explain clinical psychopathologies in terms of deficits to normal cognitive mechanisms’. (For an overview, see: Halligan PW, David AS (2001) Cognitive neuropsychiatry: towards a scientific psychopathology. Nature Rev Neurosci 2:209–15). http://psych.cf.ac.uk/home2/halligan/halligan_david%202001.pdf [accessed 30 May 2018].) 16 Smith SJM (2005) EEG in neurological conditions other than epilepsy: when does it help, what does it add? J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 76(Suppl 2):ii8–12.

17 Belfor N, Amici S, Boxer AL, et al. (2006) Clinical and neuropsychological features of corticobasal degeneration. Mech Ageing Dev 127:203–7.

18 Carson AJ, Ringbauer B, Stone J, McKenzie L, Warlow C, Sharpe M (2000) Do medically unexplained symptoms matter? A prospective cohort study of 300 new referrals to neurology outpatient clinics. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 68:207–10.

19 Stone J, Sharpe M, Rothwell PM, Warlow CP (2003) The 12 year prognosis of unilateral functional weakness and sensory disturbance. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 74:591–6.

20 Stone J, Edwards M (2012) Trick or treat? Showing patients with functional (psychogenic) motor symptoms their physical signs. Neurology 79:282–4.

21 Nielsen G, Stone J, Matthews A, et al. (2015) Physiotherapy for functional motor disorders: a consensus recommendation. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 86:1113–19.

22 Kendall T, Taylor E, Perez A, Taylor C (2008) Guidelines: diagnosis and management of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children, young people, and adults: summary of

NICE guidance. BMJ 337:751–3.

23 Seltzer MM, Krauss MW, Shattuck PT, Orsmond G, Swe A, Lord C (2003) The symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in adolescence and adulthood. J Autism Dev Disord 33:565–81.

24 Gilliam FG, Barry JJ, Hermann BP, et al. (2006) Rapid detection of major depression in epilepsy: a multicentre study. Lancet Neurol 5:399–405.

25 Sacktor NC, Wong M, Nakasujia N, et al. (2005) The International HIV Dementia Scale: a new rapid screening test for HIV dementia. AIDS 19:1367–74.

26 Kayser MS, Titulaer MJ, Gresa-Arribas N, Dalmau J (2013) Frequency and characteristics of isolated psychiatric episodes in anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. JAMA Neurol 70:1133–9.

27 Vincent A, Bien CG, Irani SR, Waters P (2011) Autoantibodies associated with diseases of the CNS: new developments and future challenges. Lancet Neurol 10:759–72.

28 Hoitsma E, Faber CG, Drent M, Sharma OP (2004) Neurosarcoidosis: a clinical dilemma. Lancet Neurol 3:397–407.

29 McShane R, Sastre AA, Minakaran N (2006) Memantine for dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003154.pub5/full [accessed 30 May 2018].

30 Rascovsky K, Hodges JR, Knopman D, et al. (2011) Sensitivity of revised diagnostic criteria for the behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia. Brain 134:2456–77.

31 Neary D, Snowden J, Mann D (2005) Frontotemporal dementia. Lancet Neurol 4:771– 80.

32 Seelaar H, Rohrer JD, Pijnenburg YA, Fox NC, van Swieten JC (2011) Clinical, genetic and pathological heterogeneity of frontotemporal dementia: a review. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 82:476–86.

33 Lanata SC, Miller BL (2016) The behavioural variant fronto-temporal dementia (bvFTD) syndrome in psychiatry. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 87:501–11.

34 Walker Z, Possin KL, Boeve BF, Aarsland D (2015) Lewy body dementias. Lancet 386:1683–97.

35 Jones SV, O’Brien JT (2014) The prevalence and incidence of dementia with Lewy bodies: a systematic review of population and clinical studies. Psychol Med 44:673–83.

36 Calabrese V, Giordano J, Signorile A, et al. (2016) Major pathogenic mechanisms in vascular dementia: Roles of cellular stress response and hormesis in neuroprotection. J Neurosci Res 94:1588–603.

37 Rossor M, Brown J (1998) Vascular and other dementias. In: Butler R, Pitt B (eds). Seminars in Old Age Psychiatry, pp. 73–86. London: Gaskell.

38 Schipper HM (2012) Neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation—clinical syndromes and neuroimaging. Biochim Biophys Acta 1822:350–60.

39 The term pantothenate kinase neurodegeneration is now used in preference to Hallervorden–Spatz syndrome, because it is now known that Hugo Spatz and Julius Hallervorden (who described the syndrome in 1922) were members of the Nazi party who performed research using the brains of executed prisoners during World War II.

40 Hackett ML, Yapa C, Parag V, Anderson CS (2005) Frequency of depression after stroke: a systematic review of observational studies. Stroke 36:1330–40.

41 Pan A, Sun Q, Okereke OI, Rexrode KM, Hu FB (2011) Depression and risk of stroke: morbidity and mortality. JAMA 306:1241.

42 Hackett ML, Anderson CS (2005) Predictors of depression after stroke: a systematic review of observational studies. Stroke 36:2296–301.

43 Carson AJ, MacHale S, Allen K, et al. (2000) Depression after stroke and lesion location: a systematic review. Lancet 356:122–6.

44 Hackett ML, Anderson CS, House A, Xia J (2008) Interventions for treating depression after stroke. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 4:CD003437.

Schizophrenia and related psychoses


Historical views of schizophrenia

The diagnosis of schizophrenia

Differential diagnosis of schizophrenia

Aetiological theories

Epidemiology of schizophrenia

Examination of the patient with psychotic symptoms Presentations of psychosis 1

Presentations of psychosis 2

Initial assessment of acute psychosis

Initial treatment of acute psychosis

Maintenance phase

Discharge planning

Outpatient treatment and follow-up

First-generation antipsychotics

Second-generation antipsychotics 1

Second-generation antipsychotics 2

Antipsychotic side effects

An approach to treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS) Clozapine 1: general guidelines

Clozapine 2: starting and stopping

Clozapine 3: side effects

Antipsychotic depot injections

Disorders related to schizophrenia

Delusional disorder 1: clinical features

Delusional disorder 2: differential diagnosis and aetiology Delusional disorder 3: assessment and management Acute and transient psychotic disorders

Induced delusional disorder

Delusional misidentification syndromes


Schizophrenia and the related psychotic illnesses belong to a group of disorders traditionally called the ‘functional psychoses’. ‘Functional’ in this context means a disorder of brain function with no corresponding structural abnormality. Despite improvements in our understanding of the pathology of these disorders, their aetiology is currently unknown and there is no definitive diagnostic test available. For this reason, diagnosis is made clinically, using operationally defined criteria (characteristic symptoms and signs) and specific exclusion criteria (e.g. absence of primary organic disorder).

The cardinal feature of schizophrenia and related psychotic illnesses is the presence of psychotic symptoms—hallucinations and/or delusions. These symptoms are qualitatively different from normal experiences, rather than the quantitatively abnormal responses of neurotic and affective disorders, and because of this, they are regarded—by patients and other health professionals—as more serious and needing immediate psychiatric attention. However, when an individual experiences hallucinations or becomes paranoid that people are talking about them, for example, it does not mean they necessarily have a severe and enduring mental disorder. They could be experiencing a reaction to drugs (prescribed or recreational), be experiencing severe anxiety, be acutely confused, or have early signs of dementia. The differential diagnosis encompasses almost all psychiatric diagnoses ( Differential

Chapter 5

diagnosis of schizophrenia, p. 186) as well as some ‘normal experiences’. Careful history-taking and appropriate investigations ( Investigations, p. 193) are essential.

Of the psychoses, schizophrenia has received the greatest attention in terms of research. This is almost certainly because of the dramatic and devastating effects the disorder can have on an individual’s quality of life and their prospects for employment, marriage, and parenthood. Schizophrenia affects about 1 in 100 individuals, usually beginning in late adolescence or early adulthood. Untreated, it runs a chronic, deteriorating course. In addition to the personal tragedy, schizophrenia creates a substantial public health burden due to the cost of lifelong healthcare needs and lost productivity.

The symptoms of schizophrenia are conventionally divided into positive symptoms (an excess or a distortion of normal functioning) and negative symptoms (a decrease or loss of functioning):

• Positive symptoms Delusions (commonly persecutory, thought interference, or passivity delusions).

Hallucinations (usually auditory hallucinations commenting on the subject or referring to them in the third person, e.g. ‘he looks like a fool’). Formal thought disorder (loss of the normal flow of thinking usually shown in the subject’s speech or writing).

• Negative symptoms Impairment or loss of volition, motivation, and spontaneous behaviour. Loss of awareness of socially appropriate behaviour and social withdrawal. Flattening of mood, blunting of affect, and anhedonia. Poverty of thought and speech.

Fortunately, there are effective interventions that can benefit individuals and help them to lead more normal lives. Current research is directed towards establishing the cause(s) of schizophrenia and investigating the possibility of early interventions in those identified at high risk for the disorder or with prodromal symptoms (possible early signs of the disorder). Other psychoses with more specific symptoms, e.g. delusional misidentification syndromes ( Delusional misidentification syndromes, p. 240), may even help us understand how we normally perceive the world and help solve the mystery of the true nature of conscious experience.

Why are there so few famous people with schizophrenia?

Often there is a history of declining social and educational function which precludes significant achievements (sometimes in spite of early promise). The chronic course of the condition and the major disruptions caused by periods of more severe symptoms also make it less likely that a person with schizophrenia will achieve as much as their peers. Until relatively recently, there have been few specific treatments for the disorder, and even today prognosis is at best guarded.

Nonetheless, there are notable exceptions to the rule—people who have battled with the disorder and achieved greatness in their chosen fields: in the arts, Vaslov Fomich Nijinski (1891–1950), the God of the Dance, whose personal account is to be found in his autobiography The Diary of Vaslov Nijinksy (1999); in sport, Lionel Aldridge (1941–1998), a member of Vince Lombardi’s legendary Green Bay Packers of the 1960s, who played in two Super Bowls and, until his death, gave inspirational talks on his battle against paranoid schizophrenia; and, in popular music, Roger (Syd) Barrett (1946–2006) of Pink Floyd and Peter Green (1946–) of Fleetwood Mac. Perhaps the most famous, due to the Academy Award-winning dramatization of his life, is the mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr (1928–2015), who was awarded (jointly with Harsanyi and Selten) the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Science for his work on game theory. His life story (upon which the film was based) is recorded by Sylvia Nasar in the book A Beautiful Mind (1998).

Historical views of schizophrenia

In 1856, Morel coined the term Démence Précoce to describe a once bright and active adolescent patient who had gradually become silent and withdrawn. Other clinical descriptions included Kahlbaum’s Katatonie (1868), Griesinger’s primare Verrücktheit (1868), Hecker’s Hebephrenie (1869), and Sommer’s inclusion of deteriorating paranoid syndromes in the concept of dementia (1894). In 1896, Emil Kraepelin described and separated the two major forms of insanity on the basis of different symptoms, course, and outcome. The first, manic-depressive insanity, had a relapsing and remitting course, with full recovery after each episode. The second grouped together catatonia, hebephrenia, and the paranoid psychoses under the term dementia praecox, which had a progressive, deteriorating course where any improvement was only partial.

Over the next two decades (and further revisions of his textbook), Kraepelin’s ideas were gradually accepted. Later the influence of Freud’s psychoanalytical ideas shifted the focus from Kraepelin’s ‘disease of the brain’ to a ‘splitting of the mind’ (schizophrenia), as proposed by Eugen Bleuler in his

book Dementia Praecox or the Group of Schizophrenias (1911). He believed the disorder to be due to a ‘loosening of associations’ between psychic functions, with fundamental symptoms being thought disorder, blunting/incongruity of affect, autism, and ambivalence. He added ‘simple schizophrenia’ to Kraepelin’s subtypes and did not consider hallucinations, delusions, and catatonic symptoms to be necessary for the diagnosis. This view of schizophrenia was to have a profound influence on clinical practice, particularly in the USA.

European psychiatrists continued to regard schizophrenia as a disease of the brain. Detailed classification systems were developed based on symptomatology, culminating in the teachings of Kurt Schneider, who described ‘symptoms of first rank’ in the acute phase of the illness ( Dictionary of psychiatric symptoms, p. 110) and ‘second-rank symptoms’ which, although highly suggestive of schizophrenia, could also occur in other psychoses (e.g. emotional blunting, perplexity, and other kinds of delusions and hallucinations).

The differences in diagnostic practices were highlighted in the 1970s. In 1972, Cooper found identical symptomatology in psychiatric admissions in New York and London, but higher rates of schizophrenia diagnosed in New York. Similarly, in 1973, the WHO’s International pilot study of schizophrenia found the incidence of schizophrenia, using agreed diagnostic criteria, to be 0.7–1.4 per 10 000 aged 15–54 across all countries studied, but with much higher rates of diagnosis evident in the USA and the USSR. This was explained by broader syndrome definition in the USA with milder abnormalities considered part of the schizophrenia spectrum, and in the USSR due to the political pressure to declare dissidents insane.

This led to an international push towards operationally defined criteria (based on symptoms and course), with various systems proposed. The St Louis Criteria (Feighner et al. 1972) require the patient to have been continuously ill for 6mths, with no prominent affective symptoms, the presence of delusions, hallucinations, or thought disorder, and for personal and family history to be taken into account (marital status, age under 40, premorbid social adjustment). Other systems adopt the Schneiderian concept of schizophrenia, including Catego (Wing et al. 1974)—a computer program that uses the Present State Examination (PSE) to generate diagnoses; Spitzer et al.’s (1975) research diagnostic criteria (RDC)—requiring at least 2wks duration, lack of affective symptoms, presence of thought disorder, and hallucinations and delusions similar to Schneiderian first-rank symptoms; as well as the ICD-10 (WHO 1992). The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 (2013) has dispensed with Schneiderian first-rank auditory hallucinations (2+ voices conversing) but requires the presence of at least one of delusions, hallucinations, or disorganised speech. ( The diagnosis of schizophrenia, p. 184). ICD-11 proposals (2018) consider persistent delusions, hallucinations, thought disorder, and feelings of passivity, influence or control, as core symptoms.

With the advent of neuroimaging, the biological substrate of schizophrenia could be investigated in the living brain. In 1974 Ingvar and Franzén showed, with the aid of radiolabelled xenon gas, that blood flow was reduced in the frontal lobes. In 1976 Johnstone et al. published the first controlled CT brain study, which found enlarged ventricles associated with poorer cognitive performance. In the absence of an aetiological model of schizophrenia, pathophysiological models were developed to describe and explain the varieties of presentations found. In 1980 Crow described his ‘Two syndrome hypothesis’, dividing schizophrenia into type 1 (predominant positive symptoms, acute onset, good premorbid adjustment, good treatment response, normal cognition and brain structure, reversible neurochemical disturbance) and type 2 (predominant negative symptoms, insidious onset, poor premorbid adjustment, poor treatment response, impaired cognition, structural brain abnormalities [ventricular enlargement] underlying irreversible neuronal loss). The first quantitative MRI study by Andreasen et al. in 1986 also demonstrated smaller frontal lobes, and reduced intracranial and cerebral volume: further evidence for schizophrenia as a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Based upon examination of symptomatology and functional brain imaging Liddle (1992) proposed his ‘Three syndrome hypothesis of schizophrenia’: (1) Psychomotor poverty syndrome—poverty of speech, flattened affect, and decreased spontaneous movement; hypoperfusion of left dorsal prefrontal cortex, extending to the medial prefrontal cortex and the cingulate cortex and hypoperfusion in the head of caudate; reduced ability to generate action; (2) Disorganization syndrome—disorders of form of thought and inappropriate affect; hypoperfusion of right ventral prefrontal cortex and increased activity in anterior cingulate and dorsomedial thalamic nuclei projecting to the prefrontal cortex; relative hypoperfusion of Broca’s area and bilateral hypoperfusion of parietal association cortex; reduced ability to inhibit

inappropriate mental activity; and (3) Reality distortion syndrome—delusions and hallucinations; increased activity in left parahippocampal region and left striatum; disorder of internal monitoring.

Schizophrenia research in the last two decades has focused more on finding fundamental neuronal, neurochemical, or cognitive mechanisms than on localizing specific symptoms ( Aetiological theories, p. 188). It is hoped that this approach may provide workable hypotheses that can facilitate the search for molecular mechanisms and lead to new treatment approaches.

The diagnosis of schizophrenia

The diagnosis of schizophrenia is made on the basis of the patient’s symptoms, and currently no confirmatory test is available. DSM-IIIR, DSM-IV, DSM-5, and ICD-10 set out operational criteria against which a clinical diagnosis can be confirmed. Subtypes of schizophrenia (see Table 5.1) are no longer retained by DSM-5 or as currently proposed for ICD-11 (2018).1

ICD-10 schizophrenia

1. At least one of the following:

• Thought echo, insertion, withdrawal, or broadcasting.

• Delusions of control, influence, or passivity; clearly referred to body or limb movements or specific

thoughts, actions, or sensations; and delusional perception.

• Hallucinatory voices giving a running commentary on the patient’s behaviour or discussing him/her

between themselves, or other types of hallucinatory voices coming from some part of the body.

• Culturally inappropriate or implausible persistent delusions (e.g. religious/political identity,

superhuman powers and ability). 2. Or, at least two of the following:

• Persistent hallucinations in any modality, when accompanied by fleeting or half-formed delusions without clear affective content, persistent over-valued ideas, or occurring every day for weeks or months on end.

• Breaks of interpolations in the train of thought, resulting in incoherence or irrelevant speech or neologisms.

• Catatonic behaviour such as excitement, posturing, or waxy flexibility, negativism, mutism, and stupor.

• Negative symptoms such as marked apathy, paucity of speech, and blunting or incongruity of emotional responses.

• A significant and consistent change in the overall quality of some aspects of personal behaviour, manifest as loss of interest, aimlessness, idleness, a self-absorbed attitude, and social withdrawal.

3. Duration of ≥1mth. DSM-5 schizophrenia


Characteristics of symptoms:2 two or more of the following, each present for a significant portion of time during a 1-mth period (or less if successfully treated). At least one of these must be (1), (2), or (3):

(1) Delusions.

(2) Hallucinations.

(3) Disorganized speech (e.g. frequent derailment or incoherence).

(4) Grossly disorganized or catatonic behaviour.

(5) Negative symptoms (i.e. diminished emotional expression/avolition).

B. Social/occupational dysfunction: for a significant portion of the time since onset of the disturbance, the level of functioning in one or more major areas, such as work, interpersonal relations, or self-care, is markedly below the level achieved prior to onset (or when the onset is in childhood or adolescence, there is failure to achieve the expected level of interpersonal, academic, or occupational functioning).


Duration: continuous signs of the disturbance persist for at least 6mths that must include at least 1mth of symptoms meeting criterion A.

D–F. Exclusions:

• Schizoaffective disorder and depressive or bipolar disorder with psychotic features have been ruled


• Presentation is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g. drug of abuse, medication) or other medical condition.

• If there is a history of ASD or a communication disorder of childhood onset, the additional diagnosis of schizophrenia is made only if prominent delusions or hallucinations, in addition to the other required symptoms of schizophrenia, are also present for at least 1mth (or less if successfully treated).

Table 5.1 ICD-10 subtypes

Paranoid schizophrenia

Hebephrenic schizophrenia

Catatonic schizophrenia

Undifferentiated schizophrenia

Post-schizophrenic depression

Residual schizophrenia

Simple schizophrenia

Delusions and hallucinations

Disorganized speech and behaviour (often silly/shallow); flat or inappropriate affect

Psychomotor disturbance ( The catatonic patient, p. 1054)

Meeting general criteria, but no specific symptom subtype predominates

Some residual symptoms, but depressive picture predominates

Previous ‘positive symptoms’ less marked; prominent ‘negative’ symptoms

No delusions or hallucinations—a ‘defect state’ (negative symptoms) gradually arises without an acute episode

Differential diagnosis of schizophrenia

The differential diagnosis of schizophrenia is wide. Early in the course of the illness, there may be significant uncertainty as to the true diagnosis. In general, compared to other disorders with psychotic symptoms, in schizophrenia, there is a broader range of psychotic symptoms (e.g. other than relatively circumscribed delusions) and greater functional impairment.

Substance-induced psychotic disorder

(For example, alcohol, stimulants, hallucinogens, steroids, antihistamines, and sympathomimetics.) Careful history-taking may reveal onset, persistence, and cessation of symptoms to be related to drug use or withdrawal.

Psychotic disorder due to a general medical condition

Focused history, examination, and investigations should help exclude other disorders, including brain disease (e.g. head injury, CNS infection, CNS tumour, TLE, post-epileptic states, vCJD), and metabolic (hypernatraemia, hypocalcaemia) or endocrine disturbance (hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome).

Mood disorders with psychotic features

Mood and related biological symptoms are usually more severe and precede psychosis. The psychotic features will usually be mood-congruent ( Diagnosis 1: symptoms, p. 246). There may be a personal or family history of affective disorder.

Acute/transient (brief) psychotic disorder and schizophreniform disorder

Diagnosed only after the psychotic symptoms have resolved, based on the time course ( Acute and transient psychotic disorders, p. 236).

Sleep-related disorders

When symptoms characteristically only occur while falling asleep or on waking up (hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations; Abnormal perceptions, p. 72). If there is excessive daytime tiredness due to lack of sleep or side effects of medication, symptoms may occur at any time of the day.

Delusional disorder

Presence of at least one non-bizarre delusion with lack of thought disorder, prominent hallucinations, mood disorder, and flattening of affect ( Delusional disorder 1: clinical features, p. 230).

Dementia and delirium

Evidence of cognitive impairment or altered/fluctuating LOC, respectively. Delirium characteristically has a waxing and waning course. Note: also consider ‘late paraphrenia’, which has an extensive literature and is thought to be distinct from delusional disorder and schizophrenia, associated with social isolation, ageing, medical problems/treatments, and sensory loss ( Specific aspects of psychiatric illnesses in the elderly 3: mood disorders, p. 552).

Body dysmorphic disorder

Significant overlap with delusional disorder; few significant differentiating factors exist ( Body dysmorphic disorder, p. 872).

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Evidence of a past life-threatening trauma ( Post-traumatic stress disorder 1: diagnosis, p. 402). Pervasive developmental disorder

Evidence of impairment in functioning from the pre-school years.

Obsessive–compulsive disorder

Significant overlap with delusional disorder and, if reality testing regarding obsessions or compulsions is lost, delusional disorder is often diagnosed ( Obsessive–compulsive disorder 1: clinical features, p. 384).


Health concerns generally are more amenable to reality testing and are less fixed than in delusional disorder.

Paranoid personality disorder

Absence of clearly circumscribed delusions, presence of a pervasive, stable pattern of suspiciousness or distrust ( Table 12.1, p. 523).

Schizotypal personality disorder

Odd or eccentric behaviour, absence of clearly circumscribed delusions ( Table 12.1, p. 523).

Misidentification syndromes

Easily confused with delusional disorder; may be associated with other CNS abnormalities ( Delusional misidentification syndromes, p. 240).

Induced/shared psychotic disorder

Evidence that relatives or close friends share similar delusional beliefs ( Induced delusional disorder, p. 238).

Anxiety disorder

Sometimes patients use ‘paranoia’ or ‘feeling paranoid’ to describe over-concern, hypersensitivity, anxiety, agoraphobia, or social phobia—clarification is all that is required when terminology has acquired common parlance.

Factitious disorder

Rarely, psychotic symptoms may be feigned, usually to avoid responsibilities and/or to maintain a sick role ( Factitious disorder (Munchausen’s syndrome), p. 876).

Aetiological theories

Neurochemical abnormality hypotheses

It seems unlikely that the aetiology of schizophrenia can be fully attributed to a single neurotransmitter abnormality (although there are precedents, notably Parkinson’s disease). In the study of models for psychosis, particularly with the psychotomimetic (psychosis-mimicking) effects of certain drugs, there is

evidence for the involvement of multiple neurotransmitters in the genesis of psychotic symptoms. Some of the evidence implicating different neurotransmitters is outlined here ( Other theories, see opposite):

Dopaminergic overactivity

• The fact that all known effective antipsychotics are DA antagonists.

• Positive correlation between the antipsychotic efficacy of a drug and its potency as a DA receptor


• Induction of psychotic symptoms by dopaminergic agents [e.g. amphetamine, cocaine, phencyclidine

[PCP], levodopa, bromocriptine].

• Imaging studies showing that amphetamine induces greater displacement of radiolabelled-ligands

bound to D2 receptors in the striatum in never-treated schizophrenia patients (suggesting a

predisposition to DA release).

• Evidence of a correlation between DA metabolite homovanillic acid (HVA) plasma levels and both the

severity of psychotic symptoms and the treatment response to antipsychotics.

Glutaminergic hypoactivity

• NMDA receptor antagonists, (e.g. ketamine, PCP) have been shown to induce both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia in healthy volunteers (possibly via modulation of the DA system) and exacerbate symptoms of patients with schizophrenia.

• The effects of ketamine (in both animals and humans) are attenuated by antipsychotic medication (notably clozapine).

• Facilitation of NMDA receptor function by glycine (which binds to a modulatory site on NMDA receptors) and D-cycloserine (a selective partial agonist at the glycine modulatory site) may lead to symptomatic improvement.

Serotonergic (5-HT) overactivity

• The primary mode of action of LSD is through partial 5-HT agonism, associated with sensory distortions and hallucinations.

• The efficacy of clozapine in treatment-resistant schizophrenia is thought to be due to its combined dopaminergic and serotonergic antagonism.

Alpha-adrenergic overactivity

• Some antipsychotics also have clear adrenergic antagonism.

• levels of noradrenaline (NA) have been found in the CSF of patients with acute psychotic symptoms. • Chronic treatment with antipsychotic drugs leads to firing rates in the locus coeruleus (the origin of

the noradrenergic system).

Gamma-aminobutyric acid hypoactivity

• Loss of GABA inhibition has been shown to lead to overactivity in other neurotransmitter systems (e.g. DA, 5-HT, NA).

• There is some evidence to support the loss of GABAergic neurons in the hippocampus of patients with schizophrenia.

• Use of BZDs may augment the therapeutic effects of antipsychotics by their GABA facilitation.

The neurodevelopmental hypothesis

Some authors hypothesize that schizophrenia may be a disorder of neurodevelopment, based on the following:

• Excess of obstetric complications in those who develop the disorder.

• Affected subjects have motor and cognitive problems which precede the onset of illness.

• Schizophrenic subjects have abnormalities of the cerebral structure at first presentation.

• Schizophrenic subjects have dermatoglyphic and dysmorphic features.

• Although the brain is abnormal, gliosis is absent—suggesting that differences are possibly acquired in


• Evidence of excessive synaptic pruning during adolescence/early adulthood.

The disconnection hypothesis

Neuropsychological, neuroanatomical, and functional investigations (SPECT, PET, fMRI) have revealed: • Widespread reductions in grey matter in schizophrenia (particularly the temporal lobe).

• Disorders of memory and frontal lobe function occurring on a background of widespread cognitive abnormalities.

• Reduced correlation between frontal and temporal blood flow on specific cognitive tasks.

• A reduction in white matter integrity in tracts connecting the frontal and temporal lobes.

These findings have led to speculation that frontal–temporal/parietal connectivity may be the final common pathway for the development of schizophrenia.

Other theories

In the 1960s, social theories of schizophrenia (e.g. schizophrenogenic mother, marital skew, and schism) were common. They are now of historical interest only, not having withstood scientific scrutiny. A number of other theories exist, including those which postulate that schizophrenia is an abnormality of information processing (Braff, 1993), a problem of working memory (Goldman-Rakic, 1994), caused by cognitive dysmetria (Andreasen et al., 1999), an inability to think in ‘meta-representations’ or grasp ‘theory of mind’ (Pickup & Frith, 2001), a neurodegenerative disorder (Weiberger and McClure, 2002), a disorder of language (Berlim and Crow, 2003), due to abnormal neuronal migration and the DISC1 gene (Johnstone et al., 2011), and due to excessive synaptic pruning and the C4 (complement) gene (Sekar et al., 2016).

Epidemiology of schizophrenia


The incidence of schizophrenia worldwide is relatively similar when restricted, operational diagnostic criteria are used to establish the diagnosis. The incidence in the UK and USA is around 15 new cases per 100,000 population. ♂ = ♀, although ♂ tend to have an earlier onset than ♀ (23 vs 26yrs) and develop more severe illnesses. A few studies have reported a falling incidence over time, although this may be due to changing diagnostic practices/criteria.


The lifetime risk of schizophrenia is between 15 and 19 per 1000 population. The point prevalence is between 2 and 7 per 1000. There are some differences between countries, although these differences are minimized when a restrictive definition of schizophrenia, based on first-rank symptoms, is used.


Early studies reported low fertility in both men and women with schizophrenia. More recent studies suggest that although men are reproductively disadvantaged, the fertility of women with schizophrenia has probably due to deinstitutionalization.


The diagnosis of schizophrenia carries around a 20% reduction in life expectancy. Suicide is the most common cause of premature death in schizophrenia. It accounts for 10–38% of all deaths in schizophrenia. Risk is probably highest in the year after the first presentation and is greater in men.


There is significant comorbidity in patients with schizophrenia:

• Common medical problems that occur more frequently, e.g. communicable diseases (HIV, hepatitis C,

TB), epilepsy, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, ischaemic heart disease.

• Rare conditions that co-occur with schizophrenia, e.g. metachromic leukodystrophy, acute intermittent

porphyria, coeliac disease, dysmorphic features (high-arched palate, low-set ears, minor physical


• Substance misuse—cannabis, stimulants, and nicotine, in particular.


Genetic factors account for the majority of liability to schizophrenia. Heritability estimates range from 60% to 80%. The risk of developing schizophrenia when one has an affected relative is shown in Table 5.2. It is likely that an individual needs to have several genes ‘of small effect’ that interact with each other and with time-specific exposure to other environmental risk factors.

Recent molecular genetic studies in large populations have found >100 loci in the human genome containing single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) haplotypes that associate with a risk of

schizophrenia.3 The functional alleles and mechanisms at these loci remain to be discovered. The strongest genetic relationship is schizophrenia’s association with genetic markers across the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) locus, which spans several megabases of chromosome 6. Other notable associations relevant to major hypotheses of the aetiology and treatment of schizophrenia include DRD2 (the target of all effective antipsychotic drugs), multiple genes involved in glutamatergic transmission and synaptic plasticity (e.g. GRM3, GRIN2A, SRR, GRIA1), and voltage-gated calcium channel subunits (e.g. CACNA1C, CACNB2, CACNA1I). The involvement of the immune system and other genes encoding synaptic proteins has added evidence to the theory that schizophrenia arises due to diverse synaptic abnormalities interacting with the complement system and other pathways to cause excessive stimulation of microglia and elimination of synapses during adolescence and early adulthood. Genes involved in neurodevelopment have also been associated with schizophrenia, including DISC1, NRG1, DTNBP1, KCNH2, AKT1, and RGS4 genes.

Table 5.2 Schizophrenia liability based on affected relatives Family member(s) affected

Identical twin

One sibling/fraternal twin

Both parents

One parent

One grandparent No relatives affected

Environmental factors

The following have been associated with an

• Complications of pregnancy, delivery, and the neonatal period.

• Delayed walking and neurodevelopmental difficulties.

• Early social services contact and disturbed childhood behaviour. • Severe maternal malnutrition.

• Maternal influenza in pregnancy and winter births.

• Degree of urbanization at birth.

• Use of cannabis, especially during adolescence.

Examination of the patient with psychotic symptoms

A thorough medical history, including a systematic review and thorough physical examination, is important is the assessment of all patients presenting with psychotic symptoms. It is all too easy to focus on the psychiatric aspects of the assessment to the exclusion of medical aspects, which may inform the diagnosis and aid treatment planning.

Key features in systematic review

• Neurological—headache, head injury, abnormal movements of the mouth or tongue, diplopia, hearing or visual impairment (delusional disorder is more common when there is sensory impairment), fits/faints/blackouts/dizzy spells, altered consciousness or memory problems, stroke, coordination problems, marked tremor, or muscle stiffness.

• Respiratory—dyspnoea, orthopnoea.

• Cardiovascular—chest pain, palpitations.

• GI—constipation (can be a side effect of anticholinergic psychotropic drugs), nausea, vomiting.

• Genitourinary—urinary hesitancy (retention related to anticholinergic drugs); in women, a menstrual

history; for both: sexual problems (which may be secondary to medication).

Mental state examination

• Aside from the more obvious psychotic features, a comprehensive assessment includes asking about mood, sleep, symptoms of anxiety, and cognitive function.

Risk (approximate) (%)

46 12–15 40 12–15 6 0.5–1

risk of schizophrenia:

• Be sure to check orientation, attention, concentration, and anterograde/retrograde memory at a minimum—always consider the underlying neurological condition when disorientation is present or if memory problems are severe or persistent in spite of adequate treatment.

Diagnostic formulation

Even in the absence of a specific cause, the aetiology of schizophrenia is predominantly influenced by factors affecting the brain. However, the following areas might be considered as a guide to the assessment of predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors:

• Biological—consider family history of psychiatric illness, recent substance misuse, drug non-

compliance, history of obstetric complications, brain injury, and comorbid medical illness.

• Psychosocial—consider recent stressful life events, family cohesion/friction, living conditions, attitude,

and knowledge of illness.

Physical examination

• Full physical examination is essential for all inpatients.

• The need for a complete physical examination in an outpatient setting tends to be based on

presenting complaints and/or the availability of adequate facilities/time constraints.

• There really can be no excuse for overlooking systemic comorbidities—at the very least, arrange for the primary care physician to review the patient or reschedule a longer appointment somewhere

where facilities are available.

• A full neurological examination may be the most important investigation and should focus on gait

inspection; examination of the extremities for weakness and/or altered sensation; examination of hand–eye coordination; examination of smooth ocular pursuit; and examination of the cranial nerves. Scales, such as AIMS, may be useful to record and monitor potential movement side effects of medication.


Blood tests

• Routine—U&Es, LFT, calcium, FBC, glucose.

• When suggested by history/examination—VDRL (Venereal Disease Research Laboratory), TFTs,

parathyroid hormone (PTH), cortisol, tumour markers.


• CT or MRI in the presence of suggested neurological abnormality or persistent cognitive impairment. • CXR only where examination/history suggests comorbid respiratory/cardiovascular condition.


• Urinary drug screen (particularly stimulants and cannabis). • Microscopy and culture (where history suggestive).


• EEG rarely necessary unless history of seizure or symptoms suggest TLE. Special investigations

• 24-hr collection for cortisol (if Cushing’s disease suggested from history/examination).

• 24-hr catecholamine/5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) collection for suspected

phaeochromocytoma/carcinoid syndrome, respectively.

Presentations of psychosis 1

When discussing the management of schizophrenia and related psychoses, it is helpful to consider three distinct, but related, phases: the prodromal phase, the acute psychotic episode, and the maintenance phase. Before an individual fulfils DSM-5/ICD-10/11 criteria for schizophrenia, there may be a prodromal period of disturbed behaviour and partial psychotic symptoms that suggest, especially in the presence of other risk factors, that schizophrenia is imminent and inevitable (see further text). Acute psychotic episodes may represent a first episode/relapse of schizophrenia or another illness within the differential diagnosis ( Differential diagnosis of schizophrenia, p. 186). Treatment in an acute episode is to abolish psychotic symptoms while minimizing distress and ensuring patient safety ( Initial

treatment of acute psychosis, p. 200). Once psychotic symptoms have been abolished (or improved as far as possible), one enters the maintenance phase. Here the concern shifts to prophylaxis (which often includes maintenance medication), rehabilitation, and maximization of function ( Maintenance phase, p. 202). Unfortunately acute psychotic relapse is possible in schizophrenia despite optimum maintenance treatment.

Prodromal schizophrenia

(See Box 5.1.)

‘Prodrome’ is a retrospective concept relating to evidence of premorbid change in an individual who

later develops a condition. In schizophrenia, there is evidence of prodromal symptoms in 80–90% of cases (10–20% have acute onset). The typical presentation is of non-specific or negative symptoms (early prodrome), followed by attenuated, mild, positive symptoms (late prodrome).4 The main problem in detecting attenuated or subthreshold symptoms is that the rate of conversion to schizophrenia is low. Use of specific screening tools, such as the PACE (Personal Assessment and Crisis Evaluation Clinic), COPS (Criteria of Prodromal Syndromes), or SIPS (Structured Interview for Prodromal Syndromes), raises detection rates to 20–40%.5 These populations are perhaps better termed as having an ‘at-risk’ mental state (ARMS) for psychosis or being at ‘ultra high risk’ (UHR) for psychosis. Preliminary evidence suggests that low-dose antipsychotics, CBT, and antidepressants can improve presenting symptoms.6 However, there is no convincing evidence yet that any intervention can delay, prevent, or reduce the severity of the psychotic illness. Neither is there evidence that the mean duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) in patients who develop psychosis improves the long-term outcome. Whether treatment is indicated at this stage remains controversial, but assessment and monitoring may be prognostically useful.

Risk of transition to psychosis

Transition risks from pooled data estimate the risk of someone with clinical high-risk status of developing psychosis after initial presentation to services to be 18% at 6mths, 22% at 1yr, 29% at 2yrs, and 36% after 3yrs.7 This means that, after 2-yr follow-up, over 70% of those at high risk will not have converted

to psychosis. There is also a small proportion who will convert after the 2-yr period—one of the reasons why at least 3yrs follow-up is recommended.

Box 5.1 Guidance and advice on preventing psychosis

• If a person is distressed, has a decline in social functioning and has (1) transient/attenuated psychotic symptoms, or (2) other experiences or behaviour suggestive of possible psychosis, or (3) a first-degree relative with psychosis or schizophrenia, then they ought to be referred without delay to a specialist mental health service or an early intervention in psychosis service for assessment by a consultant psychiatrist or a trained specialist with experience in at-risk mental states.*

• Treatments that may be considered include: individual CBT with or without family intervention; management of anxiety, depression, emergent personality disorders, or substance misuse, but not antipsychotic medication as there is little evidence that this will decrease the risk of, or prevent, psychosis.**

• If a clear diagnosis cannot be made, but there are continued symptoms, impaired functioning, or distress, then further monitoring for a period of up to 3yrs is recommended.

• If the person wishes to be discharged from the service, offer follow-up appointments and the option to self-refer in the future, and communicate this need for continued monitoring to their GP.

* **

https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg178/chapter/1-Recommendations#preventing-psychosis-2 [accessed 30 May 2018]. https://www.bap.org.uk/pdfs/BAP_Guidelines-Schizophrenia.pdf [accessed: 30 May 2018].

Presentations of psychosis 2

The first schizophrenic episode

The first episode of schizophrenia in an individual generally occurs in late adolescence or early adult life. Many people experiencing their first episode will have no personal or family experience of mental ill health, and some will lack insight that their symptoms are a result of mental illness. As a result, many

patients will present in crisis and not directly complaining of psychotic symptoms. The range of possible presentations is very wide; however, the following presentations (or their variants) are commonly seen:

• A spouse or relative noticing withdrawn or bizarre behaviour.

• Failure to achieve educational potential with referral by school or student health services.

• Onset of personality change, social withdrawal, and ‘odd’ behaviour.

• Presentation via the criminal justice system (see section on schizophrenia and offending, Mental

disorder and offending 2: specific disorders and offending, p. 746).

• Presentation following deliberate self-harm or suicide attempt.

• Complaining to the council/police, etc. on the basis of delusional symptoms (e.g. hearing voices of

neighbours throughout the night).

• Occasionally, the first sign may be symptoms more typically characteristic of another disorder (e.g.

depression, mania, OCD, panic disorder).

The first episode of schizophrenia is often a time of diagnostic uncertainty (and occasionally the

diagnosis may take months/years to become clear). Frequently, the clinical picture includes comorbid substance misuse, personality difficulties, recent stressful life events, or a combination of all three. It is usually necessary to admit people suspected of first schizophrenic episodes in order to assess the extent of their psychopathology, to provide a time for education of both the patient and their family, and to provide pharmacological and psychological treatments in an environment where compliance can be carefully assessed. If local early intervention (see Box 5.2) or crisis intervention and home treatment services are sufficiently well developed, it may be possible to provide a viable less restrictive option to admission. Inpatient admission is always necessary where the patient poses a significant danger to themselves or others.

Subsequent episodes

Subsequent presentations may be due to relapse of psychotic symptoms after remission, a deterioration or a change in the quality of partially treated psychotic symptoms, or a crisis relating to life events in a patient who, as a result of their illness, has an impaired ability to manage stress.

Relapses can occur spontaneously in the absence of causative factors and in spite of good compliance with antipsychotic treatment. However, very often, relapses relate to medication non- compliance, drug or alcohol misuse, or life stresses (or a combination of these).

Often in an individual patient, the time course, prodromal features, and symptomatology of a relapse are characteristic—the so-called ‘relapse signature’. Educating the patient and carers about these warning signs and awareness and documentation of these features within the treating team are important parts of relapse prevention.

Box 5.2 Early intervention for psychosis (EIP)

In the NICE guideline (CG178) Psychosis and schizophrenia in adults: prevention and management (2014), there are specific recommendations:

• EIP services should be accessible to all people with a first episode or first presentation of psychosis,

irrespective of the person’s age or the duration of untreated psychosis.

• People should be assessed without delay, and if the service cannot provide urgent intervention,

then the person should be referred to a crisis resolution and home treatment team (with support

from EIP services).

• Services may be accessed from primary or secondary care (including other community services) or

a self- or carer referral.

• EIP services should aim to provide a full range of pharmacological, psychological, social,

occupational, and educational interventions for people with psychosis and be available beyond 3yrs if the person has not made a stable recovery from psychosis or schizophrenia.

The resource implications of having a specific EIP service are significant, and the guidance for implementation suggests that these standards should apply to all psychoses—including acute psychotic episodes in the context of trauma and substance misuse.1 It is likely that evidence of whether EIP services improve outcome in psychosis will emerge in the next few years, as they are now a priority for the NHS and beyond.2,3

1 https://www.england.nhs.uk/mentalhealth/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2016/04/eip-guidance.pdf [accessed 30 May 2018].

2 Mcdaid D, Park A, Iemmi V, Adelaja B (2016) Growth in the use of early intervention for psychosis services: An opportunity to promote recovery amid concerns on health care sustainability.


[accessed 5 January 2019].

3 The Early Intervention in Psychosis IRIS Network brings together elected early intervention (EI) regional leads to share issues and solutions. http://www.iris-initiative.org.uk/silo/files/iris-guidelines-update–september-2012.pdf [accessed 30 May 2018].

Initial assessment of acute psychosis

Issues affecting initial management decisions

In view of the range and variety of presentations and the broad differential ( Differential diagnosis of schizophrenia, p. 186), it is difficult to be prescriptive in dealing with a patient who presents with psychotic symptoms. Symptoms may range from mild paranoid ideas to elaborate and firmly held delusions with associated auditory hallucinations urging the patient to violence. Often it is difficult to establish a clear history initially, and assessment is focused on the immediate concerns:

• The risk they currently pose to themselves—not just the possibility of acts of self-harm or suicide, but also because of other aspects of their behaviour (e.g. police becoming involved, family relationships, work, continued driving, etc.).

• Risk of violence—the nature of risk ( Assessing risk of violence, p. 748) and any association with current symptoms (e.g. delusions about a specific person or group of individuals; what the ‘voices’ are telling them to do).

• The degree of insight retained by the patient and the likelihood of them cooperating with medical management.

• Whether hospital admission or transfer to a psychiatric ward is warranted to assess and manage the acute symptoms [with or without use of the Mental Health Act (MHA)].

• Whether their current behaviour is so disturbed as to require urgent treatment ( Severe behavioural disturbance, p. 1048) to allow further assessment, including physical examination and other routine investigations ( Investigations, p. 193).

• The person’s current social circumstances and the level of support available to them [partner, relatives, friends, community psychiatric nurse (CPN), etc.] that may allow some flexibility in management (as well as being a source of third-party information).

The greatest influence on your course of action will often be the reason why the person has been referred in the first place (e.g. brought up by a concerned relative, no longer able to be managed at home, breach of the peace, self-referral because of own concerns, attempted suicide).

When there is a good account of the history of the presenting complaint(s), it may be possible to establish the most likely diagnosis and proceed accordingly, e.g. a drug- or alcohol-related disorder, acute confusional state ( Acute confusional state (delirium), p. 854), first episode of schizophrenia ( The first schizophrenic episode, p. 196), relapse of known schizophrenia ( Subsequent episodes, p. 196), delusional disorder ( Delusional disorder 1: clinical features, p. 230), and acute psychotic disorder ( Acute and transient psychotic disorders, p. 236).

During initial assessment, particularly with unmedicated patients, record (verbatim, if possible) specific aspects of the patient’s psychopathology (nature and content of delusions and hallucinations), before they become modified by the necessary use of medication. This information is important, as it will influence later decisions regarding, for example, assessment of treatment response and the need for continued use of the MHA.

Many patients with a psychotic presentation will have comorbid drug and/or alcohol problems. The fact that the psychotic episode is suspected to be wholly or partially attributable to comorbid substance use should not be allowed to affect the treatment offered acutely, which should be planned on the basis of the nature and severity of the psychotic symptoms and the associated risk. On recovery from the acute episode, the comorbid substance use should become a focus for clinical attention.

The need for hospital admission

As noted previously ( Issues affecting initial management decisions, p. 198), certain clinical features and situations will determine whether hospital admission (or transfer to a psychiatric ward) is necessary: • High risk of suicide or homicide.

• Other illness-related behaviour that endangers relationships, reputation, or assets.

• Severe psychotic, depressive, or catatonic symptoms. • Lack of capacity to cooperate with treatment.

• Lack or loss of appropriate psychosocial supports.

• Failure of outpatient treatment.

• Non-compliance with treatment plan (e.g. depot medication) for patients detained under the MHA.

• Significant changes in medication for patient at high risk of relapse (including clozapine ‘red’ result;

Clozapine 2: starting and stopping, ‘Traffic light’ notification, p. 220).

• Need to address comorbid conditions (e.g. inpatient detoxication, physical problems, serious

medication side effects).

Suitability of the ward environment

A busy psychiatric ward may not be an ideal environment for a patient experiencing acute psychotic symptoms. As far as possible, the person should be nursed in calm surroundings (a single room, if possible), with minimal stimulation (e.g. unfamiliar people, TV, radio). A balance should be struck between the need for regular observation and the likelihood that this may reinforce persecutory delusions. If behaviour becomes unmanageable, despite regular medication, it may be necessary to consider referral of the patient to a more secure environment, e.g. an intensive psychiatric care unit (IPCU).

Early review

Regular review is critical in the first 72hrs to assess any improvement in mental state, response to medication, level of observation needed, and carry out statutory duties under the MHA (including the need for continued detention, if emergency powers have been used). This is also a time for information gathering from friends, family, GP, other agencies, etc. and organizing any investigations, including physical examination and routine blood tests that may not have been possible initially.

Initial treatment of acute psychosis

The management of psychotic patients should include, wherever possible, the usual features of good medical practice: undertaking a comprehensive assessment of medical, social, and psychological needs; involving patients and their relatives in decisions about medical care; and providing patients and carers with clear verbal and, if necessary, written information (for NICE guidelines, see Box 5.3).

Emergency treatment of behavioural disturbance

Follow guidance as detailed for the management of acute behavioural disturbance ( Severe behavioural disturbance, p. 1048).

Box 5.3 Updated NICE guidelines (CG178) on choice of antipsychotic medication

Although previous guidelines (2002) had advocated the use of ‘atypical’ drugs as first-line choice, this is no longer the case. Instead, for people with newly diagnosed schizophrenia, NICE advises:1

• The choice of antipsychotic medication should be made by the service user and healthcare

professional together, taking into account the views of the carer if the service user agrees.

• Providing information and discussing the likely benefits and possible side effects of each drug,


• Metabolic (including weight gain and diabetes).

• Extra-pyramidal (including akathisia, dyskinesia, and dystonia). • Cardiovascular (including prolonging the QT interval).

• Hormonal (including increasing plasma PL).

• Other (including unpleasant subjective experiences).

• Not initiating regular combined antipsychotic medication, except for short periods (e.g. when changing medication).

• To consider offering depot/long-acting injectable antipsychotic medication to people with psychosis or schizophrenia:

• Who would prefer such treatment after an acute episode.

• Where avoiding covert non-adherence (either intentional or unintentional) to antipsychotic

medication is a clinical priority within the treatment plan.

• Offering clozapine to people with schizophrenia whose illness has not responded adequately to

treatment despite the sequential use of adequate doses of at least two different antipsychotic drugs. At least one of the drugs should be a non-clozapine SGA.

1 NICE clinical guideline 178 (Feb 2014) Psychosis and schizophrenia in adults: prevention and management. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg178/chapter/recommendations#choice-of-antipsychotic-medication [accessed 30 May 2018].

Points to note

• Attempts to defuse the situation should be made, whenever possible.

• Reassurance and the offer of voluntary oral/intramuscular medication are often successful.

• The content of delusions and hallucinations is of poor diagnostic value but may better predict

violence/behavioural disturbance.

• Act decisively and with sufficient support to ensure restraint and forcible administration of medication

proceed without unnecessary delay or undue risk to the patient or staff.

• Do not attempt to manage severe violence on an open ward when secure facilities with appropriately

trained staff are available elsewhere.

Instigation of antipsychotic treatment

In the treatment of psychotic symptoms, antipsychotic medication has the strongest evidence base. Although little evidence exists to support the choice of one drug over the other, the following may be used as a guide to treatment. It is good practice to establish baseline measures of physical health prior to commencing antipsychotic treatment ( Physical health monitoring and antipsychotics, p. 1040).

Option 1

• Commence a second-generation antipsychotic (SGA) [e.g. olanzapine, amisulpride, risperidone, quetiapine; see Second-generation antipsychotics 1 & 2, pp. 201–213)] at an effective dose [see the British National Formulary (BNF)].

• Use long-acting BDZ (e.g. diazepam) to control non-acute anxiety/behavioural disturbance. Option 2

• Prescribe a low-potency first-generation antipsychotic (FGA) (such as chlorpromazine, initially in the range of 75–200mg/d in divided doses) for a first episode.

• Increase the dose according to clinical effect and the need for sedation.

• Previous episodes and the response/side effects experienced should inform the management of

subsequent episodes.

• No additional antipsychotic benefit is likely when doses of 400–600mg chlorpromazine (or equivalent)

are exceeded; however, sedation may be a useful effect of increasing the dose above this level.

Extra-pyramidal side effects

EPSEs, including dystonias, Parkinsonism, and akathisia, are common side effects of treatment with antipsychotic medication and are a frequent cause of non-compliance.

• EPSEs are less likely with option 1, although the tolerability of both options overall is approximately


• Prescribe procyclidine (or alternative) orally, as required, for Parkinsonian side effects.

• Review regularly, since requirement for procyclidine may diminish over time and the drug may

contribute to non-response and tardive dyskinesia.

Maintenance phase

Post-acute phase

With the emergence of ‘stability’ (i.e. less active psychotic symptoms and less behavioural disturbance), treatment shifts towards the gradual simplification of medication regimes and maximization of tolerability. The patient may be more able to engage actively with other therapeutic modalities available in the hospital environment. Time to remission of symptoms is very variable and may take 3–9mths or more. It is important the patient and their family/friends have realistic expectations.

Continuing treatment

A more considered view of management may be taken once maximal improvements are considered to have occurred. This is the time to establish the minimal effective dose of medication, and maintenance regimes can often be significantly lower than those needed for management of the acute phase of the illness. A secondary goal is the minimization of side effects, with the aim of establishing compliance with medication. Finally, there is the more complex goal of rehabilitation—returning the patient to their

highest possible level of social and occupational functioning. The final steps in this process may require input, where available, of better resourced multidisciplinary rehabilitation units or community teams over many months, with the ultimate aims of successful discharge ( Discharge planning, p. 204) and outpatient follow-up ( Outpatient treatment and follow-up, p. 206).

Comorbid depression

Depression can affect up to 70% of patients in the acute phase but tends to remit along with the psychosis. In the maintenance phase, post-psychotic or post-schizophrenic depression occurs in up to one-third of patients and there is some evidence that tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) (e.g. imipramine) may be effective. Surprisingly, despite it being common clinical practice, there are few studies supporting other interventions such as SSRIs.

Managing negative symptoms

Specific interventions may help to mitigate the impact of persistent negative symptoms:

• Ensure EPSEs (especially bradykinesia) are detected and treated with anticholinergics, with

amantadine, by reducing antipsychotics, or by switching to lower-potency/SGA agents.

• If there is evidence of dysphoric mood, consider treating with antidepressants, with anxiolytics, by

reducing the antipsychotic dose, with supportive management, or by switching to an SGA.

• Address the contribution of the environment (e.g. institutionalization, lack of stimulation) by

resocialization and/or rehabilitation.

• If the patient is on long-term medication, consider reduction to minimal reasonable maintenance dose

or switching to an SGA or clozapine.

• If clozapine is prescribed, consider augmentation with an antidepressant, lamotrigine, or a suitable

second antipsychotic ( An approach to treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS), p. 216).

Addressing comorbid substance use

As previously noted, there is significant comorbidity of substance abuse in patients with schizophrenia. While this may complicate and exacerbate positive and negative symptoms, sometimes patients believe they are self-medicating and may be reluctant to give up a ‘useful’ treatment. Elements of a pragmatic approach include:

• A comprehensive assessment, including why and how substances are taken, as well as routine testing for substance misuse.

• Optimization of antipsychotic medication and consideration of clozapine for patients with persisting substance misuse.

• The offer of specific treatment for substance misuse and possibly referral to local drug and alcohol services—while psychosocial approaches will be the mainstay (including relapse prevention), the possible benefits of pharmacotherapy should not be ignored, e.g. nicotine substitution/withdrawal, alcohol detoxification, and opiate substitution.

Discharge planning

Good communication between members of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) (psychiatry, community nurse, GP, social worker, etc.) is essential for good overall care. This may be formalized using the care programme approach (CPA) ( Aftercare following detention, p. 954), but when this is not mandatory, components of this approach may be useful in everyday practice.

Pre-discharge meetings

Prior to leaving hospital, a meeting should be arranged with all those involved in a person’s care, including informal carers and key clinical staff. In some areas, Crisis Teams/Community Teams with Crisis Services will work intensively with people to facilitate early discharge and should be alerted of plans for discharge well in advance.

Discharge plans

Discharge plans should include information on everyone involved in a person’s care and should be clear about who is coordinating the care (e.g. key nurse, formal care coordinator, responsible medic). Plans should include explicit outcomes or expectations and follow-up arrangements, and it must be clear how help will be available in a crisis (e.g. contact numbers or formal relapse management/safety plan). All discharge plans should include a risk assessment and information on how risks will be managed.


Continue antipsychotic medication at the minimum necessary dose. Possible regimens include:

• An SGA (e.g. amisulpride, olanzapine, risperidone, quetiapine).

• Preferably a non-sedating FGA (e.g. trifluoperazine, flupentixol, haloperidol).

• Depot antipsychotic medication, particularly where use of oral medication has resulted in relapse due

to non-compliance—there is good evidence that, in these circumstances, depot medication is slightly more effective and may improve adherence, with a lower risk of relapse, suicide, and rehospitalization (or incarceration).8

• High-potency FGAs (trifluoperazine, haloperidol) and olanzapine may be given once daily. This may be an advantage in non-compliant, institutionalized, or cognitively impaired patients.

• In patients with complicated drug regimes, cognitive impairment, or dubious compliance, consider a compliance aid such as a multicompartment compliance aid (e.g. Dosette® box).


• Family therapy and psychoeducation are effective in reducing relapse and should:

• If possible, include the person with psychosis or schizophrenia and take account of the family’s preference for single- or multi-family group intervention.

• Usually last for 3–12mths and include at least ten sessions.

• Incorporate specific supportive, educational, treatment-related, problem-solving, and crisis

management elements.

• Individual CBT approaches:

• Manualized—aimed at establishing links between thoughts, feelings, or actions and current or past symptoms and/or functioning; re-evaluation of perceptions, beliefs, or reasoning related to symptoms.

• Promoting alternative ways of coping with the target symptom, reducing distress, and improving functioning.

• Compliance therapy may also be helpful.

• Art therapies may be useful to promote recovery, especially where negative symptoms are prominent.

Social/community/service provision

• Functional assessment by OT in hospital and at home may help identify any specific needs that ought to be addressed before or after discharge home.

• Social work and housing involvement are often necessary too, as illness may have led to a period of neglect or significant social upset, which may delay discharge until rectified.

• Education or employment may also have been disrupted by illness, and support should be offered to negotiate a phased return to normal activities as soon as possible.

• CPNs may help to provide information/education and monitor for early signs of relapse. Some areas may have specific teams for first-episode psychosis or home treatment following discharge from hospital—assertive approaches may be more beneficial.

• For patients on depot, non-attendance at the GP surgery/CPN appointment may act as an early warning system.

• Where day hospitals exist, they may provide an alternative means of supporting discharge and preventing the need for readmission.

Outpatient treatment and follow-up

When reviewing patients in clinic, after discharge and the acute episode has settled, the following areas should be considered.


• Conduct an MSE at every appointment.

• Enquire about side effects and attitude to medication.

• Record any recent life events or current stresses.

• Enquire about suicidal ideas and, if appropriate, homicidal ideas.

• When symptoms appear unresponsive to treatment, review the history and provide additional

investigations/interventions, as appropriate (e.g. clozapine).

• Be aware that following an acute episode, post-psychotic depression ( Maintenance phase, p. 202) is particularly common and should be properly assessed and treated.10

• Conduct appropriate investigations where complications of illness or its treatment arise (e.g. LFTs, FBC, U&Es, glucose) or where monitoring is indicated (e.g. high-dose guidelines; Box 5.7, p. 216), and physical health monitoring and antipsychotics ( Physical health monitoring and antipsychotics, p. 1040).


• Above all, try to provide supportive and collaborative treatment, wherever possible.

• Provide education about schizophrenia and its treatment.

• Do not dismiss concerns, even if apparently based on delusional content.

• Offer to meet family members or carers where appropriate.

• Discuss additional specific psychological therapies intervention if this has not been previously tried ( Psychological, p. 205).


• Remember statutory obligations (e.g. review of compulsory powers).

• Consider referral to social work where there are housing, benefit, employment, education, or other


• Drop-in community centres and other support provided by non-statutory or voluntary organizations are

often helpful.

• Consider interventions offered by other professions (e.g. OT, physiotherapy) when particular problems

arise (e.g. poor sleep, hygiene, anxiety management, etc.).

• Some patients and their carers find user organizations helpful (e.g. SANE or Rethink—see useful

addresses, Resources for patients, p. 1072).

There is usually a large degree of uncertainty regarding the course and prognosis in first-episode

patients, regardless of their presenting symptoms or demographic/personal history.


(See Box 5.4.)

Box 5.4 Outcome in schizophrenia

Approximate guide to course and prognosis at 13yrs’ follow-up:1 • ~15–20% of first episodes will not recur.

• Few people will remain in employment.

• 52% are without psychotic symptoms in the last 2yrs.

• 52% are without negative symptoms.

• 55% show good/fair social functioning.

Prognostic factors

Poor prognostic factors:

• Poor premorbid adjustment.

• Insidious onset.

• Onset in childhood or adolescence.

• Cognitive impairment.

• Enlarged ventricles.

• Symptoms fulfil more restrictive criteria.

Good prognostic factors:

• Marked mood disturbance, especially elation, during initial presentation. • Family history of affective disorder.

• ♀ sex.

• Living in a developing country.

1 Mason P, Harrison G, Glazebrook C, et al. (1995) Characteristics of outcome in schizophrenia at 13 years. Br J Psychiatry 167:596– 603.

First-generation antipsychotics

Phenothiazine derivatives

Group 1—aliphatic phenothiazines

Chlorpromazine-like drugs with mainly anti-adrenergic and antihistaminergic side effects, including pronounced sedation, moderate antimuscarinic effects, and moderate EPSEs (for drug doses equivalent to 100mg chlorpromazine, see Table 6.3).

Chlorpromazine (non-proprietary and Largactil®)

• 75–300mg daily in divided doses (or at night)—max 1g daily.

• Available as intramuscular (IM) injection (25–50mg every 6–8hrs). • Also available as 25mg or 100mg suppositories.

Levomepromazine (methotrimeprazine, Levinan®, Nozinan®)

• 100–200mg daily in divided doses—max 1g daily.

• Available as IM or IV injection (25–50mg every 6–8hrs).


• 400–800mg daily in divided doses.

• Rarely causes haemolytic anaemia.

• Usually used for agitation and restlessness, e.g. 100mg four times daily (qds) (25–50mg for elderly).

Group 2—piperidine phenothiazines

Thioridazine-like drugs with mainly antimuscarinic side effects and fewer EPSEs than groups 1 and 3.


• 75–300mg daily in divided doses.

• In behavioural management: 15–30mg daily in divided doses.

Group 3—piperazine phenothiazines

Trifluoperazine-like drugs with mainly anti-dopaminergic side effects. These drugs are potent antipsychotics but tend to produce troublesome EPSEs, particularly at higher doses. They have limited sedative properties.

Trifluoperazine (non-proprietary and Stelazine®)

• No stated maximum dose.

• For psychosis or behavioural management—5mg bd, by 5mg after 1wk, then every 3 days,

according to response.

Fluphenazine Modecate®)

• Available in decanoate (long-acting) form. Perphenazine

• 12–24mg daily.

• For behavioural management, usually 4mg three times daily (tds). • Rarely causes SLE.


Have moderate sedative, antimuscarinic, and extra-pyramidal effects.

Flupentixol (Depixol®, Fluanxol®)

• 3–9mg bd (max 18mg daily).

• Also available as depot ( Antipsychotic depot injections, p. 224).

Zuclopenthixol (Clopixol®, Ciatyl-Z®)

• 20–30mg daily in divided doses (max 150mg daily).

• Available in injectable forms as acetate—for management of acute behavioural disturbance (Clopixol

acuphase®) and decanoate—for depot injection (Clopixol Conc®) ( 224).


Similar to group 3 phenothiazines—high potency, troublesome EPSEs.

Haloperidol (non-proprietary and Haldol®, Halkid®, Serenace®)

• 1.5–5mg bd to tds in divided doses (max 30mg daily).

• Available as IM injection (2–10mg every 4–8hrs, max 18mg daily).

Benperidol (non-proprietary and Anquil®)

Antipsychotic depot injections, p.

• 0.25–1.5mg daily in divided doses.

• Used to treat deviant antisocial sexual behaviour ( Management, p. 741).


Reduced sedative, antimuscarinic and extrapyramidal effects.

Pimozide (Orap®)

• 2–20mg daily.

• Increase slowly by 2–4mg at intervals not less than 1wk.

• May be more effective for monodelusional states, e.g. hypochondriasis, delusional jealousy.

Substituted benzamides

Sedative, antimuscarinic, and extrapyramidal effects less likely.

Sulpiride (non-proprietary and Dolmatil®)

• 200–400mg bd.

• Lower max dose for negative symptoms (800mg daily) than for positive symptoms (2.4g daily).

Second-generation antipsychotics 1

In deference to the BNF and in light of recent controversies over classification of antipsychotics, we have adopted the abbreviations FGA and SGA for consistency only. It may, in fact, be better to simply call them all ‘antipsychotics’.11 Although not strictly a separate class of antipsychotics, the newer ‘atypical’ drugs do have a slightly different pharmacokinetic profile. They have a wider therapeutic range and are generally less likely to cause EPSEs and raise serum prolactin levels (for completeness, additional SGAs are listed in Box 5.5).

Olanzapine (Zyprexa®, Zalasta®)

• Receptor antagonism: 5-HT2A = H1 = M1 > 5-HT2C > D2 > α1 > D1.

• Optimum dose 5–20mg daily.

• Available as an orodispersible tablet, a short-acting IM injection, and depot (olanzapine

embonate/olanzapine pamoate or ZypAdhera®) ( Table 5.7, p. 225).

• EPSEs similar to placebo in clinical doses, with less increase in prolactin (PL) than with haloperidol or


• Side effects of sedation, weight gain, dizziness, dry mouth, constipation, and possible glucose


Risperidone (Risperdal®)

• Receptor antagonism: 5-HT2 > D2 = α1 = α2; little histamine H1 affinity; minimal D1 and 5-HT1 affinity.

• Available as orodispersible tablet and depot preparation (Risperdal Consta®; Table 5.7, p. 225).

• Dosage 4–6mg daily, given in 1–2 doses (max 16mg daily).

• Less EPSEs than with conventional antipsychotics at lower doses, but dystonias and akathisia can

occur (especially if dose >6mg or in the elderly) and can raise PL and cause weight gain.

Paliperidone (Invega®)

• Paliperidone (9-OH risperidone) is the major active metabolite of risperidone.

• Receptor antagonism: as for risperidone.

• Available as modified-release tablet or depot preparation ( Xeplion®, Trivecta®; Table 5.7, p. 225).

• Dosage 6mg in the morning, adjusted in increments of 3mg over at least 5 days; usual range 3–12mg


• Low potential for EPSEs and, due to limited hepatic metabolism, reduced drug interactions.

Quetiapine (Seroquel®, Atrolak®, Biquelle®, Brancico®, Mintreleq®, Sondate®, Zaluron®)

• Receptor antagonism: H1 > α1 > 5-HT2 > α2 > D2.

• Usual dose 300–450mg daily in two divided doses (max 750mg daily).

• EPSEs = placebo, with no increase in PL.

• Can cause sedation, dizziness (postural hypotension), constipation, dry mouth, weight gain, and

alterations in triglycerides and cholesterol.

Box 5.5 Other SGAs (not currently listed in BNF for schizophrenia or withdrawn)

Asenapine (Sycrest®)

Not licensed for use in schizophrenia or related psychoses but is licensed as monotherapy or combination therapy for treatment of moderate to severe manic episodes in bipolar.

• D2 and 5-HT2A antagonist, with additional D1, D3, D4, 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, 5-HT2B, 5-HT2C, 5-HT5, 5- HT6, and 5-HT7, α1, α2, and H1/2 antagonism. No affinity for mACh.

• Available as a sublingual tablet (need to avoid food and liquids for at least 10mins post- administration)—low bioavailability if swallowed.

• Usual dose 5mg bd (max 20mg daily as a divided dose).

• Common side-effects: akathisia (and other EPSEs), oral hypoesthesia, dizziness, somnolence, and

weight gain.

• Other side effects (related to sublingual administration): dysphagia, glossodynia, hypersalivation,

speech disturbance, taste disturbance, tongue swelling.

Zotepine (Zoleptil®)

Discontinued by Healthcare Logistics from the UK market from January 2011 for commercial reasons.

• High affinity for D1 and D2 receptors, also 5-HT2, 5-HT6, and 5-HT7 receptors, 25–100mg tds.

• Inhibits NA reuptake.

• Effective against positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, but controlled trial data limited.

• EPSEs less than with FGAs.

• risk of seizures at higher doses (above 300mg).

• Weight gain, sedation, constipation, asthenia, dry mouth, akathisia.

• Raised hepatic enzymes.

Sertindole (Serdolect®)

Voluntarily withdrawn by Lundbeck in December 1998 due to concerns about arrhythmias associated with an increase in QTc. Limited reintroduction in June 2002 in Europe under strict monitoring for patients in clinical trials and who are intolerant of at least one other antipsychotic.

• D2, 5-HT2, and α1 antagonist with D2 limbic selectivity.

• Effective against positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

• 12–20mg single daily dose (max 24mg daily).

• EPSEs = placebo.

• Increase in QTc—needs ECG monitoring.

• Other side effects include: nasal congestion, ejaculatory volume, postural hypotension, dry mouth, and raised liver enzymes.

Second-generation antipsychotics 2

Clozapine (Clozaril®, Denzapine®, Zaponex®)

( Clozapine 1: general guidelines, p. 218; Clozapine 2: starting and stopping, p. 220; Clozapine 3: side effects, p. 222.)

Amisulpride (non-proprietary and Solian®)

• Selective and equipotent antagonism for D2 and D3, with negligible affinity for other receptors.

• Similar efficacy to haloperidol for acute and chronic schizophrenia.

• Optimum dose 400–800mg (max 1.2g) daily in two divided doses.

• Lower doses (50–300mg) may be more effective for patients with mainly negative symptoms.

• EPSEs similar to placebo at lower doses, but dose-dependent EPSEs and prolactinaemia at higher


• Less weight gain, compared with risperidone or olanzapine.

Aripiprazole (Abilify®)

• D2 receptor partial agonist; partial agonist at 5-HT1A receptors; high-affinity antagonist at 5-HT2A receptors; low-/moderate-affinity antagonist at H1 and α1 receptors; no anticholinergic effect.

• Dosage 10–30mg od, optimum dose 10–20mg od.

• Available as tablet, orodispersible tablet, oral solution (1mg/mL), solution for injection (9.75mg/1.3mL),

and depot preparation (Abilify Maintena®; Table 5.7, p. 225).

• Low EPSEs similar to placebo at all doses (akathisia-like symptoms can occur in the first 2–3wks of

treatment, with associated insomnia—use of additional hypnotic may be clinically necessary).

• Does not increase plasma PL levels (and may decrease levels), and weight gain is less likely.

Lurasidone (Latuda®)

• Receptor antagonism: 5HT2C > D1 > α1 > α2C > 5HT2A > D2 > α2 > 5HT7; partial agonist: 5-HT1A; weak effects: H1 and mACh.

• Dosage: initially 37mg od, if necessary to max 148mg od.

• Low propensity for QTc interval changes, weight- and lipid-related adverse effects.

• Absorption when taken with food.

Table 5.3 Estimated antipsychotic dose equivalents





Benperidol Chlorpromazine Clozapine





Paliperidone Perphenazine






Trifluoperazine Zuclopenthixol


Aripiprazole LAI Flupentixol decanoate Fluphenazine decanoate Haloperiol decanoate Olanzapine embonate Paliperidone palmitate Risperidone LAI

Antipsychotic side effects


150mg/day 7mg/day 5mg/day 2mg/day 150mg/day 150mg/day 2mg/day 2.5mg/day 18.5mg/day 5mg/day 3mg/day 8mg/day 2mg/day 100mg/day 100mg/day 1.5mg/day 200mg/day 2-5mg/day 25mg/day

75–100mg/wk 10–20mg/wk 5–10mg/wk 10–15mg/wk 37.5mg/wk 7.5mg/wk 12.5mg/wk

No single antipsychotic is substantially better tolerated than another at daily doses of <12mg haloperidol or equivalent. However, FGAs prescribed above this range are less well tolerated and probably also less effective than SGA drugs (see Box 5.6). The choice of antipsychotic therefore depends substantially on the profile of side effects and which ones are more important to avoid.

• Sedation Avoid chlorpromazine/promazine. Prescribe high-potency antipsychotics (e.g. haloperidol) or non-sedating SGA (risperidone, amisulpride, aripiprazole).

• Weight gain Avoid phenothiazines, olanzapine, and clozapine. Prescribe haloperidol or fluphenazine. • EPSEs Avoid high-dose FGAs. Prescribe SGAs.

• Postural hypotension Avoid phenothiazines. Prescribe haloperidol, amisulpride, or trifluoperazine.

Box 5.6 SGAs vs FGAs?

Effectiveness studies, such as the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE),1 the Cost Utility of the Latest Antipsychotic drugs in Schizophrenia Study (CUtLASS),2 and the

European First-Episode Schizophrenia Trial (EUFEST),3 have been interpreted as showing no differences between FGAs and SGAs (with the possible exception of clozapine and perhaps olanzapine). Although this may be true in terms of overall effectiveness, most clinicians (and patients) would agree there are many real differences among drugs, particularly when it comes to side effects. While guidelines from NICE, SIGN, or the British Association for Psychopharmacology (BAP) may provide helpful frameworks for rational prescribing, treatment ought to be individualized through a shared decision-making process. Tolerability is a huge factor in adherence ( Medication adherence, p. 994), and it ought to be remembered that the best antipsychotic in the world will not work if the patient does not actually take it.

1 Lieberman JA, Stroup TS, McEvoy JP, et al. (2005) Effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs in patients with chronic schizophrenia. N Engl J Med 353:1209–23.

2 Jones PB, Barnes TRE, Davies L, et al. (2006) Randomized controlled trial of the effect on quality of life of second- vs. first-generation antipsychotic drugs in schizophrenia: Cost Utility of the Latest Antipsychotic Drugs in Schizophrenia Study (CUtLASS 1). Arch Gen Psychiatry 63:1079–87.

3 Kahn RS, Fleischhacker WW, Boter H, et al. (2008) Effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs in first-episode schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder: an open randomised clinical trial. Lancet 371:1085–97.

Extra-pyramidal side effects

• Acute dystonia Contraction of muscle group to maximal limit, typically sternocleidomastoid and tongue, although can be widespread (e.g. opisthoclonus); eye muscle involvement (e.g. oculogyric crisis) may occur. Virtually always distressing and preceded by increasing agitation. Parenteral antimuscarinic (e.g. procyclidine 10mg iv) (for more detail, see Dystonic reactions, p. 1016).

• Parkinsonism Tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia occurring >1wk after administration. Treatment Consider dose reduction/use of oral antimuscarinic (e.g. procyclidine 5mg tds) (for more detail, see Antipsychotic-induced Parkinsonism, p. 1010).

• Akathisia Restlessness, usually of lower limbs, and a drive to move. Occurs usually >1mth after initiation of antipsychotic drug. Treatment Propranolol and BDZs may be helpful. Symptoms can be notoriously difficult to treat (for more detail, see Akathisia, p. 1012).

• Tardive dyskinesia (TD) Continuous, slow writhing movements (i.e. athetosis) and sudden involuntary movements, typically of the oral–lingual region (chorea). Symptoms of TD tend to be irreversible. Treatment12 Although a consequence of antipsychotic treatment, there is little evidence that a reduction in the dose of antipsychotic improves symptoms in the short or long term. Vitamin E may prevent deterioration but does not improve established symptoms ( Tardive dyskinesia, p. 1014).

Anticholinergic side effects

Dry mouth, blurred vision, difficulty passing urine, urinary retention, constipation, and rarely ileus and glaucoma.

Anti-adrenergic side effects

Postural hypotension, tachycardia (sometimes bradycardia), sexual dysfunction (particularly erectile dysfunction; Sexual dysfunction and psychiatric medication, p. 1006).

Antihistaminic side effects

Sedation, weight gain (although precise mechanism unclear; Weight gain with psychiatric medication, p. 1000).


Cholestatic jaundice, altered glucose tolerance, hypersensitivity reactions, skin photosensitivity (sun block important in sunny weather), yellow pigmentation to skin (chlorpromazine), NMS (rigidity, fluctuating consciousness, and pyrexia)—may be fatal, requires immediate transfer to general medical care, and usually intensive care unit (ICU)/anaesthetic support/dantrolene may be helpful (for more detail, see Neuroleptic malignant syndrome, p. 1018).

An approach to treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS)


Treatment resistance is the failure to respond to two or more antipsychotic medications given in therapeutic doses for 6wks or more. Patients with refractory symptoms generally have more severe functional impairments and are more likely to have abnormalities of the cerebral structure and neuropsychology. See Box 5.7 for guidelines.


~30% of patients respond poorly to antipsychotic medication, and the number of people who show ‘total non-response’ is ~7%.

Box 5.7 Guidelines for the use of high-dose antipsychotics

Where a patient has failed to respond to, or has only partially responded to, antipsychotic medication, some practitioners advocate high-dose prescribing. High-dose prescribing refers either to the prescription of a single antipsychotic at doses greater than the BNF maximum or the prescription of two or more antipsychotics with a combined chlorpromazine equivalent dose of >1g daily (see Table 5.3). Although there may be a therapeutic response to this approach in some individual patients, there is no evidence that high-dose prescribing confers any therapeutic advantage in first-episode psychosis, acute psychotic episodes, relapse prevention, emergency tranquillization, persistent aggression, or treatment resistance. There is clear evidence for greater side effect burden and the need for appropriate safety monitoring. The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ most recent guidance1 suggests that:

• Any prescription of high-dose antipsychotic medication should be seen as an explicit, time-limited, individual trial, with a distinct treatment target.

• There should be a clear plan for regular clinical review, including safety monitoring ( Physical health monitoring and antipsychotics, p. 1040).

• The trial of high-dose treatment should only be continued if there is clear evidence that the benefits outweigh any tolerability or safety problems.

• In most areas, local protocols will exist for the purpose of ensuring good medical practice.

1 Royal College of Psychiatrists London, Council Report CR190 (Nov 2014) Consensus statement on high-dose antipsychotic medication. https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/improving-care/better-mh-policy/college-reports/college-report-cr190.pdf? sfvrsn=54f5d9a2_2 [accessed 30 May 2018].


The aetiology is uncertain. However, the following factors may be important:

• Neurodevelopmental factors: soft signs, history of obstetric complications, cognitive impairment.

• Drug non-compliance.

• Lack of adequate treatment: poor drug administration/absorption. However, over-treatment (>12mg

haloperidol or equivalent) may also lead to poor tolerability/response.

• Aggravating factors despite adequate treatment: concurrent drug or alcohol misuse, anticholinergic

effects of anti-Parkinsonian medication or antidepressants.


• Clarify diagnosis The clinical history and presentation should always be re-inspected to ensure the correct diagnosis has been reached.

• Address comorbidity Comorbid substance misuse is common in schizophrenia and worsens outcome.

• Non-compliance Consider interventions such as psychoeducation, compliance therapy, or family therapy to improve compliance with prescribed medication.

• Pharmacological interventions Clozapine is the intervention most strongly supported by the evidence,13 and there is evidence that depot antipsychotic medication may convey a small advantage over oral equivalents.

• Clozapine resistance Switching from clozapine to a previously untried SGA (e.g. olanzapine, risperidone, quetiapine) might be of benefit in partial treatment resistance. In more difficult cases, augmentation of clozapine with benzamides (sulpiride, amisulpride) and antiepileptics (lamotrigine) shows some success.14 ECT may be another option.15

• Rehabilitation Consider the role of NHS/non-NHS rehabiliation facilities in maximizing function, maintaining quality of life, and supporting those who remain symptomatic despite treatment—best evidence supports a combination of medication with psychosocial treatments.

Clozapine 1: general guidelines

Clozapine, an SGA, is a dibenzodiazepine derivative. Shortly after its introduction to clinical practice in the mid-1970s, it was withdrawn because of several episodes of fatal agranulocytosis in patients on treatment. It was thought to have special efficacy in treatment-resistant schizophrenia, and this clinical belief was supported by an important trial by Kane et al. (1988), leading to its reintroduction in psychiatric practice, albeit with strict limitations to its prescription. Patients on clozapine and doctors prescribing the drug must be registered with a monitoring agency and have regular, initially weekly, FBCs to monitor for neutropenia.

In the CATIE trial,16 clozapine was shown to be superior in both treatment response (positive and negative symptoms) and compliance for patients who failed to improve on an SGA, randomized to receive either another SGA or clozapine. Recent evidence from a meta-analysis found it to be superior for treatment-refractory disorder but recommended that if there is no response by 6mths, medications with lower adverse reactions should be considered.17

NICE guideline

NICE (2014)18 recommends offering clozapine ‘to people with schizophrenia whose illness has not responded adequately to treatment despite the sequential use of adequate doses of at least 2 different antipsychotic drugs’ (at least one of which was a non-clozapine SGA).

Mode of action

Clozapine mainly blocks D1 and D4 receptors; with less effect on D2 receptors than traditional FGAs (which may partially explain its lack of EPSEs and hyperprolactinaemia). Clozapine does have significant anticholinergic, antihistaminergic, and anti-adrenergic activity, which accounts for its common side effects ( Clozapine 3: side effects, p. 222). The superior efficacy of clozapine in treating resistant schizophrenic patients may be due to its additional blockade of 5HT2 receptors or it causing turnover of GABA in the nucleus accumbens, which inhibits dopaminergic neurons.


Rapidly absorbed when taken orally (unaffected by food). Extensive first-pass metabolism (only 27–50% of a dose reaches the systemic circulation unchanged). Wide interindividual variations in the resulting plasma concentrations (influenced by factors such as smoking, hepatic metabolism, gastric absorption, age, and possibly gender). Steady-state plasma concentrations take 7–10 days of treatment. Mean terminal elimination half-life ranges from 6 to 33hrs. Onset of antipsychotic effect may take several weeks, but maximal effects can require several months (and improvement may continue for up to 2yrs).


(See Table 5.4 for summary.)

• Lithium can increase the risk of developing seizures, confusion, dyskinesia, and possibly NMS. • May interfere with the action of AChEIs (e.g. donepezil and tacrine).

• Smoking cigarettes increases the clearance of clozapine and may result in a substantial reduction in clozapine plasma concentrations.

• Plasma concentrations of clozapine are by caffeine (caffeinism is surprisingly common in this population), hence dose changes will be necessary when there is a change in caffeine-drinking habits.


Previous/current neutropenia or other blood dyscrasias; previous myocarditis, pericarditis, and cardiomyopathy; severe renal or cardiac disorders; active or progressive liver disease/hepatic failure (see BNF for a complete list).

Table 5.4 Clozapine interactions Effect

drowsiness, sedation, dizziness, and possibility of respiratory depression

possibility of developing myelosuppressive effects

Drugs known to induce CYP1A2 activity may reduce efficacy

Drugs known to inhibit the activity of CYP1A2 may increase clozapine serum levels

Drugs known to inhibit the activity of CYP2D6 may increase clozapine serum levels

Highly protein-bound drugs (may increase serum concentrations)

Worsening of anticholinergic effects

risk of hypotension


Ethanol, H1-blockers, opiate agonists, anxiolytics,

sedatives/hypnotics, tramadol, and TCAs

Use of clozapine with other drugs known to cause bone marrow depression (e.g. chemotherapy agents)

Carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, rifabutin, and rifampicin

Cimetidine, clarithromycin, ciprofloxacin, diltiazem, enoxacin, erythromycin, or fluvoxamine

Amiodarone, cimetidine, clomipramine, desipramine, fluoxetine, fluphenazine, haloperidol, paroxetine, quinidine, ritonavir, sertraline, and thioridazine

Digoxin, heparin, phenytoin, or warfarin

H1-blockers, phenothiazines, TCAs, and antimuscarinic drugs Antihypertensive agents

Clozapine 2: starting and stopping

Initiation of treatment and monitoring

This is best done either as an inpatient or where appropriate facilities exist for monitoring (e.g. a day- patient facility). All patients must be registered with a monitoring service (see Table 5.5). A normal leucocyte count [white cell count (WCC) >3500/mm3, neutrophils >2000/mm3) must precede treatment initiation. FBCs must be repeated (and sent to monitoring service) at weekly intervals for 18wks and then fortnightly until 1yr. Blood monitoring should continue monthly indefinitely thereafter. If there are

concerns about compliance, serum blood levels may also be checked (for reference range, see Plasma level monitoring, p. 998).

Table 5.5 Clozapine monitoring services

Brand (manufacturer)

Clozaril® (Novartis)

Denzapine® (Merz)

Zaponex® (TEVA UK)


T: 25mg (scored), 100mg


Clozaril Patient Monitoring Service (CPMS) Login: https://www.clozaril.co.uk/ (accessed 30 May 2018)

T: 25mg (scored), 50mg, Denzapine Monitoring Service (DMS) Login:

100mg S: 50mg/mL

T: 25mg (scored), 100mg

https://www.denzapine.co.uk/ (accessed 30 May 2018)

Zaponex Treatment Access System (ZTAS) Login: http://www.ztas.co.uk/ (accessed 30 May 2018)

Key: T = tablets; S = suspension.


• Starting regime: 12.5mg once or twice on first day, then 25–50mg on second day, then gradually (if well tolerated) in steps of 25–50mg daily over 14–21 days, up to 300mg daily in divided doses (larger dose at night; up to 200mg daily may be taken as a single dose at bedtime).

• May be further in steps of 50–100mg once or twice weekly.

• Usual dose 200–450mg daily (max 900mg daily).

• Increase in seizure frequency occurs above 600mg/day.

• Routine blood level monitoring is not recommended; however, increasing the dose until a plasma level

of 350mcg/L is achieved is sometimes recommended. If adverse effects are noted, reduce the dose

until side effects settle, then increase again more slowly.

• Lower doses may be required for the elderly, ♀, or non-smoking patients, and if the patient is on other

medication that may affect the metabolism of clozapine.

• Where there has been a break in treatment of >48hrs, treatment should be re-initiated with 12.5mg

once or twice on the first day, and re-escalated.

‘Traffic light’ notification

Telephone (urgent action)

• No sample received Send another sample to the Clozapine Patient Monitoring Service (CPMS)/Denzapine Monitoring System (DMS)/Zaponex Treatment Access System (ZTAS) and the local haematology laboratory, so that the next supply of medication may be dispensed.

• Sample non-suitable for analysis As for ‘no sample received’.

• Abnormal haematological results (e.g. neutrophil count) Either repeat the blood count or STOP

clozapine, with advice regarding further monitoring (i.e. red light situation—see ‘Written reports’ below).

Written reports

• Green light Normal—clozapine may be administered to the patient.

• Amber light Caution—further sampling advised. If either WCC falls to 3000–3500/mm3 or the

absolute neutrophil count falls to 1500–2000/mm3, blood monitoring must be performed at least twice weekly until the WCC and absolute neutrophil count stabilize within the range of 3000–3500/mm3 and 1500–2000/mm3, respectively, or higher.

• Red light STOP clozapine immediately. If the WCC is <3000/mm3 or the absolute neutrophil count is <1500/mm3, discontinue treatment with clozapine. Take blood samples daily until abnormality is resolved. Seek specialist advice from a haematologist. Monitor patients closely for symptoms suggestive of infection. Do not administer other antipsychotic drugs.


Abrupt discontinuation of clozapine is not recommended, unless required by the patient’s medical condition (e.g. leucopenia). Gradually discontinue over 1–2wks (like the initiation schedule in reverse). Patients should be carefully observed for the recurrence of psychotic symptoms during drug

discontinuation. Symptoms related to cholinergic rebound, such as profuse sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, may also occur.

Clozapine 3: side effects

(See Table 5.6 for management.)

Common side effects

• Anticholinergic Constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, difficulty passing urine.

• Anti-adrenergic Hypotension, sexual dysfunction.

• Other Sedation, weight gain, nausea, vomiting, ECG changes, headache, fatigue, hypersalivation,

tachycardia, hypertension, drowsiness, dizziness.

Less common

• Fainting spells.

• Gastric discomfort.

• Small involuntary muscle contractions.

• Periodic catalepsy (reduced responsiveness and prolonged lack of movement). • Enuresis.

Rarer or potentially life-threatening

• Impaired temperature regulation, fever, hepatitis, cholestatic jaundice, pancreatitis.

• Agranulocytosis: leucopenia, eosinophilia, leucocytosis. (Note: the risk of fatal agranulocytosis19 is

estimated to be 1:4250 patients treated.)

• Thrombocytopenia (discontinuation of clozapine is recommended if the platelet count falls below


• Dysphagia.

• Circulatory collapse, arrhythmias, myocarditis, cardiomyopathy, pericarditis, pericardial effusion,

thromboembolism. Discontinue if persistent tachycardia occurs in the first 2mths of treatment. Note: the risk of fatal myocarditis or cardiomyopathy is estimated to be up to 1:1300 patients treated, although there is wide variation in the data (e.g. USA: 1:67,000 patients treated).

• Pulmonary embolism. Note: the risk of fatal pulmonary embolism is estimated to be 1:4500 patients treated.

• Confusion, delirium, restlessness, agitation.

• Diabetes mellitus, hypertriglyceridaemia, intestinal obstruction, paralytic ileus, enlarged parotid gland,

fulminant hepatic necrosis.

• Interstitial nephritis, priapism, skin reactions.

• NMS.

Note: clozapine actually reduces mortality in schizophrenia, mainly due to a lower risk of suicide.

Table 5.6 Dealing with clozapine side effects



Fever Hypersalivation Hypertension

Hypotension Nausea

Neutropenia/agranulocytosis Nocturnal enuresis

Sedation Seizures

Weight gain

Possible solution

Encourage high-fibre diet, adequate fluid intake, use of aperients if persistent

Symptomatic relief, check FBC, and look for sources of infection Consider use of hyoscine hydrobromide (up to 300mcg tds)

Monitor closely, slow rate, or halt dose increase; if persistent, consider use of hypotensive agent (e.g. atenolol)

Advise caution when getting up quickly, monitor closely, slow or halt dose increase

Consider use of anti-emetic (avoid metoclopramide and prochlorperazine if previous problems with EPSEs)

Stop clozapine; if outpatient, admit to hospital

Avoid fluids in the evening, alter dose scheduling; if severe, consider use of desmopressin

Reschedule dosing to give smaller morning or total dose

Withhold clozapine for 24hrs, recommence at lower dose, consider prophylactic anticonvulsant (e.g. valproate)

Dietary and exercise counselling ( Weight gain with psychiatric medication, p. 1000)

Antipsychotic depot injections

Antipsychotics may be given as a long-acting depot injection (the active drug in an oily suspension) injected into a large muscle (usually gluteus maximus), allowing for sustained release over 1–4wks. Previously, only FGAs were available, but now a number of SGA preparations have been developed and are finding their place in clinical practice. Dose for dose, the efficacy of these preparations is not greater than oral medication, but they do increase the likelihood of compliance.


Poor compliance with oral treatment, failure to respond to oral medication, memory problems or other factors interfering with the ability to take medication regularly, clinical need to ensure patient compliance (e.g. due to treatment order for patients detained under the MHA).


(See Table 5.7 and Box 5.8.) Test the dose, as undesirable side effects can be prolonged. Not more than 2–3mL of oily injection should be administered at any one site. Correct injection technique (including the use of z-track technique) and rotation of injection sites are essential. If the dose needs to be reduced to alleviate side effects, remember the plasma drug concentration may not fall for some time after reducing the dose and it may be many weeks before side effects subside. For missed doses, refer to the specific product information.

Box 5.8 Specific depot dosing for SGAs dependent on original oral dose


• Olanzapine 10mg/day (oral): start 210mg/2wks or 405mg/4wks, maintenance after 2mths treatment, 150mg/2wks or 300mg/4wks.

• Olanzapine 15mg/day (oral): start 300mg/2wks, maintenance after 2mths, 210mg every 2wks or 405mg every 4wks.

• Olanzapine 20mg/day (oral): start 300mg/2wks, maintenance after 2mths, 300mg/2wks.

• Adjust dose according to response; max 300mg every 2wks.


• Risperidone up to 4mg/day (oral), start 25mg/2wks.

• Over 4mg/day risperidone (oral), start 37.5mg/2wks.

• Dose adjusted at intervals of at least 4wks in steps of 12.5mg to max 50mg/2wks.

• During initiation, oral risperidone should be continued for 4–6wks; oral dosing may also be used

during dose adjustment of depot.

Specific side effects

Pain/swelling at injection site, rarely abscesses, nerve palsies. Side effects as for oral medication but may take 2–3 days to emerge and persist for weeks after discontinuation. May be more likely to cause EPSEs than oral preparations (good evidence is lacking).

Post-injection syndrome

Depot olanzapine embonate carries an unpredictable risk (1.4% of patients or 1:1500 injections) of idiosyncratic excessive sedative akin to olanzapine overdose between 1 and 6hrs postinjection. It is recommended that, after injection, the patient should be observed for at least 3hrs for any signs of this syndrome (e.g. sedation, acute confusion/aggression, EPSEs, dysarthria/ataxia, or seizure).

Table 5.7 Dosing schedules for depot antipsychotics

Generic name


Flupentixol decanoate

Fluphenazine decanoate

Haloperidol decanoate

Olanzapine embonate/pamoate


Pipotiazine palmitate


Brand name

Abilify Maintena®



Haldol® ZypAdhera®

Xeplion® Trivecta®


Risperdal Consta®

t1⁄2 Peak dose

30– 7d 46d

8d 3–7d (sd);



6– 6– 10d 48hrs (sd);




18– 3–9d 21d

23– 2–4d 42d

25– 13d 49d

84- 30- 139d 33d

14– 9– 21d 10d

3–6d 4– 6wks

Time Test to dose steady


Test to Starting Dose Max dose treatment dose interval


20wks No test dose—start 400mg and continue monthly maintain oral dose for 14d

10– 20mg 7d 12wks

6– 12.5mg 4–7d

12wks 100mg

10– 50mg 4wks 12wks

50mg 4wks 300mg/4w

20– 2– 400mg/wk 40mg 4wks

12.5– 14–35d

12wks Antipsychotic depot injections, p. 224 For patients taking oral olanzapine; risk of post- injection syndrome

10– 150mg 8d 100mg 4wks 150mg/4w 16wks

Dosage is based upon previous once monthly dose of IM paliperidone – consult product literature



8– 25mg 4–7d 25– 4wks 200mg/4w 12wks 50mg

6– Antipsychotic depot injections, p. 224. Releas 8wks of drug starts 3wks after injection and subsides b


10– 100mg 7d 200– 1–4wks 600mg/wk 12wks 500mg

ICD-10/11 and DSM-5 describe a number of disorders that show significant symptomatic overlap with schizophrenia. It is currently unclear whether these disorders represent distinct disorders or (as seems more likely) they share some degree of common aetiology with schizophrenia.

Schizoaffective disorder

This disorder has features of both affective disorder and schizophrenia which are present in approximately equal proportion. Its nosological status is uncertain, since some believe it to be a variant of schizophrenia; others, bipolar disorder; and some believe it represents a point on a continuum of ‘unitary psychosis’, lying between schizophrenia and mood disorders.20 Lifetime prevalence is 0.5– 0.8%, with limited data available on gender and age differences.

Zuclopenthixol decanoate

17– 4–9d 21d


t1⁄2 = elimination half-life; d = days; hr(s) = hour(s); wk(s) = week(s); sd = single dose; md = multiple dose; supp = supplementation.

Disorders related to schizophrenia

ICD-10/11 criteria

• Schizophrenic and affective symptoms simultaneously present for at least 2wks (ICD-10) or 1mth (ICD-11), and both are equally prominent.

• Excludes patients with separate episodes of schizophrenia and affective disorders and episodes due to substance use or medical disorders.

DSM-5 criteria

• An uninterrupted period of illness during which there is a major depressive, manic, or mixed episode, concurrent with symptoms that meet criterion A for schizophrenia.

• ≥2wks of delusions and/or hallucinations without prominent mood symptoms during the lifetime of the illness.

• Symptoms meeting criteria for a mood episode are present for the majority of the total duration of the active and residual periods.

• The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a drug of abuse or medication or a general medical condition.

Treatment As for schizophrenia, but treat manic or depressive symptoms as outlined in bipolar disorder ( Treatment of acute manic episodes, p. 340; Treatment of depressive episodes, p. 342;

Prophylaxis, p. 344).

Prognosis Depressive symptoms are more likely to signal a chronic course than manic symptoms.

Good/poor prognostic factors are the same as schizophrenia, but outcomes are better than schizophrenia, due to the non-deteriorating course, and worse than primary mood disorder.

Schizotypal disorder

Schizotypal disorder is classified along with schizophrenia and related disorders, in ICD-10/11, but along with cluster A/’odd-eccentric’ personality disorders in DSM-5. It shares some of the clinical features of schizophrenia, but not the delusions or hallucinations. It is seen in ~3% of the general population and ~4.1% of psychiatric inpatients. The disorder tends to run a stable course. It is currently viewed as representing ‘partial expression’ of the schizophrenia phenotype—schizophrenia twin studies show an risk of schizotypy in the unaffected twin; schizotypy is more common in first-degree relatives of schizophrenic subjects than the general population, and relatives of schizotypal subjects show an risk of schizophrenia.

Symptoms (DSM-5 criteria) Ideas of reference. Excessive social anxiety. Odd beliefs or magical thinking. Unusual perceptions (e.g. illusions). Odd/eccentric behaviour or appearance. No close friends/confidants. Odd speech. Inappropriate or constricted affect. Suspiciousness or paranoid ideas.

Differential diagnosis Autism/Asperger syndrome, expressive/mixed receptive–expressive language disorder, chronic substance misuse, other personality disorders (especially borderline, schizoid, and paranoid).

Treatment Risperidone (≤2mg/day)21 has some support from an RCT. Other antipsychotics may also be helpful. There is little evidence for other interventions, but highly structured supportive CBT may be best.

Schizophreniform disorder (DSM-5)

(May be coded under ‘Other schizophrenia’ in ICD-10 and ‘Other specified schizophrenia’ in ICD-11) The original term referred to patients with schizophrenic symptoms with a good prognosis22 and now refers to a schizophrenia-like psychosis that fails to fulfil the duration criterion for schizophrenia in DSM- 5. The treatment is the same as for an acute episode of schizophrenia. Most common in adolescence

and young adults and is much less common than schizophrenia, with a lifetime prevalence of 0.2%.


• Criteria A, D, and E of schizophrenia are met.

• An episode of the disorder (including prodromal, active, and residual phases) lasts at least 1mth, but


• Specified as with good prognostic features (as evidenced by 2+ of: onset of prominent psychotic

symptoms within 4wks of the first noticeable change in usual behaviour or functioning, confusion or perplexity at the height of the psychotic episode, good premorbid social and occupational functioning, absence of blunted or flat affect); or without good prognostic features (applied when two or more of the above features have not been present).

Course and prognosis By definition, episodes last for >1mth, but <6mths. Patients return to baseline functioning once the disorder has resolved. Progression to schizophrenia is estimated to be between 60% and 80%. Some patients have two or three recurrent episodes.

Treatment Antipsychotics ± a mood stabilizer and psychotherapy. Delusional disorder 1: clinical features

Essence Delusional disorder is an uncommon condition in which patients present with circumscribed symptoms of non-bizarre delusions (DSM-5 now allows ‘with bizarre content’; ICD-11 does not specify), but with absence of prominent hallucinations and no thought disorder, mood disorder, or significant flattening of affect. Symptoms should have been present for at least 1mth (DSM-5). ICD-10/11 specify at least 3mths for delusional disorder but, if it is less than this, allow diagnosis under other persistent delusional disorder (ICD-10) or delusional disorder, unspecified (ICD-11). DSM-5 has particular subtypes (see Box 5.9).

Box 5.9 DSM-5 subtypes1

• Erotomanic (De Clérambault syndrome) Patients present with the belief that some important person is secretly in love with them and may make efforts to contact that person. Clinical samples are often ♀ and forensic samples more likely to be ♂. Some cases are associated with dangerous or assaultive behaviour.

• Grandiose Patients believe they fill some special role, have some special relationship, or possess some special ability(ies).They may be involved with social or religious organizations.

• Jealous2 (Othello syndrome) Patients possess the fixed belief that their spouse or partner has been unfaithful. Often patients try to collect evidence and/or attempt to restrict their partner’s activities. May be associated with forensic cases involving murder.

• Persecutory This is the most common presentation of delusional disorder. Patients are convinced that others are attempting to do them harm. Often they attempt to obtain legal recourse (litigious or ‘querulous paranoia’), and they sometimes may resort to violence.

• Somatic Varying presentation, from those who have repeat contact with physicians requesting various forms of medical or surgical treatment to patients who are delusionally concerned with bodily infestation, deformity ( Body dysmorphic disorder, p. 872), or odour ( Olfactory reference disorder (ORD), p. 388).

• Mixed Presence of 2+ themes; no single theme predominating.

• Unspecified The theme cannot be determined or does not fit the listed categories.1

1 ICD-10 subtypes are similar: Erotomanic, Grandiose, Jealous, Persecutory, Litigious, Hypochondriacal, and Self-referential. ICD-11 delusional subtypes are differentiated in a section ‘Mental or behavioural symptoms, signs or clinical findings’ and include: bizarre, being controlled, guilt, reference, erotomanic, grandiose, jealous, persecutory, religious, somatic, nihilistic, misidentification, impoverishment, other, and unspecified.

2 Shepherd M (1961) Morbid jealousy: some clinical and social aspects of a psychiatric symptom. J Mental Sci 107:607–753 (the ‘classic’ paper).

Points to note

• Patients rarely present to psychiatrists. More often, other physicians (due to somatic complaints), lawyers (due to paranoid ideas), or the police (when they act on, or complain about, their delusions) see them.

• Careful assessment and diagnosis are vital, because delusions are the final common pathway of many illnesses ( Delusional disorder 2: differential diagnosis and aetiology, p. 232). When delusional disorder is discovered, treatment can be fraught with difficulty because of the reticent nature of such patients. With persistence, a combination of biopsychosocial treatments can be effective.

Diagnosing pathological delusions—key points

Judgement is necessary to distinguish delusions from over-valued ideas, particularly when the ideas expressed are not necessarily bizarre or culturally abnormal23 (and may have some basis in reality).


• The degree of plausibility.

• Evidence of systemization, complexity, and persistence.

• The impact of the beliefs on behaviour.

• The possibility that they might be culturally sanctioned beliefs different from one’s own ( Cultural

context and the presentation of psychiatric disorders, p. 984).

• Observation of associated characteristics, including hallucinations.

• History of ‘morbid change’.

• Evidence of other risk factors ( Risk factors, see below).

Clinical features Level of consciousness is unimpaired; observed behaviour, speech, and mood may be affected by the emotional tone of delusional content (e.g. hyperalertness with persecutory delusions); thought process is generally unimpaired; thought content reflects preoccupation with circumscribed (usually single theme), (non-)bizarre delusions; hallucinations may occur but generally are not prominent and reflect delusional ideas (more commonly olfactory/tactile than visual/auditory); cognition and memory generally intact; insight and judgement impaired to the degree that the delusions influence thought and behaviour; formally assess risk (e.g. violence to self and others and history of previous behaviour influenced by delusions). Note: persistent anger and fear are risk factors for aggressive ‘acting-out’ behaviours.

Epidemiology Relatively uncommon. Prevalence 0.025–0.03% (1–2% of hospital admissions); age range 18–90yrs (mean 40–49yrs); ♂ = ♀, but delusional jealousy more common in men and erotomania more common in women; 50% of patients are in employment; 80% are married.

Risk factors Advanced age, social isolation, group delusions, low socio-economic status, premorbid personality disorder, sensory impairment (particularly deafness), recent immigration, family history, and history of head injury or substance abuse disorders.

Course and prognosis Onset may be acute or insidious. Treatment outcomes: remission (33–50%), improvement (10%), persisting symptoms (33–50%). Better prognosis: acute subtypes, where stress is a factor, jealous or persecutory subtypes, symptoms persisting <6mths.

Delusional disorder 2: differential diagnosis and aetiology

Differential diagnoses

• Substance-induced delusional disorders (e.g. alcohol, cannabis, stimulants, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids, corticosteroids, antihistamines, sympathomimetics, antibiotics, disulfiram, dopamine agonists, anticholinergics, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies). Careful history-taking focusing on temporal relationships may reveal onset, persistence, and cessation of symptoms to be related to drug use.

• Other physical disorders Focused history, examination, and investigations should help exclude other disorders [e.g. head injury, CNS infection, vascular disease, epilepsy, neurodegenerative disorders, metabolic disorders, endocrine disorders, vitamin deficiencies (B12, folate, niacin, thiamine), toxins (mercury, arsenic, manganese, thallium)].

• Mood disorders with delusions (manic and depressive types) Mood and related biological symptoms are usually more severe and precede delusions.

• Schizophrenia Presence of psychotic symptoms other than relatively circumscribed delusions; thematically associated hallucinations; disorganized thought processes, speech, or behaviours; negative symptoms; cognitive deficits; and greater functional impairment.

• Delirium Evidence of cognitive impairment, altered/fluctuating level of consciousness, altered sleep/wake cycle, and hallucinations.

• Dementia Cognitive impairment which may be subtle and only found on formal testing.

• Elderly patients (late paraphrenia) Thought to be distinct from delusional disorder ( Specific aspects of psychiatric illnesses in the elderly 3: mood disorders, p. 552) and schizophrenia,

associated with social isolation, ageing, medical problems/treatments, and sensory loss.

• Dysmorphophobia/body dysmorphic disorder ( Body dysmorphic disorder, p. 872) Significant

overlap with delusional disorder, few significant differentiating factors exist.

• OCD ( Obsessive–compulsive disorder, p. 690) Significant overlap with delusional disorder, and if

reality testing regarding obsessions or compulsions is lost, delusional disorder often is diagnosed.

• Hypochondriasis ( Hypochondriasis, p. 870) Health concerns generally are more amenable to

reality testing and are less fixed than in delusional disorder.

• Paranoid personality disorder ( Table 12.1, p. 523) Absence of clearly circumscribed delusions, presence of a pervasive, stable pattern of suspiciousness or distrust.

• Misidentification syndromes ( Delusional misidentification syndromes, p. 240) Easily confused with delusional disorder; may be associated with other CNS abnormalities.

• Induced/shared psychotic disorder ( Induced delusional disorder, pp. 238–239) Evidence that relatives/close friends share similar delusional beliefs.


Delusional disorders represent a heterogenous group of conditions that appear distinct from mood disorders and schizophrenia, although there is significant diagnostic (and genetic) overlap with paranoid personality traits/disorder and schizophrenia. Data suggest that among patients diagnosed with delusional disorder, 3–22% are later reclassified as schizophrenic and fewer than 10% are later diagnosed with a mood disorder.


• Delusions can be a feature of a number of biological conditions, suggesting possible biologic underpinnings for the disorder.

• Most commonly, neurological lesions associated with the temporal lobe, limbic system, and basal ganglia are implicated in delusional syndromes.

• Neurological observations indicate that delusional content is influenced by the extent and location of brain injury.

• Prominent cortical damage often leads to simple, poorly formed, persecutory delusions.

• Lesions of the basal ganglia elicit less cognitive disturbance and more complex delusional content.

• Excessive dopaminergic and reduced acetylcholinergic activity has been linked to the formation of

delusional symptoms.


• Freud proposed that delusions served a defensive function, protecting the patient from intrapsychically unacceptable impulses through reaction formation, projection, and denial.

• Cognitive psychology regards delusions as the result of cognitive defects where patients accept ideas with too little evidence for their conclusions; delusions as a result of attempting to find a rational basis for abnormal perceptual experiences.

• Neuropsychological models:24

• Cognitive bias model (CBM): proposes paranoia is a defence against thoughts that threaten the

‘idealized self’, protecting a fragile self-esteem—positive events are attributed to the self, whereas

negative events are ascribed to outside influences.

• Cognitive deficit model (CDM): cognitive impairments and distortions of threat-evaluating

mechanisms lead to delusion formation.

Social/individual factors

The chances of developing delusional disorder are with: • Marked distrust and suspicion.

• Social isolation.

• Heightened feelings of jealousy.

• Fragile self-esteem.

• A tendency to see their own defects in others.

• Habitual rumination over the meaning of events and motivation of others.

Delusional disorder 3: assessment and management


Patients with delusional disorder are exceptionally difficult to assess. At interview, they may be evasive, guarded, and suspicious. Often they become irritated, angry, or hostile. They may be overly sensitive to some lines of questioning, even to the point of threatening legal action. Assessment should include:

• A thorough history and MSE.

• Information gathering (third party and other sources).

• Exclusion of underlying causation (including physical investigations) to rule out other conditions that commonly present with delusions ( Differential diagnosis, p. 232).

• Clearly documented risk assessment (especially aggression/self-harm).

Where there is significant risk to another person/partner, duty of care may override patient

confidentiality and allow warning of that individual and/or informing the police ( Breaking confidentiality, p. 970).


Typical obstacles to the treatment of delusional disorder:

• The patient’s denial of the illness which causes difficulties in establishing a therapeutic alliance.

• The patient’s experiences of significant social and interpersonal problems (which may confirm their

firmly held beliefs).

• The fact that antipsychotic medication is often of limited efficacy.

Admission to hospital ought to be considered if there is a clear risk of harm to self or violence towards others. Otherwise, outpatient treatment is preferred. Approaches to management include:

• Separation From the source or focus of delusional ideas (if possible).

• Pharmacological25,26

• Data forpharmacotherapy are limited to case reports or small open-label interventions.

• Given the symptomatic overlap with psychotic disorders, antipsychotics have some utility (the most

commonly reported SGAs used are risperidone and olanzapine).

• There was a widely held anecdotal view supporting the preferential use of pimozide. However,

although there are no full-scale clinical trials, what evidence there is suggests that no antipsychotic is preferentially effective, that response rates are around 50%, with 90% of patients seeing some improvement, and that somatic delusions are the most likely to respond.

• The evidence also favours the use of SSRIs, given the overlap with OCD, body dysmorphic disorder, and mood disorder.

• BDZs may be useful when there are marked anxiety symptoms.

• Data for the use of anticonvulsant agents and mood stabilizers are even more limited.

• Psychological/psychotherapeutic

• Minimizing risk factors, e.g. sensory impairment, isolation, stress, and precipitants of violence.

• Educational and social interventions Social skills training (e.g. not discussing delusional beliefs in

social settings; promoting interpersonal competence; and increasing comfort in interacting with those who the individual feels are judging or having harmful intent towards them). Taking control and initiative can dissipate the feeling of loss of control that feeds into, and reinforces, the delusions.

• Individual therapy Requires persistence in establishing a therapeutic alliance without validating or overtly confronting the patient’s delusional system.

• Supportive therapy May help with isolation and distress stemming from the delusional beliefs (reframing problems due to delusional beliefs as symptoms).

• Cognitive techniques (best studied in persecutory subtype) Reality testing and reframing. Insight- orientated therapy to develop a sense of ‘creative doubt’ in the internal perception of the world through empathy with the patient’s defensive position.

• Post-psychotic depression

• Ten per cent or more of delusional disorder patients who respond to antipsychotics may develop

severe depression with a risk of suicide.

• Withdrawal of antipsychotic may improve mood but worsen delusions; hence, the addition of an

antidepressant may be indicated, while maintaining the lowest effective dose of antipsychotic. Later the antidepressant may be gradually withdrawn.

Acute and transient psychotic disorders

(Referred to as ‘Brief psychotic disorder’ in DSM-5; see Box 5.10.)

Box 5.10 ICD-10 subtypes

ICD-10 allows for these disorders to occur with or without the presence of an acute stressor, and outlines the following subtypes:

• Acute polymorphic psychotic disorder with or without symptoms of schizophrenia

• Variable and changeable psychotic symptoms (day to day or hour to hour), with frequent intense emotional turmoil.

• Includes Perris’s (1974) ‘cycloid psychosis’ after Karl Leonard’s description—the treatment of choice is lithium (Perris, 1978).

• Also ‘bouffée délirante’ (Magnan, 1895), reviewed by Allodi (1982) who stressed the avoidance of long-term medication, highlighting sociocultural factors, especially migration and language.

• Acute schizophrenia-like psychotic disorder Also referred to as ‘brief schizophreniform psychosis’ or ‘schizophrenic reaction’ where the psychotic symptoms are relatively stable but have not lasted more than a month (ICD-10, DSM-5 brief psychotic disorder) or have lasted 1–6mths (DSM-5 schizophreniform disorder).

• Other acute predominantly delusional psychotic disorder

• Onset is acute (2wks or less), delusions or hallucinations present most of the time. If delusions

persist longer than 3mths, then the diagnosis is that of persistent delusional disorder (

Delusional disorder 1: clinical features, p. 230).

• Includes the Scandinavian concept of ‘psychogenic/reactive psychosis’ for which the prognosis is

good, and the treatment of choice is supportive psychotherapy and short-term use of medication

(Stromgren, 1989).

• ‘Hysterical psychosis’ (Hirsch and Hollander, 1969), which includes three subtypes: culturally

sanctioned behaviour (like culture-specific disorders); appropriation of psychotic behaviour (conversion process); and true psychosis (‘failure of repression when faced with acute stress in a vulnerable ego’, in, for example, histrionic personality)––in the USA, this is used as a diagnostic label for ‘reactive psychosis’.

• ‘Ganser syndrome’—characterized by approximate answers, disorientation, clouding of consciousness, hallucinations, motor disturbance, anxiety or apathy, normal ADLs, sudden resolution with amnesia for the period of illness. Proposed mechanisms read much like the differential diagnosis for acute and transient psychotic disorders ( Acute and transient psychotic disorders, p. 236): hysterical conversion, organic confusion, psychosis, or malingering.

In ICD-11, additional codes may be used for ‘symptomatic manifestations’—including positive, negative, depressive, manic, psychomotor, and cognitive symptoms—and severity: mild, moderate, and severe.

Clinical features Sudden onset, variable presentation (including perplexity, inattention, formal thought disorder/disorganized speech, delusions or hallucinations, disorganized or catatonic behaviour), usually resolving within <1mth (DSM-5) or 3mths (ICD-10/11).

Aetiology Sometimes these disorders occur in the context of an acute stressor (both ICD-10 and DSM-5 allow for specifying ‘with or without’ marked stressor(s)/acute stress), e.g. life events such as bereavement, marriage, unemployment, imprisonment, accident, childbirth (DSM-5 ‘with post-partum onset’), or migration and social isolation (with language and cultural factors). ICD-11 has separate categories for ‘first episode’ and ‘multiple episodes’.

Epidemiology Associated with certain personality types (e.g. paranoid, borderline, histrionic); more prevalent in developing nations where there is a strong emphasis on traditional values (may demonstrate culture-specific features; Cultural context and the presentation of psychiatric disorders, p. 984). Age of onset is later in industrialized nations. More common in women.

Differential diagnosis

• Organic disorders—dementia/delirium.

• Bipolar affective disorder/depression—delusions of guilt/persecution.

• Drug and alcohol disorders.

• Personality disorder—paranoid/borderline/histrionic.

• Culture-specific disorders ( Cultural context and the presentation of psychiatric disorders, p. 984). • Factitious disorder/malingering.

• Schizophrenia (if it persists for >1mth).


• Assessment is vital to make the appropriate diagnosis.

• Short-term admission may help with any suicidal/aggressive tendencies, provide care, support, and address specific psychosocial stressors.

• Where medication is considered, short-term use of antipsychotics/BDZs may be helpful ( Severe behavioural disturbance, p. 1048).

• Antidepressants/mood stabilizers may be useful to prevent relapse/further episodes.

• Address specific social issues, and consider reality-orientated, adaptive, supportive psychotherapy.

Course and prognosis

• By definition, these disorders are brief, lasting days, weeks, or months.

• Prognosis better if short interval between onset and full-blown symptoms. Also better if there is

confusion/perplexity, good premorbid social/occupational functioning, and absence of blunted/flat


• Outcome is better than schizophrenia (socially and symptomatically).

• Relapse is common, with mortality and suicide rates, compared with the general population.

• The chances of recurrence are high, and follow-up/low-dose pharmacotherapy is recommended to

continue for at least 1–2yrs (and withdrawn cautiously with close clinical review).

Induced delusional disorder

(DSM-5: ‘Delusional symptoms in partner of individual with delusional disorder’ within ‘Other specified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder’ (see Box 5.11); ICD-10 has the specific diagnosis ‘Induced delusional disorder’, but ICD-11 codes under ‘Delusional disorder, unspecified’.

Also known as ‘folie à deux’ (or even ‘folie à trois’ or ‘folie à famille’!), this disorder was recognized and described by Harvey as early as 1651 and reviewed as a concept by Howard in 1994. Silveira and Seeman (1995) also reviewed the literature and found equal sex ratio; broad range of ages; 90% of couples, siblings, or parent/child; comorbidity with depression, dementia, and mental retardation; two- thirds socially isolated; and a common association with hallucinations. Without intervention, the course is usually chronic. The content of the shared belief depends upon the delusions of the individual with the primary illness. Examples may include: persecutory beliefs (‘them’: the paranoid pseudocommunity27), delusional parasitosis, delusional belief in a place being haunted, belief in having a child who does not exist, other misidentification delusions, or apocalyptical beliefs in cults and quasi-religions (with the serious risk of altruistic mass suicide).


• Folie imposée—the delusions of an individual with a primary psychotic illness are adopted by another healthy individual (separation alone usually cures the normally healthy individual).

• Folie simultanée—when two persons with primary psychotic illness develop the same delusions at the same time.

• Folie communiqué—after a period of resistance, a healthy individual adopts the delusions of a person with primary psychotic illness (separation is less successful without other interventions).

• Folie induite—pre-existing primary psychosis in both patients, but one patient has adopted their fellow patient’s delusions.


Psychodynamic theories These include the fear of losing an important relationship in an otherwise isolated individual with little scope for reality testing; or the passive acceptor has repressed oedipal fantasies that are released by the psychotic partner, causing identification of the dominant partner with a parent.

Learning theory Psychotic thinking is learnt through ‘observational learning’.

Social isolation Isolation due to language, geographical barriers, and personality may also play a part in the development of the illness.


• Separation—may lead to complete remission in up to 40% of cases.

• Psychological—aimed at giving up delusional beliefs (equivalent to rejecting a close relationship).

• Pharmacological—for the active, not the passive, partner (except in the case of folie simultanée when

both patients require treatment).

Box 5.11 DSM-5 Other specified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder

DSM-5 applies this category to a number of specific presentations that do not meet the full criteria for any of the other disorders in the schizophrenia spectrum diagnostic class. For example:

• Persistent auditory hallucinations Occurring in the absence of any other features.

• Delusions with significantly overlapping mood episodes Persistent delusions with periods of

overlapping mood episodes longer than just brief mood episodes allowed in delusional disorder.

• Attenuated psychosis syndrome Psychotic-like symptoms below the threshold for full psychosis

(e.g. less severe, more transient, insight relatively maintained).

• Delusional symptoms in partner of individual with delusional disorder (see opposite).

Delusional misidentification syndromes

Usually manifest as symptoms of an underlying disorder (e.g. schizophrenia, mood disorder, delusional disorder, organic disorder), these syndromes rarely occur in isolation and hence are not included separately in ICD-10/11 or DSM-5. Recently, interest has been focused on these rare (and bizarre) symptoms because of the insight they may give into the normal functioning of the brain (a ‘lesion’ paradigm).


Capgras delusion (l’illusion des sosies) The patient believes others have been replaced by identical/near-identical imposters. Can apply to animals and other objects, and often associated with aggressive behaviour.

Frégoli delusion (l’illusion de Frégoli) An individual, most often unknown to the patient, is actually someone they know ‘in disguise’. The individual is often thought to be pursuing or persecuting the patient.

Intermetamorphosis delusion The patient believes they can see others change (usually temporarily) into someone else (both external appearance and internal personality).

Subjective doubles delusion The patient believes there is a double (‘doppelgänger’) who exists and functions independently.

Autoscopic syndrome The patient sees a double of themselves projected onto other people or objects nearby.

Reverse subjective double syndrome The patient believes they are an imposter, in the process of being physically and psychologically replaced.

Reverse Frégoli syndrome The patient believes others have completely misidentified them.


Psychodynamic These syndromes are viewed as the extremes of normal misidentification due to intense focusing on particular details; the effects of beliefs/emotions on perception; the effects of vivid imagination in a person experiencing a disorder of mood, judgement, and coenesthesia; and manifestations of the defence mechanisms of projection, splitting, or regression with loss of identity and flawed reconstruction.

Biological There may be evidence of underlying right hemisphere dysfunction, anterior cortical atrophy, temporal lobe pathology, bifrontal disconnectivity—with resultant impaired facial recognition, dissociation of sensory information from normal affect, and failure to suppress inappropriate, repetitive behaviour.


• Full physical and psychiatric assessment.

• Interventions should be directed towards any underlying problem.

• Antipsychotics/anticonvulsants may also treat clearly organic cases.

1 ‘Schizophrenia’ in ICD-11 proposals is characterized by ‘disturbances in multiple mental modalities, including: thinking (e.g. delusions, disorganization in the form of thought), perception (e.g. hallucinations), self-experience (e.g. the experience that one’s feelings, impulses, thoughts, or behaviour are under the control of an external force), cognition (e.g. impaired attention, verbal memory, and social cognition), volition (e.g. loss of motivation), affect (e.g. blunted emotional expression), and behaviour (e.g. behaviour that appears bizarre or purposeless, unpredictable or inappropriate emotional responses that interfere with the organization of behaviour)’. Symptoms present for 1+ months. Usual exclusions apply. No subtypes. New symptom specifiers: positive, negative, depression, mania, psychomotor, and

cognitive symptoms. New course specifiers: first and subsequent episodes, chronic (non-episodic) course, acute episodes (with full-blown symptoms, partial remission, and complete remission).

2 DSM-5 allows for course specifiers after 1-yr duration: first episode (currently in acute episode/in partial remission/in full remission); multiple episodes (currently in acute episode/in partial remission/in full remission); continuous or unspecified pattern. Other specifiers include ‘with catatonia’ and a rating scale for psychosis symptom severity.

3 Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (2014) Biological insights from 108 schizophrenia-associated genetic loci. Nature 511:421–7.

4 Yung AR, Phillips LJ, McGorry PD, et al. (1998) Prediction of psychosis: a step towards indicated prevention of schizophrenia. Br J Psychiatry (Suppl) 172:14–20.

5 Miller TJ, McGlashan TH, Rosen JL, et al. (2002) Prospective diagnosis of the initial prodrome for schizophrenia based on the Structured Interview for Prodromal Syndromes: preliminary evidence of interrater reliability and predictive validity. Am J Psychiatry 159:863–5.

6 Ruhrmann S, Bechdolf A, Kühn KU, et al. (2007) Acute effects of treatment for prodromal symptoms for people putatively in a late initial prodromal state of psychosis. Br J Psychiatry 191(Suppl. 51):88–95.

7 Fusar-Poli P, Bonoldi I, Yung AR, et al, (2012) Predicting psychosis: meta-analysis of transition outcomes in individuals at high clinical risk. Arch Gen Psychiatry 69:220–9.

8 Khan AY, Salaria S, Ovais M, Ide GD (2016) Depot antipsychotics: where do we stand? Ann Clin Psychiatry 28:289–98.

9 https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg178/chapter/1-Recommendations#how-to-deliver-psychological-interventions [accessed 30 May 2018].

10 Mao YM, Zhang MD (2015) Augmentation with antidepressants in schizophrenia treatment: benefit or risk. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat 11:701–13.

11 Kendall T (2011) The rise and fall of the atypical antipsychotics. Br J Psychiatry 199:266–8.

12 Soares-Weiser KV, Joy C (2003) Miscellaneous treatments for neuroleptic-induced tardive dyskinesia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 3:CD000208.

13 Kane JM (2012) Addressing nonresponse in schizophrenia. J Clin Psychiatry 73:e07.

14 Kerwin RW, Bolonna A (2005) Management of clozapine-resistant schizophrenia. Adv Psychiat Treat 11:101–6.

15 Miyamoto S, Jarskog LF, Fleischhacker WW (2015) Schizophrenia: when clozapine fails. Curr Opin Psychiatry 28:243–8.

16 McEvoy JP, Lieberman JA, Stroup TS, et al.; CATIE Investigators (2006) Effectiveness of clozapine versus olanzapine, quetiapine, and risperidone in patients with chronic schizophrenia who did not respond to prior atypical antipsychotic treatment. Am J Psychiatry 163:600– 10.

17 Siskind D, McCartney L, Goldschlager R, Kisely S (2016) Clozapine v. first- and second-generation antipsychotics in treatment- refractory schizophrenia: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry 209:385–92.

18 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014) Psychosis and schizophrenia in adults: prevention and management. Clinical guideline [CG178]. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg178/chapter/recommendations#choice-of-antipsychotic-medication [accessed 30 May 2018].

19 A report of data from the Clozaril® National Registry revealed that agranulocytosis occurred in 400 (0.6%) of 67,600 patients during the period of 1990–1995. Twelve of these 400 patients died; 340 of these 400 developed agranulocytosis in the first 6mths of therapy. The incidence rate of 0.6% is similar to earlier data published in 1993. The risk of developing agranulocytosis with age and was higher in women.

20 Mellor C (2007) Schizoaffective, paranoid and other psychoses. In: Stein G, Wilkinson G (eds). Seminars in General Adult Psychiatry, 2nd rev edn, pp. 187–201. London: RCPsych Publications.

21 Koenigsberg HW, Reynolds D, Goodman M, et al. (2003) Risperidone in the treatment of schizotypal personality disorder. J Clin Psychiatry 64:628–34v.

22 Langfeldt G (1982) Definition of ‘schizophreniform psychoses’. Am J Psychol 139:703.

23 Manschreck T (1996) Delusional disorder: the recognition and management of paranoia. J Clin Psychiatry 57(Suppl 3):8.

24 Abdel-Hamid M, Brüne M (2008) Neuropsychological aspects of delusional disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep 10:229–34.

25 Manschreck TC (2006) Recent advances in the treatment of delusional disorder. Can J Psychiatry 51:114–19.

26 Skelton M, Khokhar WA, Thacker SP (2015) Treatments for delusional disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 5:CD009785.

27 Cameron N (1949) The paranoid pseudo-community. Am J Sociol 49:32–8.

Chapter 6

Depressive illness


Historical perspective

Diagnosis 1: symptoms

Diagnosis 2: caseness and subtypes

Diagnosis 3: other clinical presentations and differential Epidemiology

Aetiology 1

Aetiology 2

Diagnosis and investigations

Course and prognosis

Management principles and outpatient treatment

Hospital admission

Treating depressive illness (without psychotic features) Treating depressive illness (with psychotic features)

An approach to treatment-resistant depression

Atypical depressive episode

Seasonal affective disorder

Dysthymia (ICD-10)/persistent depressive disorder (DSM-5) Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors and reversible monoamine oxidase inhibitors

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

Other antidepressants 1

Other antidepressants 2

Other antidepressants 3

ECT 1: background

ECT 2: indications, contraindications, and considerations

ECT 3: workup and administration

ECT 4: notes on treatment

ECT 5: further notes on treatment

ECT 6: side effects and other specific problems Neurosurgery for mental disorders

Other physical treatments


Depressive disorders are common, with a prevalence of 5–10% in primary care settings. They rank fourth as causes of disability worldwide, and it has been projected that they may rank second by the year 2020. The prevalence of depressive symptoms may be as high as 30% in the general population, with women being twice as likely to be affected as men.

Although effective treatments are available, depression often goes undiagnosed and undertreated. Symptoms often are regarded by both patients and physicians as understandable, given current social circumstances and/or background. Although in many cases this may be true, people should not be denied interventions that may help relieve some of the disabling symptoms of the disorder, allowing them to cope better with any current social problems.

It should be borne in mind that depressive disorder has significant potential morbidity and mortality. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in persons aged 20–35yrs, and depressive disorder is a major factor in around 50% of these deaths. Depressive disorder also contributes to higher morbidity and mortality when associated with other physical disorders [e.g. myocardial infarction (MI)], and its successful diagnosis and treatment have been shown to improve both medical and surgical outcomes. It is also associated with high rates of comorbid alcohol and substance misuse, and has a considerable social impact on relationships, families, and productivity (through time off work). The majority of patients will present to primary care, often with problems other than low mood ( Diagnosis 3: other clinical presentations and differential, p. 252). Physicians ought to remain alert to this possibility, as early interventions may be critical in the prevention of major morbidity and comorbidity.

There remains an innate reluctance to consider pharmacological interventions for emotional problems, despite overwhelming evidence of efficacy. There is also widespread concern that drugs which improve mood must be addictive, despite evidence to the contrary. While medication is not the only possible treatment for mild to moderate depression, when antidepressants are prescribed, the onus is on the physician to give a therapeutic dose for an adequate length of time. Treatment failure is often due to patient non- compliance, particularly when the patient feels that their problems have not been taken seriously and they have been ‘fobbed off’. In a group of patients who generally have feelings of low self-worth or guilt, it is critical that they understand the rationale behind any treatment and that their progress is regularly reviewed, at least in the early stages.

Depression among the famous

As depression is common, it is not surprising that many famous people have had a depressive illness (see Box 6.1). However, there still remains a stigma attached to psychiatric illness, and it is only recently that people have become more willing to discuss their illnesses publicly. A study that examined the lives of almost 300 world-famous men found that over 40% had experienced some type

of depression during their lives.1 1 The highest rates (72%) were found in writers, but the incidence was also high in artists (42%), politicians (41%), intellectuals (36%), composers (35%), and scientists (33%).

Box 6.1 Famous people and depressive illness

Famous people who have publicly stated they have suffered from a depressive illness

Roseanne Barr, actress, writer, comedienne

Halle Berry, actress

Barbara Bush, former First Lady (USA) Jim Carrey, actor, comedian

John Cleese, comedian, actor, writer Sheryl Crow, musician

Ellen DeGeneres, comedienne, actor

Historical perspective

The changing face of depression

Current ideas of what constitutes depression date from the mid- eighteenth century.2 2 Earlier, the illness was understood in terms of

Cara Delevingne, fashion model, actress Harrison Ford, actor

Paul Gascoigne, professional footballer Germaine Greer, writer

John Hamm, actor

Anthony Hopkins, actor

Janet Jackson, musician

Billy Joel, musician, composer

Elton John, musician, composer Jessica Lange, actress

Courtney Love, musician, actor

Paul Merton, comedian

Alanis Morissette, musician, composer SP Morrissey, musician

Sinead O’Connor, musician

Ozzy Osbourne, musician

Donny Osmond, musician

Marie Osmond, musician

Winona Ryder, actress

Monica Seles, athlete (tennis)

Paul Simon, composer, musician Bruce Springsteen, musician

Famous people (deceased) known to have had a depressive illness

Samuel Beckett, Menachem Begin, Marlon Brando, Kurt Cobain, Leonard Cohen, Michel Foucault, Judy Garland, Stephen Hawking, Ernest Hemingway, Audrey Hepburn, William James, Franz Kafka, Claude Monet, Richard M Nixon, Laurence Olivier, Wilfred Owen, George S Patton, Sylvia Plath, Jackson Pollock, Cole Porter, Lou Reed, Joan Rivers, Mark Rothko, Dmitri Shostakovich, Tennessee Williams, Yves Saint Laurent.

‘melancholia’, from classical humoural theories (melancholia derived from the Greek melaina kole—black bile), reflecting ‘intensity of idea’ (Haslam, 1809), i.e. the presence of few, rather than many, delusions. Sadness or low mood were not primary symptoms. The ‘melancholic’ symptoms we now regard as part of depressive disorder would have been called ‘vapours’, ‘hypochondria’, or ‘neuroses’. ‘Depression’, a term used to mean ‘reduced functioning’ in other medical disciplines, came to be associated with ‘mental depression’, adopted because it implied a physiological change, defined as ‘a condition characterized by a sinking of the spirits, lack of courage or initiative, and a tendency to gloomy thoughts’ (Jastrow, 1901).

The concept was enlarged and legitimized by Kraepelin (1921), who used the term ‘depressive states’ in his description of the unitary concept of ‘manic–depressive illness’, encompassing melancholia simplex and gravis, stupor, fantastical melancholia, delirious melancholia, and involutional melancholia. A number of assumptions surrounded the affective disorders; they involved the primary pathology of affect and had stable psychopathology and brain pathology, were periodic in nature, had a genetic basis, occurred in persons with certain personality traits, and were ‘endogenous’ (unrelated to precipitants).

In 1917, Freud published Mourning and Melancholia, influencing more than a generation of practitioners in emphasizing cognitive and psychic factors in the aetiology of depression and shifting clinical descriptions from objective behavioural signs to subjective symptoms.

Over the intervening years, there has been much debate as to whether a ‘biological’ type of depression exists separate from a ‘neurotic’ type. Terminology has fluctuated around endogenous, vital, autonomous, endomorphic, and melancholic depression, characterized by distinctive symptoms and signs, a genetic basis, and running an independent course unrelated to psychosocial factors. In contrast, ‘neurotic’ or ‘reactive’ depression could manifest in multiple forms, showed clear responsiveness to the environment, and ran a more variable course. ICD-10/11 and DSM-5 fudge the issue somewhat by using severity specifiers (i.e. mild, moderate,

severe), as well as symptom specifiers (i.e. somatic symptoms, psychotic symptoms).

The advent of antidepressant drugs in the 1950s introduced a further complication into the mix. Although ECT was widely accepted as a treatment for ‘vital’ depression, the idea of a drug treatment for ‘reactive’ depressive disorders ran counter to the received wisdom of the psychological basis to these conditions and the need for psychological treatment.

The antidepressants and beyond

The antidepressant effects of isoniazid were first observed in 1952 by Lurie and Salzer in patients being treated for tuberculosis (TB). Similar effects were noted by Shepherd and Davies, who conducted the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) in psychiatry, clearly demonstrating the efficacy of reserpine in anxious depression in 1955. The psychiatric community was initially reluctant to accept the idea of chemical ‘cures’ for mental disorders. It was not until iproniazid was promoted by Kline in 1957 as a ‘psychic energizer’, capable of treating ‘nervous’ conditions, that the tide began to turn.

In 1956, Kuhn demonstrated the antidepressant effects of imipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) marketed worldwide in 1958, closely followed by amitriptyline in 1960. At the same time, new anxiolytics were also emerging, with meprobamate in 1955, and the first benzodiazepine (BDZ)—chlordiazepoxide—in 1960. The search for greater dissociation of anxiolytic and sedative properties led to the introduction of diazepam in 1963.

The downside of this new psychopharmacology was the over- prescription in the 1960s and 1970s of these drugs to help with ‘the problems of living’ and evidence of dependence, particularly in the case of BDZs. As a result, non-pharmacological treatments flourished in the form of ‘re-branded’ psychotherapies.

Behind the scenes, biological psychiatrists and psychopharmacologists developed the monoamine theories of depression, based upon the discovery of the neuropharmacological action of the antidepressants. This led to the development of more selective antidepressants—in the first instance, the selective

serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), with zimelidine patented in 1971 and indalpine marketed in 1978.

The emphasis on safety and side effect issues when comparing SSRIs with TCAs, and the decline of BDZs, opened the floodgates in the 1980s and 1990s for the promotion of SSRIs [e.g. fluoxetine (1989)] not only in the treatment of depression, but also for anxiety disorders. Advances in monoamine theories also allowed the development of ‘dual-action’ agents [e.g. serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)—venlafaxine (1995); noradrenaline and specific serotonin antagonists (NaSSAs)—nefazodone (1995)/mirtazapine (1997); dopamine–noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (DNRIs)—bupropion (2000)] and other selective agents [e.g. noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (NARIs)—reboxetine (1997)].

Current theories of depression attempt to integrate biological models of stress [involving the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis] with evidence from biological psychology, genetics, neuropharmacology, and functional neuropathology. A multifactorial biopsychosocial model (see Fig. 6.1) emerged, which helped to unite the divergent ideas of depression.

Clinical symptoms and signs are seen as the final common pathway in a complex interaction between genes and the environment in determining predisposition or biological vulnerability, which may subsequently lead to biological variations in functioning necessary for behavioural and emotional change. This may be due to further psychosocial stressors or genetically predetermined factors, which give rise to alterations in brain functioning. Research into these interdependent factors may well lead to a greater understanding of the aetiology of depressive disorder, as well as allow the development of diagnostic tests and individualized treatments.

Diagnosis 1: symptoms

Although the terminology is slightly different between ICD-10, DSM-5 (see Table 6.1), and ICD-11, the core symptoms are almost identical and, for a positive diagnosis, should fulfil the following criteria:

• Present for at least 2wks and represent a change from normal.

• Are not secondary to the effects of drug/alcohol misuse, medication, a medical disorder, or bereavement ( Normal and abnormal grief, p. 400).

• May cause significant distress and/or impairment of social, occupational, or general functioning.

Core symptoms

• Depressed mood: present most of the day, nearly every day, with little variation, and often lack of responsiveness to changes in circumstances. There may be diurnal variation in mood, with mood being worse in the morning and improving as the day goes on.

• Anhedonia: markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation made by others).

• Weight change: loss of weight when not dieting or weight gain (e.g. a change of >5% of body weight in a month), associated with or appetite.

• Disturbed sleep: insomnia [with early morning wakening (EMW) 2– 3hrs sooner than usual] or hypersomnia (especially in atypical depression; Atypical depressive episode, p. 272).

• Psychomotor agitation or retardation: observable by others, not just subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down.

• Fatigue or loss of energy.

• Reduced libido.

• Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

(which may be delusional): not just self-reproach or guilt about

being ill.

• Diminished ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness.

• Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide—(not ‘fear of dying’), which

may or may not have been acted upon.

Somatic symptoms

Also called biological, melancholic (DSM-5), or vital. Include: • Loss of emotional reactivity.

• Diurnal mood variation.

• Anhedonia.

• EMW.

• Psychomotor agitation or retardation.

• Loss of appetite and weight. • Loss of libido.

Table 6.1 ICD-10 and DSM-5 terminology


Depressive episode

Mild without somatic symptoms

Mild with somatic symptoms

Moderate without somatic symptoms

Moderate with somatic symptoms

Severe without psychotic symptoms

Severe with psychotic symptoms


Recurrent depressive disorder – current episode

mild without


Major depressive disorder – single episode Mild



With psychotic features

Other specified depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder – recurrent episode


somatic symptoms

mild with somatic symptoms

moderate without somatic symptoms

moderate with somatic symptoms

severe without psychotic symptoms

severe with psychotic symptoms

Currently in remission

Persistent mood (affective) disorders

Cyclothymia Dysthymia

Other persistent mood



With psychotic features In full remission

Cyclothymic disorder (

Cyclothymia, p. 348)

Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) (

Dysthymia (ICD-10)/persistent depressive disorder (DSM-5), p. 274)

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder ( Diagnosis, p. 700) Premenstrual dysphoric

Psychotic symptoms/features

• Delusions: e.g. poverty; personal inadequacy; guilt over presumed misdeeds; responsibility for world events—accidents, natural disasters, war; deserving of punishment; other nihilistic delusions.

• Hallucinations: e.g. auditory—defamatory or accusatory voices, cries for help, or screaming; olfactory—bad smells such as rotting food, faeces, and decomposing flesh; visual—tormentors, demons, the Devil, dead bodies, scenes of death, or torture.

Note: these examples are mood-congruent. Other mood- incongruent psychotic symptoms are also possible (i.e. persecutory delusions, thought insertion/withdrawal, and delusions of control— not clearly depressive in nature).

Other features

• Significant anxious distress.

• Catatonic symptoms.

• Marked psychomotor retardation (depressive stupor).

Diagnosis 2: caseness and subtypes

Clinically significant depressive episode (minimum criteria)

• ICD-10 specifies the presence of at least two typical symptoms (depressed mood, anhedonia, or fatigue) plus at least two others

(affective) disorder

Persistent mood (affective) disorder, unspecified

disorder ( Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, p. 488) Other specified depressive disorder

Unspecified depressive disorder

Note: DSM-5 includes additional specifiers—with anxious distress, mixed features, melancholic features, atypical features, mood-congruent or mood-incongruent psychotic features, catatonia, peripartum onset, and seasonal pattern. ICD-11 codes ‘Single episode’, ‘Recurrent’, ‘Dysthymic disorder’, ‘Mixed depressive and anxiety’, ‘Other’, and ‘Unspecified’. Depressive disorders can be mild, moderate (± psychotic symptoms), or severe (± psychotic symptoms), with unspecified severity, in partial remission, or in full remission.

from the core symptoms list.

• DSM-5 requires the presence of five or more symptoms from the

core symptoms list (at least one of which must be depressed mood or anhedonia).

Severity criteria

• ICD-10 and DSM-5 distinguish mild, moderate, and severe episodes on the basis of symptomatology (see Table 6.2).


• Without somatic symptoms (ICD-10): essentially defined as absence of psychotic or marked somatic symptoms, this subtype captures the clinical picture historically described by ‘neurotic depression’ (in those with certain premorbid personality traits and/or high levels of anxiety) and ‘reactive depression’ (due to a severely stressful life event; Acute stress disorder (DSM-5), p. 394). Counterintuitively, there is little need to subdivide on the basis of there being a clear precipitant. Life events appear to be provoking factors, but only in those with a predisposition to depression, and treatment should focus on the underlying disorder, as well as coming to terms with any significant provoking factors. Clinically, two different presentations are commonly seen:

• Irritable/hostile depression—younger, anxiety expressed as irritability, history of ‘acting out’ behaviours in response to stress [e.g. yelling, smashing things up, recklessness, impulsiveness, deliberate self-harm (DSH)]. Poor response to antidepressants.

• ‘Anxious’ depression—shy and withdrawn, highly anxious (‘always a worrier’), usually early-onset depression, with a recurrent and persistent course, likelihood of drug/alcohol dependency, and frequent DSH/attempted suicide. Better response to antidepressants (e.g. SSRIs).

• With somatic symptoms (ICD-10)/melancholic features (DSM-5): the presence of ‘somatic symptoms’ ( Diagnosis 1: symptoms, p. 246) defines what is regarded as a more ‘biological’ or ‘endogenous’ depressive episode, which is more severe (and more amenable to antidepressant treatment). DSM-5 also includes ‘excessive or inappropriate guilt’, although this may often be difficult to distinguish from delusional guilt. In clinical studies, the

best distinguishing factor from ‘non-melancholic’ disorders is actually the presence of psychomotor disturbance (an objective sign manifest by motor retardation, periodic agitation, and reduced/slowed cognitive functioning).

• With psychotic symptoms (ICD-10) or features (DSM-5): usually there is pervasive depressed mood (no reactivity) and marked psychomotor disturbance (sometimes to the point of depressive stupor/catatonia) accompanying delusions (commonly) and hallucinations (10–20%). Constipation is often a feature (~30%), unrelated to medication, and may have a delusional interpretation (e.g. presence of cancer, bowels having been sewn up).

Table 6.2 Severity criteria ICD-10


5 core symptoms + manageable distress + minor social/occupational impairment

5+ core symptoms + variable degree of social/occupational impairment

5+ core symptoms + significant social/occupational impairment




2 typical symptoms other core symptoms

2 typical symptoms other core symptoms


+ 3+

3 typical symptoms + 4+ other core symptoms

Note: in ICD-11, severity is more qualitative, i.e. ‘Mild’ is when none of the symptoms of a depressive episode are intense, there is some, but not considerable, difficulty in continuing normal activities, and no delusions or hallucinations. ‘Moderate’ is when several symptoms of a depressive episode are present to a marked degree or a large number of depressive symptoms of lesser severity are present overall and there is considerable difficulty in continuing with normal activities, but the individual is still able to function in at least some areas. ‘Severe’ is when many or most symptoms of a depressive episode are present to a marked degree or a smaller number of symptoms are present and manifest to an intense degree and the individual is unable to function, except to a very limited degree.

Diagnosis 3: other clinical presentations and differential

There may be marked individual variation in the clinical presentation. Sometimes anxiety may also be prominent (mixed anxiety and depressive disorder—ICD-10; with anxious distress—DSM-5). Patients with a depressive disorder may not present complaining of low mood but may consult with other primary problems. The possibility of a depressive disorder should be borne in mind, particularly in the primary care setting where many of these patients first seek treatment.

Indirect presentations may include

• Insomnia, fatigue, or other somatic complaints (e.g. headache, GI upset, change in weight). On further questioning, patients may describe irritability or anhedonia but attribute this as secondary to what they regard as the primary problem ( Sleep-related breathing disorders 1, p. 444; Assessment prior to organ transplantation, p. 878; Dissociative (conversion) disorders, p. 868).

• Elderly persons presenting with agitation, confusion, or a decline in normal functioning (pseudodementia) ( Other mental health problems in the elderly, p. 554).

• Children presenting with symptoms such as irritability, decline in school performance, or social withdrawal ( Bipolar disorder in children and adolescents, p. 700).

• Persons from a different cultural background presenting with culture-specific symptoms ( Culture-bound syndromes?, p. 988).

Other symptoms that may hinder diagnosis

• Presence of a physical disorder whose secondary symptoms (e.g. anorexia, fatigue, insomnia) may mask symptoms of depression.

• Histrionic behaviour (making assessment of severity difficult).

• Exacerbation of other underlying disorders (phobias, OCD—

especially when there are depressive ruminations).

• Hypochondriacal ideas (which may have been long-standing).

• The presence of self-harming behaviours (e.g. cutting, frequent

overdose), which may represent underlying borderline traits

(usually individuals will say they have never felt happy or describe

chronic feelings of ‘emptiness’).

• Cognitive impairment or ID (which may mask depressive

symptoms or appear more severe because of depression, and

hence improve with antidepressants).

• Alcohol and drug misuse (primary or secondary).

Other subtypes of depressive disorder

These are formally recognized in DSM-5 but are subsumed under the rubric ‘Other depressive episodes’ in ICD-10. They include:

• Atypical depression/DSM-5 ‘with atypical features’ ( Atypical

depressive episode, p. 272).

• Postnatal depression/DSM-5 ‘with peripartum inset’ ( Postnatal

depression, p. 494).

• Seasonal affective disorder/DSM-5 ‘with seasonal pattern’ (

Seasonal affective disorder, p. 273).

• Premenstrual dysphoric disorder/same in DSM-5 ( Premenstrual

disorders, p. 490).

As a description of the experience of symptoms of depression, the

following has never been bettered:

‘I have of late but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither.’

Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act II Scene 2.

Differential diagnosis

• Other psychiatric disorders: dysthymia, stress-related disorders (adjustment disorders/bereavement, PTSD), bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders (OCD, panic disorder, phobias), eating disorders, schizoaffective disorders, schizophrenia (negative symptoms),

personality disorders [especially borderline personality disorder


• Neurological disorders: dementia, Parkinson’s disease,

Huntington’s disease, MS, stroke, epilepsy, tumours, head injury.

• Endocrine disorders: Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, hyper-/hypothyroidism, perimenstrual syndromes, menopausal

symptoms, prolactinoma, hyperparathyroidism, hypopituitarism.

• Metabolic disorders: hypoglycaemia, hypercalcaemia, porphyria.

• Haematological disorders: anaemia.

• Inflammatory conditions: systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

• Infections: syphilis, Lyme disease, and HIV encephalopathy.

• Sleep disorders: especially sleep apnoea.

• Medication-related: antihypertensives (β-blockers, reserpine,

methyldopa, and calcium channel blockers); steroids; H2 blockers (e.g. ranitidine, cimetidine); sedatives; muscle relaxants; chemotherapy agents (e.g. vincristine, procarbazine, L- asparaginase, interferon, amphotericin, vinblastine); medications that affect sex hormones [oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonists]; cholesterol-lowering agents; and psychiatric medication (especially antipsychotics).

• Substance misuse: alcohol, BDZs, opiates, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and derivatives.


Prevalence 6-mth prevalence range: 2.2% (ECA), 5.3% (NCS), 6.7% (NCS-R; note 2% prevalence of severe episodes) in the general population.

Lifetime rates Wide range: 4.4% (ECA), 16.5% (NCS-R), 30% (Virginia Twin Study); most authorities agree the true rate in the general population is probably 10–20%. There is also evidence that rates are increasing among younger adults.

Sex ratio ♂:♀ = 1:2.

Risk factors (See also Aetiology 1, p. 256–257.)

• Genetic (see Box 6.2): heritability estimates range from 17% to 75% (mean 37%), and families also have high rates of anxiety

disorders and neuroticism, suggesting a shared genetic basis.

• Childhood experiences: loss of a parent (inconsistent across studies), lack of parental care, parental alcoholism/antisocial traits, childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Note: cumulative childhood disadvantage confers a greater risk than any single variable. High intelligence and one good adult relationship are protective and increase resilience.

• Personality traits: anxiety, impulsivity, obsessionality (i.e. high neuroticism scores).

• Social circumstances:

• Marital status—men: low rates associated with marriage, high

rates with separation or divorce; women: probably similar, but less clear-cut.

• Brown and Harris3 found that, for women, having three or more children under the age of 11, lack of paid employment, and lack of a confiding relationship were associated with risk of depression (recent studies support the lack of a confiding relationship, but not the other factors).

• Adverse life events—particularly ‘loss’ events ( risk 2–3mths after event) in vulnerable individuals.

• Physical illness: especially if chronic, severe, or painful. Neurological disorders (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, MS, stroke, epilepsy) have higher risk (perhaps due to ‘shared’ pathology). Higher rates also noted in post-MI, diabetic, and cancer patients, although family or personal histories of depression are important determinants of occurrence.

Comorbidity About two-thirds of patients will also meet criteria for another psychiatric disorder (e.g. anxiety disorders, substance misuse, alcohol dependency, personality disorders).

Box 6.2 Genetic factors

While the existence of genetic vulnerability to depression is well established in family and twin studies, progress in the identification

of its molecular basis has been slow.1 Functional candidate gene studies have identified few replicable associations, and genome- wide linkage studies have yielded suggestive, rather than conclusive, results. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS)

Aetiology 1

The aetiology of depression has yet to be fully understood; however, it is likely to be due to the interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors in the lifespan of an individual. Psychosocial stressors

have detected suggestive evidence for a role of genetic variants in the piccolo (PCLO) gene (which encodes a presynaptic cytomatrix protein that influences monoamine neurotransmitter release and regulation of the HPA axis) and neuroligin-1 (NLGN1) gene (which has a role in the formation and remodelling of CNS synapses). However, the general findings of these studies indicate that the genetic liability to depression is likely to involve multiple genetic

variants of weak effects.2

Similarly, GWAS of antidepressant treatment outcome, which

hope ultimately to help match medications with patients, have been disappointing. Polymorphisms in genes involved in antidepressant metabolism (cytochrome P450 isoenzymes), antidepressant transport (ABCB1), glucocorticoid signalling (FKBP5), and serotonin neurotransmission (SLC6A4 and HTR2A) have shown initial promise. However, four independent samples— the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) sample (n = 1953), the Munich Antidepressant Response Signature (MARS) sample (n = 339), the Genome- based Therapeutic Drugs for Depression (GENDEP) sample (n = 706), and the GENetic and clinical Predictors Of treatment response in Depression (GENPOD) sample (n = 601)—have failed to report any results that achieved genome-wide significance or that could be replicated, suggesting that much larger samples and better outcome measures will be needed if we are to understand

the complex interplay of biological factors involved in depression.3

1 Fabbri C, Hosak L, Mössner L, et al. (2017) Consensus paper of the WFSBP Task Force on Genetics: genetics, epigenetics and gene expression markers of major depressive disorder and antidepressant response. World J Biol Psychiatry 18:5–28.

2 Lewis CM, Ng MY, Butler AW, et al. (2010) Genome-wide association study of major recurrent depression in the UK population. Am J Psychiatry 167:949–57.

3 Laje G, McMahon FJ (2011) Genome-wide association studies of antidepressant outcome: a brief review. Progr Neuro-Psychopharmacol Biolog Psychiatry 35:1553–7.

may play a role both as precipitants and perpetuating factors, increasing the risk of chronicity and recurrence, while individuals with established depression are at higher risk of further stressors of many kinds. One attempt to integrate these factors is the biopsychosocial model (see Fig. 6.1).

Fig. 6.1 The biopsychosocial model of depression. Early adverse experience

Developmental or social effects have previously been viewed as not being biological in nature. The modern view is that the fetal environment and later environmental stressors do have neurobiological consequences mediated through the HPA axis (possibly by epigenetic effects on genes that regulate glucocorticoid sensitivity, e.g. FKBP5, NF-κB). These changes in stress regulation may contribute to the expression of psychiatric disorder. More research is needed in this area, as data from human studies are limited.

Personality/temperament factors

These are enduring traits with a biological basis, influenced over the lifespan by inherited factors, experience, and maturation. They

mediate the level and nature of response to sensory experience, regulated by context and manifest as subjective emotions and objective behaviours. Certain temperaments (e.g. neuroticism or high ‘N’) may increase vulnerability to depression, perhaps due to the presence of autonomic hyperarousal (heightened responses to emotional stimuli), lability (unpredictable responses to emotional stimuli), or negative biases in attention, processing, and memory for emotional material.

Psychological factors

Disruption of normal social, marital, parental, or familial relationships is correlated with high rates of depression and is a risk factor for recurrence. An aetiological role has yet to be demonstrated, but adverse childhood experiences/chronic stressors may influence the sensitivity of individuals to later stressful events. Low self-esteem (negative view of self, the past, current events, and the future) is proposed as a vulnerability factor (either as a causal factor or as a symptom of depression).


Although the prevalence of depression in women is a robust finding, explanations of why this may be so are various. These include: restricting social and occupational roles, being over- or under-occupied, ruminative response styles, and endocrine factors (suggested by risk of depression in the premenstrual and post- partum periods). There is little supportive evidence for these theories. One popular hypothesis is that women are more likely to admit to depressive symptoms, whereas men are not and tend to express their symptoms differently (e.g. through alcohol abuse and antisocial behaviour).

Social factors

There are two main arguments to explain why people of low socio- economic status (low levels of income, employment, and education) are at a higher risk of depression: social causation—stress associated with such problems leads to depression (an environmental argument); and social selection—predisposed individuals drift down to lower social positions or fail to rise from

them (a genetic argument). There is stronger evidence for the social causation argument, as social isolation has been shown to be a key risk factor.


(See Box 6.3.)

Box 6.3 Evolution, inflammation, and depression

Complex interactions between inflammatory pathways (activated by psychosocial stressors) and brain function may explain how behaviours, such as avoidance and alarm that evolved to help deal with pathogens and predators, lead to the development of depression in modern humans, with altered motivation and motor activity (anhedonia, fatigue, and psychomotor impairment) and

threat sensitivity (anxiety, arousal, and alarm).1 Biomarkers of inflammation in patients with depression include blood levels of IL- 1β, IL-6, TNF, and CRP. Blockade of cytokines (e.g. TNF) or inflammatory signalling pathway components, such as cyclo- oxygenase 2, have been shown to reduce depressive symptoms in patients with medical illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and cancer, as well as in patients with depression. Better understanding of these neuropsychoimmunological mechanisms is likely to lead to novel future therapeutic approaches to depression.

1 Miller AH, Raison CL (2016) The role of inflammation in depression: from evolutionary imperative to modern treatment target. Nat Rev Immunol 16:22–34.

Aetiology 2

Brain pathology

Structural brain changes Severe depression is associated with ventricular enlargement and sulcal prominence. rate of white matter lesions in older patients (perhaps related to vascular disease). Refractory cases associated with reduced grey matter in the left hippocampus (correlating with verbal memory), basal ganglia, and thalamus. Other studies find reduced cortical volumes in the left parietal and frontal association areas.

Post-mortem findings Reduced GABA function, abnormal synaptic density or neuronal plasticity in the hippocampus; glial cell abnormalities; reduced expression of serotonin transporter (SERT) mRNA in the dorsal raphe nucleus.

Functional imaging (see Box 6.4) Studies report hypoperfusion in frontal, temporal, and parietal areas (especially in older patients) and perfusion in the frontal and cingulate cortex (in younger patients, associated with good treatment response). Activation, lesioning, and

brain stimulation studies in humans4 all point to two functionally segregated areas of the prefrontal cortex as being critical neural substrates for depression: the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)—associated with negative affect, physiological symptoms, self-awareness/insight; and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) —associated with cognitive/executive functioning, (re)-appraisal of affect states, suppression of emotional responses.

Box 6.4 Endophenotypes, imaging, and genetic correlates in the aetiology of depression

Imaging studies identify traits, or ‘endophenotypes’, that are heritable, intermediate phenotypes associated with depression. These presumably have a simpler genetic basis than the full syndrome (or even individual symptoms), making them more amenable to genetic analysis and enabling the generation of

testable hypotheses.1 Examples include:

• Mood-congruent phenomenon of activity of the amygdala in

response to negative stimuli, which is likely moderated by the 5- HT transporter gene (SLC6A4) promoter polymorphism (5- HTTLPR).

• Hippocampal volume loss, especially in elderly or chronically ill samples related to val66met brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene variant and 5-HTTLPR SLC6A4 polymorphism.

• White matter pathology in elderly and more severely ill samples (allowing for complications of cerebrovascular disease).

• blood flow or metabolism of the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) and associated grey matter loss.

Neurotransmitter abnormalities

The discovery that all antidepressants increase monoamine (i.e. 5- HT, NA, DA) release and/or reduce their reuptake in the synaptic cleft led to development of the monoamine theory of depression, which suggests that reduced monoamine function may cause depression. Blunted neuroendocrine responses and symptom induction by tryptophan depletion (5-HT precursor) suggest an important role for 5-HT.

Neuroendocrine challenge tests

Blunted prolactin and growth hormone (GH) responses to tryptophan/citalopram (5-HT system), blunted GH responses to clonidine (NA system) and apomorphine (DA system), and GH response to physostigmine (ACh system) suggest reduced monoamine functioning and cholinergic functioning in depression. cortisol seen in ~50% of patients (particularly ‘endogenous’ subtype), associated with adrenal hypertrophy, and dexamethasone non- suppression of cortisol (also in other psychiatric conditions, hence not a sensitive test, despite an apparent specificity of ~96%).

Thyroid abnormalities

Abnormalities in the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) response to thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) have been found—both blunting and enhancement—despite normal thyroid hormone levels,

• Attenuation of the usual pattern of fronto-limbic connectivity, particularly temporal correlation in amygdala–anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) activity.

• 5-HT1A binding in the raphe, medial temporal lobe, and medial

prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and a functional polymorphism in the

promoter region of the 5-HT1A gene.

• Alterations in the binding potential of the 5-HT transporter.

Hopefully, it will not be long before we begin to see further advances in these areas, as epigenetic, copy number variant, gene–gene interaction, and GWAS (see Box 6.2) approaches are brought to bear on imaging data.

1 See review: Savitz JB, Drevets WC (2009) Imaging phenotypes of major depressive disorder: genetic correlates. Neuroscience 164:300–30.

suggesting further research is necessary, especially when T3 is shown to have utility in treatment-resistant cases ( An approach to

treatment-resistant depression, p. 270). Changes in sleep pattern

EMW is most typical in endogenous or melancholic depression; initial insomnia, frequent waking, and unsatisfactory sleep are also commonly seen in depression. Causal relationship of sleep to depression is currently unknown. In severe depression, there is reduced total SWS and shortened REM latency [secondary to cholinergic (REM-on) and/or reduced serotonergic/noradrenergic (REM-off) drive]. Sleep changes resolve with recovery from depression, and sleep disturbance may be an early predictor of impending relapse.

Diagnosis and investigations


• The diagnosis of depression is primarily based on a good psychiatric history and physical examination ( Why do psychiatrists not look at the brain?, p. 14).

• In addition to focused questioning on mood ( Speech, p. 62; Abnormal mood, p. 63; Asking about depressed mood, p. 64; Diagnosis 1: symptoms, p. 246), it is useful to administer a standardized rating scale, such as the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), or the

Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale,5 as a baseline measure prior

to any change to management plans.

• Given the significant comorbidity with anxiety, some clinicians will

also rate anxiety symptoms separately, e.g. the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A), the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), or the

Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale.6

• Patients with depression often complain of poor memory or

concentration. In these cases, it is also worth administering the MMSE ( Assessing cognitive function 2, p. 86). If cognitive impairment is significant, further more detailed neuropsychological testing may be indicated (e.g. ACE-R).


There are no specific tests for depression. Investigations focus on the exclusion of treatable causes ( Differential diagnosis, p. 253)

or other secondary problems (e.g. loss of appetite, alcohol misuse).

• Standard tests: FBC, ESR, B12/folate, U&Es, LFTs, TFTs, glucose, Ca2+.

• Focused investigations: only if indicated by history and/or physical signs:

• Urine or blood toxicology.

• Breath or blood alcohol.

• Arterial blood gas (ABG).

• Thyroid antibodies.

• Antinuclear antibody.

• Syphilis serology.

• Additional electrolytes, e.g. phosphate, magnesium, zinc.

• Dexamethasone suppression test (Cushing’s disease).

• Cosyntropin stimulation test (Addison’s disease).

• Lumbar puncture (VDRL, Lyme antibody, cell count, chemistry,

protein electrophoresis).


Course and prognosis

Points to note

• Depression may occur at any age, although late-onset depression may be milder, more chronic, more likely to be associated with life events, and more likely to have a subclinical prodrome.

• Depressive episodes vary from 4 to 30wks for mild to moderate cases, to an average of about 6mths for severe cases (25% will last up to 1yr).

• Episodes of recurrent depression tend to be shorter (4–16wks).

• 10–20% of patients will have a chronic course, with persistent

symptoms lasting over 2yrs.

• The majority of patients experiencing a depressive episode will

have further episodes later in life (risk of recurrence is ~30% at 10yrs, ~60% at 20yrs), but inter-individual variation makes it impossible to predict the likely period of time before future

episodes, although, as with bipolar disorder, the greater the

number of recurrences, the shorter the time between episodes.

• Risk of recurrence is greater when there are residual symptoms after remission (about a third of cases), e.g. low mood, anxiety, sleep disturbance, reduced libido, and physical symptoms

(headache, fatigue, GI upset).

• There is good evidence that modern antidepressant treatments

impact significantly upon all these quoted figures, reducing the length of depressive episodes; and if treatment is given long term, the incidence of residual symptoms is less, there are fewer recurrent episodes, and chronicity may be as low as 4%.


• Suicide rates for severe depressive episodes vary but may be up to 13% (i.e. up to 20 times more likely than the general population), with a slightly higher rate for those who have required hospital admission (12–19%). For less severe episodes, rates are much lower.

• The overall death rate for patients with depression is higher than the general population [standardized mortality ratio (SMR) 1.37– 2.49], with the cause of death usually due to suicide, drug and alcohol problems, accidents, cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, and thyroid disorders.

Prognostic factors

• Good outcome: acute onset, endogenous depression, earlier age of onset.

• Poor outcome: insidious onset, neurotic depression, elderly, residual symptoms, neuroticism, low self-confidence, comorbidity (alcohol or drug problems, personality disorders, physical illness), lack of social supports.

Management principles and outpatient treatment

Initial assessment

• History: key areas of enquiry include: • Any clear psychosocial precipitants. • Current social situation.

• Use of drugs/alcohol.

• Past history of previous mood symptoms (including ‘subclinical’

periods of low or elevated mood, previous DSH/suicide


• Previous effective treatments.

• Premorbid personality.

• Family history of mood disorder.

• Physical illnesses.

• Current medication.

• MSE ( Diagnosis and investigations, p. 260): focused enquiry about subjective mood symptoms, somatic symptoms, psychotic symptoms, symptoms of anxiety, thoughts of suicide. Objective assessment of psychomotor retardation/agitation, evidence of DSH, cognitive functioning (MMSE).

• Physical examination: focused on possible differential diagnoses ( Differential diagnosis, p. 253).

• Baseline investigations ( Diagnosis and investigations, p. 260). Questions of severity and initial treatment options7

• When depressive symptoms are mild and of recent onset and there is no previous history of a more severe mood disorder, most guidelines suggest refraining from use of antidepressants. Close active monitoring is advised and, depending on patient preference, use of individual guided self-help (based on CBT principles), computerized cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT), or structured group physical activity programmes.

• Antidepressants may be considered where there is:

• A past history of moderate or severe depression.

• An initial presentation of subthreshold depressive symptoms that

have been present for a long period (typically at least 2yrs).

• Subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild depression that

persist(s) after other interventions.

• Treatment for moderate or severe depression combines

antidepressant medication ( Treating depressive illness (without psychotic features), p. 266; Treating depressive illness (with psychotic features), p. 268) and a high-intensity psychological

intervention [e.g. CBT or interpersonal therapy (IPT); Treating

depressive illness (without psychotic features), p. 266].

• Usually pharmacological treatment can be initiated on an outpatient basis (severe cases may require admission; Hospital

admission, p. 264).

• Choice of antidepressant is guided by anticipated safety and

tolerability, physician familiarity (which allows for better patient education in anticipation of adverse effects), presenting symptoms, and history of prior treatments ( Antidepressants, p. 276).

• Initially, follow-up will usually be fairly frequent (1–4wks) to monitor treatment response and assess for any unwanted side effects.

• Once treatment is established (and is effective), the time between appointments may be (see Aftercare following discharge, p. 265; Treating depressive illness (without psychotic features), p. 266; and Treating depressive illness (with psychotic features), p. 268 for further guidance).

Hospital admission

Sometimes acute episodes of depressive disorder are severe enough to require hospital admission (which may be on a compulsory basis). As for all psychiatric disorders, issues of safety and the provision of effective treatment will govern the decisions about whether a patient can remain in the community.

Points to note

• Due to symptoms of low self-esteem or guilt, some patients may refuse admission to hospital because they feel unworthy or they are ‘using up a valuable bed’. Sympathetic reassurance that this is not the case and that the clinician believes they are sufficiently ill to benefit from hospital admission may avoid unnecessary detention.

• Some patients (or relatives) may demand admission to hospital. Although this usually is due to personality factors, it may also be due to (sometimes erroneous) ideas of what may be reasonably achieved in a hospital setting (e.g. intensive psychotherapy for one specific issue) or may reflect undisclosed factors that have created

a social crisis. A non-confrontational approach in eliciting the reasons behind such demands may reveal other important issues that may help the decision-making process (including those which may be dealt with by other agencies, e.g. emergency accommodation/refuge).

Common reasons for hospital admission

• Serious risk of suicide ( Asking about depressed mood, p. 64).

• Serious risk of harm to others (especially children; Child

maltreatment 2: the duty of care, p. 714).

• Significant self-neglect (especially weight loss).

• Severe depressive symptoms.

• Severe psychotic symptoms.

• Lack or breakdown of social supports.

• Initiation of ECT.

• Treatment-resistant depression (where inpatient monitoring may

be helpful).

• A need to address comorbid conditions (e.g. physical problems,

other psychiatric conditions, inpatient detoxification).

Suitable environment?

Where there is significant risk of harm to self (or others), admission should be to a ward where close observation and monitoring are possible. Observation levels ought to be regularly reviewed. The ward environment is often not the quiet sanctuary patients hope for, and this may lead to difficult decisions in balancing the risk of self- harm against the use of compulsory admission. Careful assessment of a patient’s insight into their illness, issues of comorbid substance misuse, and clear evidence of their ability to seek additional support when symptoms are worse may allow for a more flexible approach in permitting time out from the ward environment (perhaps in the company of a responsible relative or friend).

Aftercare following discharge

Following hospital discharge or for outpatients started on antidepressant treatment, initial follow-up should be regular (2–4wks) to monitor progress, ensure treatment response is maintained, and allow time for other supports (e.g. CPN services, crisis/home

treatment services, day hospitals, specific psychotherapies) to become established.

Risk of suicide is at this time, as energy and motivation improve and the patient struggles with the consequences of being unwell.

Key aims for follow-up

• Establishing and maintaining a therapeutic alliance.

• Monitoring the patient’s psychiatric status.

• Providing education regarding depressive disorder and the

treatment options.

• Enhancing treatment compliance.

• Monitoring side effects of medication.

• Identifying and addressing any significant comorbidity.

• Promoting regular patterns of activity and rest.

• Identifying unmet needs for specific (practical) support,

counselling, (bereavement, stress management), or


• Promoting understanding of, and adaptation to, the psychosocial

effects of symptoms.

• Identifying new episodes early.

• Reducing the morbidity and sequelae of depressive disorder.

The ultimate aim is return to normal activities (academic, employment, home life, social activities), usually in a graded way as the resolution of symptoms allows, using a collaborative approach.

Maintenance treatment ( Treating depressing illness (without psychotic features), p. 266; Treating depressing illness (with psychotic features), p. 268) will usually be monitored in the primary care setting, with specific advice about continuation of medication and what to do should symptoms recur.

Treating depressive illness (without psychotic features)

First-line treatment

• Antidepressant drugs are effective in 65–75% of patients.

• For mild to moderate episodes or where antidepressants are contraindicated (e.g. recent MI), CBT or other psychotherapies may have a role ( Management principles and outpatient treatment, p. 262 for NICE recommendations CG90).

• The combination of psychological approaches and pharmacotherapy may be synergistic, but in severe cases, treatment—at least initially—is almost exclusively pharmacological or physical (e.g. ECT).

Choosing an antidepressant

The decision about which antidepressant to choose will depend upon:

• Patient factors: age, sex, comorbid physical illness (cardiac, renal,

liver, neurological) ( Prescribing for patients with cardiovascular disease, p. 1032; Prescribing for patients with liver disease, p. 1034; Prescribing for patients with renal impairment, p. 1036), previous response to antidepressants.

• Issues of tolerability ( Antidepressants, p. 276).

• Symptomatology: sleep problems (more sedative agent), lack of

energy/hypersomnia (more adrenergic/stimulatory agent), mixed (e.g. with anxiety/panic—SSRI/imipramine), OCD symptoms (clomipramine/SSRI), risk of suicide (avoid TCAs).

Adequate trial

Generally, an adequate trial of an antidepressant is defined as at least 4wks of the highest tolerated dose (up to BNF maximum).

Suicide risk

The risk of suicide may actually be in the early stages of antidepressant treatment. Often patients with previous marked psychomotor retardation have been unable to act upon their thoughts of self-harm. Partial treatment response may ‘free’ them to do this, hence careful monitoring is critical (and admission to hospital may be indicated).

Treatment failure—second-line treatment

Failure of an adequate trial of an antidepressant may occur in ~25% of cases. A similar number of patients will experience unacceptable

side effects, leading to withdrawal of the agent without completing an adequate trial. For these patients, second-line treatment is with an alternative agent, usually from a different class of antidepressant or from the same class but with a different side effect profile.

Partial responders

( An approach to treatment-resistant depression, p. 270.)

~50% of patients who have only partially responded to a TCA, an SSRI, or an MAOI may benefit from the addition of lithium (usual dose 600–900mg/day). Treatment response is generally observed within 2wks. Alternative ‘augmentative’ strategies include the use of

tri-iodothyronine (T3) or tryptophan.

Electroconvulsive therapy

( ECT 2: indications, contraindications, and considerations, p. 296.)

• ECT may be considered as a first-line therapy when there are

severe biological features (e.g. significant weight loss/reduced

appetite) or marked psychomotor retardation.8

• It is sometimes used when the patient is at high risk of harming

themselves or others (where there is clear evidence of repeated suicide attempts or significantly aggressive behaviour) or where psychotic features are prominent ( Treating depressive illness (with psychotic features), p. 268). Under these circumstances, issues of consent to treatment must be considered ( ECT 2: indications, contraindications, and considerations, p. 296).

• It may also be considered as a second- or third-line treatment for non-responders to pharmacotherapy.

Maintenance therapy

First episode

• A collaborative approach with the patient should emphasize compliance (even when feeling ‘better’), with advice to continue the effective treatment for 6mths to 1yr after remission (particularly if there are residual symptoms).

• Discontinuation should be gradual, and if there is recurrence of symptoms, revert to the effective dose, with further attempt at

withdrawal after at least a further 4–6mths.

• Often patients wish to continue medication indefinitely (particularly

after a severe episode), and reassurance should be given that there is no evidence of any specific long-term problems with such a course of action.

Recurrent episodes

• If the period between episodes is <3yrs, or with severe episodes (especially with marked suicidal thought/actions), prophylactic treatment should be maintained for at least 5yrs (often indefinitely —risk of relapse if medication stopped is 70–90% within 5yrs).

• Otherwise treat as for first episode. Electroconvulsive therapy

• If ECT has been used as a first-line therapy and remission is maintained with medication, treat as for first episode.

• If ECT has been used successfully as second- or third-line treatment, consider maintenance ECT as an option. [Note: not recommended in recent NICE guidelines ( ECT 5: further notes on treatment, p. 304) where there is evidence that ECT effectively treats relapse of symptoms. There is some evidence that ECT every 2wks may be an effective prophylactic (this does not preclude further trials of pharmacotherapy).]

Treating depressive illness (with psychotic features)

Electroconvulsive therapy

( ECT 2: indications, contraindications, and considerations, p. 296.)

• For depression with psychotic features, ECT should be considered

as first-line therapy, as evidence supports the superior efficacy of ECT to pharmacotherapy in this patient group, with significant benefit in 80–90% of cases. (Note: current NICE guidelines do not support this practice; Box 6.11, p. 296).

• Often issues of consent or relative contraindications may preclude the immediate use of ECT, and its role is often that of a second-line treatment after partial response or failure of pharmacotherapy.

Combination treatment (antidepressant plus antipsychotic)

• It is usual to commence treatment with an antipsychotic agent (as for an acute psychotic episode; Initial treatment of acute psychosis, p. 200) for a few days before commencing an antidepressant. This allows for a period of assessment (to exclude a primary psychotic disorder), may improve compliance (when psychotic symptoms clearly improve with medication), avoids potential worsening of psychotic symptoms with an antidepressant (in some predisposed individuals), and may help identify the 30– 50% of patients who do respond to an antipsychotic alone. This approach is effective in 70–80% of patients.

• There is no clear evidence for any particular combination of medication being more efficacious, but the available evidence indicates that combination therapy with an antidepressant plus an antipsychotic is more effective than either treatment alone or

placebo.9 It is not unusual for low doses of antipsychotics to be added to an antidepressant, e.g. chlorpromazine or quetiapine (25–50mg at night). The most studied is the olanzapine–fluoxetine combination (OFC), mainly due to the fact that it is available as a

single capsule (OFC—Symbyax®) in the USA.10

• Starting an antidepressant first and adding an antipsychotic, if

necessary, may be a better strategy as far as cost–benefit to the patient.11

Additional practice points

• Symptoms ought to be carefully monitored, as antipsychotic side effects may mask improvement in depressive symptoms—hence use of the lowest effective dose is advocated (e.g. around 2–4mg haloperidol or equivalent).

• Combinations of antidepressant/antipsychotic may worsen side effects common to both (e.g. sedation, anticholinergic effects), and careful dose titration is necessary.

• Once acute psychotic symptoms have resolved, a lower dose of antipsychotic (or withdrawal) may be indicated, particularly when patients begin to manifest side effects (which were not seen in the acute stages, even with higher doses)—with careful monitoring for recurrence of psychotic symptoms.

Dual-action agents

There is some evidence that single agents with dual actions, such as amoxapine (a tetracyclic antidepressant with significant D2

antagonism), or antipsychotics, such as aripiprazole, clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine, or risperidone, may be effective in treating both aspects of depression with psychotic symptoms. To date, evidence does not exist to support use of these agents for long-term treatment—where there are issues of compliance/tolerability, the utility of using a single agent is attractive but should be considered

carefully.9 Maintenance therapy

• When ECT has been used, maintenance usually involves treatment of the underlying depressive symptoms with an antidepressant (as in episodes without psychotic symptoms; Treating depressive illness (without psychotic features), p. 266).

• When combination treatment has been successful, maintenance often involves a clinically effective antidepressant with the lowest effective antipsychotic dose. As for dual-action agents, evidence is lacking with regard to long-term treatment, and this tends to be pragmatic, on the basis of continued symptomatology.

• In view of the severity of the disorder, prophylactic use of an antidepressant and/or antipsychotic is prudent (often indefinitely, as for recurrent depressive episodes; Recurrent episodes, p. 267).

An approach to treatment-resistant depression

Commonly defined as ‘failure to respond to adequate (dose and duration—i.e. max BNF dose for at least 4wks) courses of two antidepressants, or one antidepressant and ECT’. The consequences of resistant depression include reduced quality of life, excessive strain on relationships (which may lead to break-up of families), significant personal economic impact, physical comorbidity (e.g. malignancy, cardiovascular disease, even premature death), risk of suicide, therapeutic alienation (making

further interventions difficult due to difficulties forming a therapeutic alliance), and high use of psychiatric services (without clear benefit).

Differentiating treatment resistance

It is important to distinguish actual treatment resistance from chronicity of symptoms. Apparent treatment failure may also occur due to: incorrect initial diagnosis (i.e. not depressive disorder in the first place), inadequate initial treatment, poor compliance, incomplete formulation (especially role of maintaining factors), and issues of comorbidity (both physical and other psychiatric disorders).

Risk factors for treatment resistance

Concurrent physical illness, drug/alcohol abuse, personality disorder, high premorbid neuroticism, long period of illness prior to treatment.


(See references.)12,13

• Review diagnostic formulation: is the diagnosis correct? Are there

any unaddressed maintaining factors (e.g. social, physical, psychological)? Note: a proportion of individuals with chronic, refractory depression will have unrecognized bipolar disorder.

• Check patient understanding/compliance: serum levels may help.

• Continue monotherapy at maximum tolerable dose: may mean exceeding BNF guidelines (especially if there has been partial


• Consider change in antidepressant: try a different class of


• Consider augmentation with an antipsychotic: e.g. quetiapine,

aripiprazole, risperidone, olanzapine.

• Consider mood stabilizer augmentation: e.g. lithium, lamotrigine.

• Consider additional augmentative agents: e.g. T3, tryptophan

(since February 2013 no longer available in the UK).

• Consider combining antidepressants from different classes: caution is advised, due to possible serious adverse reactions ( Serotonin syndrome, p. 1022), e.g. mirtazapine, bupropion ( Combining antidepressants, p. 279).

• Other pharmacological possibilities: buspirone, modafinil, stimulants, oestrogen in perimenopausal women, testosterone in

men with low testosterone levels.

• Consider use of ECT ( ECT 2: indications, contraindications, and

considerations, p. 296): especially if severe biological features or

psychotic symptoms.

• Consider possibility of psychosurgery or other advanced intervention: Neurosurgery for mental disorder, p. 310; Other physical treatments, p. 312.

Points to note

• There is little definitive evidence to support any specific augmentative regime (see Box 6.5).

• Spontaneous remission is possible—‘regression to the mean’ suggests that symptoms will improve; bear in mind that the natural life of depression is 6–18mths, even when untreated.

• Psychological and social interventions, particularly when psychosocial factors appear paramount, may be important (often overlooked or undisclosed) aspects of management.

Box 6.5 STAR*D trial

The Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) trial is one of the largest independent studies undertaken by the NIMH to examine the effectiveness of a variety of treatments for non-psychotic major depression. The initial report was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in November


• A fairly representative outpatient sample (n = 3671) underwent

four steps:

• Level 1—citalopram.

• Level 2—switch (to bupropion, sertraline, venlafaxine XR, or

cognitive therapy) or combine (bupropion, buspirone, cognitive


• Level 2a—if cognitive therapy alone or plus citalopram, add or

switch to bupropion or venlafaxine XR.

• Level 3—switch (to nortriptyline or mirtazapine) or augment

(with lithium or T3).

Atypical depressive episode

Regarded as a subtype of depressive disorder, rather than a separate entity. Atypical features coded in DSM-5 as an ‘episode specifier’. May be coded under ‘Other (specified) depressive episodes’ in ICD-10 (/ICD-11).

Clinical features

• Mood is depressed but remains reactive (able to enjoy certain experiences, but not to ‘normal’ levels).

• Hypersomnia (sleeping >10hrs/day, at least 3 days/wk, for at least 3mths).

• Hyperphagia (excessive eating, with weight gain of over 3kg in 3mths).

• ‘Leaden paralysis’ (feeling of heaviness in the limbs, present for at least 1hr/day, 3 days/wk, for at least 3mths).

• Oversensitivity to perceived rejection.14

• Other infrequent symptoms may include: initial insomnia, rather

than EMW; reversed diurnal mood variation (better in the morning); severe motor retardation; and absence of feelings of guilt.


Onset usually in late teens and early 20s, often (up to 30%) family history of affective disorders.


• Level 4—switch (to tranylcypromine) or combine (venlafaxine XR plus mirtazapine).

• Remission rates were 37%, 31%, 14%, and 13%, respectively, for each level, with an overall cumulative remission rate of 67%.

• The trial highlighted patient preference for combinations/augmentations and provided some evidence to support certain strategies, e.g. lithium or T3 augmentation;

combining citalopram plus bupropion, buspirone, or venlafaxine

plus mirtazapine.

1 Rush AJ, Trivedi MH, Wisniewski SR, et al. (2006) Acute and longer-term outcomes in depressed outpatients requiring one or several treatment steps: a STAR*D report. Am J Psychiatry 163:1905–17.

Higher rates of anxiety (especially panic disorder and social phobia), somatization disorder ( Somatization disorder, p. 864), alcohol and drug misuse than in other depressive disorders.


(See Reference.)15

• Best evidence is for the use of phenelzine (15mg/day, gradually

to 60–90mg/day in divided doses—continue for 8–12wks to assess benefit) or another MAOI ( Monoamine oxidase inhibitors and

reversible monoamine oxidase inhibitors, p. 282 for guidance on prescribing/dietary advice). Reversible monoamine oxidase inhibitors (RIMAs) theoretically ought to be as effective and safer (but evidence is lacking).

• Alternatives include SSRIs (e.g. fluoxetine or sertraline) or possibly a NARI (e.g. reboxetine).

• TCAs have traditionally been regarded as less effective. However, some individuals may respond well, and the best evidence is for the use of imipramine.

• Where there is failure to respond to an adequate trial of an antidepressant, follow management principles outlined in Treating depressive illness (without psychotic features), p. 266; Treating depressive illness (with psychotic features), p. 268; An approach to treatment-resistant depression, p. 270).

Seasonal affective disorder

A somewhat controversial concept, both in terms of diagnosis ( Clinical features, see below) and treatment (using bright light therapy; Other physical treatments, p. 312). In DSM-5, ‘with seasonal pattern’ is included in specifiers describing the course of recurrent depressive episodes of both depressive and bipolar disorder. Included under ‘Recurrent depressive disorder’ in ICD- 10/11.

Clinical features

There must be a clear seasonal pattern to recurrent depressive episodes (i.e. they have occurred at the same time of year each time and fully remit once the season is over). In the northern hemisphere,

this is said to be usually around January/February (‘winter depression’). Symptoms are generally mild to moderate, with low self-esteem, hypersomnia, fatigue, appetite (including carbohydrate craving), weight gain, and social and occupational functioning.


It is unclear whether this constitutes a separate subtype of depressive disorder or whether it is simply a manifestation of atypical depression ( Atypical depressive episode, p. 272). The speculated mechanism involving melatonin synthesis has not been confirmed in controlled studies, and some authors suggest that seasonal psychosocial factors may be more important in determining the timing of recurrent depressive episodes (e.g. work demands over the Christmas and New Year periods for shopworkers).


In the USA, prevalence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is estimated at ~5%; ♂:♀ = 1:5.


• Bright light therapy ( Other physical treatments, p. 312): initially, 2hrs of 2500lx (or equivalent) on waking (response seen within 5 days and full response in 1–2wks). Maintenance therapy should be given all winter (30min of 2500lx every 1–2 days). Patients should avoid exposure to bright light during night-time. Good prognostic factors—patients with clear hypersomnia, carbohydrate craving, reduced energy in the afternoon.

• Pharmacological: best evidence for bupropion XL (licensed in the USA, not the UK16) and SSRIs (fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram, escitalopram). Alternatives include pre-sunrise propranolol (60mg/day) to suppress morning melatonin; melatonin/agomelatine at night; or other antidepressants (e.g. mirtazapine, reboxetine, duloxetine, moclobemide).

• Psychological: standard cognitive-based interventions are often used (as for depression), but the evidence base for effectiveness is lacking.

Dysthymia (ICD-10)/persistent depressive disorder (DSM-5)

Previously considered a subtype of personality disorder (see Box 6.6). Essentially, the presence of chronic depressive symptoms. These may be long-standing, but careful history-taking reveals a time when the person did feel ‘well’. It is possible to have superimposed depressive episodes (double depression), when care is needed in assessing treatment response, as baseline may be dysthymic, rather than euthymic.

Clinical features

• Depressed mood (>2yrs). • Reduced/i appetite.

• Insomnia/hypersomnia.

• Reduced energy/fatigue. • Low self-esteem.

• Poor concentration.

• Difficulties making decisions. • Thoughts of hopelessness.


Findings suggest dysthymia is biologically related to depressive disorder, e.g. family history suggesting shared genetics; shortened REM latencies in sleep studies; diurnality of symptoms; TRH/TSH challenge test abnormalities; low testosterone and adrenal–gonadal steroid levels; lowered interleukin (IL)-1β; small genual corpus callosum volume; enlarged amygdala; s-allele polymorphism of 5-HT transporter gene.


Prevalence 3–5%, ♂:♀ = 1:2, usually early onset (<20yrs), but late-onset subtype seen (>50yrs).


Less severe. More chronic than depression. Community studies show low spontaneous remission rate (2–20yrs, median 5yrs).


• Pharmacological: SSRIs are probably the treatment of choice, with the best evidence for citalopram (40mg/day) and fluoxetine (20–40mg/day). Alternatives include moclobemide, TCAs (e.g. amitriptyline, desipramine, imipramine), MAOIs, or low-dose amisulpride (25–50mg/day). Drug therapy may take several months to show benefit17 and should be regarded as a long-term treatment.

• Psychological: although evidence is lacking, CBT may be useful (usually in combination with an antidepressant). Alternatives include psychodynamic, insight-orientated or interpersonal psychotherapy, or cognitive–behavioural analysis system of psychotherapy (CBASP) ( Cognitive– behavioural analysis system of psychotherapy, p. 928).


Variable: spontaneous recovery reported as 13% over 1yr in community samples; outpatient studies suggest 10–20% of treated patients achieve remission within 1yr; ~25% suffer chronic symptoms.

Box 6.6 Dysthymia—an brief history

‘Dysthymia’, meaning ‘bad mood’ in Greek, was originally considered part of the Hippocratic concept of melancholia ( Historical perspective, p. 244). The term disappeared from use until the nineteenth century when, in 1838, the German pathologist Karl Wilhelm Stark (1787–1845) used it to differentiate disorders of mood from those of the will (dysbulias) and intellect (dysnoesias). Carl Friedrich Flemming (1799–1880) is attributed as the first psychiatrist to use the term in 1844. Flemming, who founded the Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, distinguished between disorders of intellect (anoesia), disorders of mood (dysthymia), and disorder of both intellect and mood (mania). He was one of the first psychiatrists to draw a distinction between affective disorders, which he termed ‘dysthymias’, and non-affective disorders. Influenced by the writings of Kahlbaum (1863), he later changed his views to a system based more on clinical observation and course than theoretical concepts, distinguishing disorders of mood (dysthymia), disorders of intelligence (paranoia), and disorders of will (diastrephia).

Kraepelin, in his textbooks (1909–1915), did not keep the term ‘dysthymia’, although, regarding the ‘depressive constitution’, he wrote:

‘ … they show a certain sensitivity for life’s sorrows, grieves and disappointments. Everything is burdensome for them … Their whole course of life is strongly influenced by their suffering. … They feel weak, without energy. … Sleep is normally insufficient; these patients have a great urge for sleep, but they fall asleep very late … , in the morning they do not feel refreshed but tired … The illness described here normally first manifests during adolescence and may persist without major changes throughout life.’

Due to the influence of psychodynamic thinking in the mid-twentieth century, dysthymia was overshadowed by ‘neurotic (psychogenic) depression’. Eugen Kahn (1928) and Karl Leonhard (1968) did utilize the term to describe persons with ‘psychopathic personalities’ who had chronically disturbed or irritable mood. However, the antidepressant era—from the 1960s onward—brought with it a revolution in thinking about affective disorders, culminating in the sidelining of ‘neurotic depression’ in DSM-III with a compromise diagnosis of ‘dysthymic disorder (neurotic depression)’. There was a growing consensus that dysthymia described a disabling chronic mood disorder that was treatable pharmacologically (ergo: not a personality disorder). While DSM-IV maintained ‘dysthymic disorder’ within the depressive disorders, ICD-10 placed it in a subcategory of ‘persistent mood disorders’, along with cyclothymia ( Cyclothymia, p. 348), with the emphasis on chronic, low-grade symptoms. More recently, DSM-5 uses the term ‘persistent depressive disorder’ to consolidate DSM-IV-defined ‘chronic major depressive disorder’ and ‘dysthymic disorder’, with the emphasis on chronicity. It looks like ICD-11 will put ‘dysthymic disorder’ back into the depressive disorders but keep it as a less severe form of depressive disorder.


Assumed mode of action

All currently available antidepressants appear to exert antidepressant action by increasing the availability of monoamines (5-HT, NA, and DA) via one or more of the following:

• Presynaptic inhibition of reuptake of 5-HT, NA, or DA.

• Antagonist activity at presynaptic inhibitory 5-HT or NA receptor sites, which enhances

neurotransmitter release.

• Inhibition of monoamine oxidase, reducing neurotransmitter breakdown.

• Increasing the availability of neurotransmitter precursors.

Although this net increase happens almost immediately following administration, initial resolution of depressive symptoms generally takes 10–20 days, implying therapeutic effect involves mechanisms possibly related to receptor regulation over time/changes in intracellular signalling.

Selectivity vs specificity

Although the newer antidepressants are more selective than TCAs and MAOIs in their pharmacological effects, this should not be confused with them being more specific for any particular type of depressive symptoms. All antidepressants have unwanted and often unpleasant side effects. A balance needs to be struck between efficacy in treating psychiatric symptoms and the possibility of iatrogenic problems. Patients may not be able to tolerate the anticholinergic side effects of TCAs or will be unable to achieve a therapeutic level because of side effects. Similarly, nausea or GI upset may limit the usefulness of

SSRIs in some individuals. Sometimes side effects may even be useful (e.g. sedation for patients with insomnia).

Cautionary notes

Particular caution is necessary in prescribing for certain patient groups ( Prescribing in pregnancy, p. 1028; Prescribing in lactation, p. 1030; Prescribing for patients with cardiovascular disease, p. 1032; Prescribing for patients with liver disease, p. 1034; Prescribing for patients with renal impairment, p. 1036; Prescribing for patients with epilepsy, p. 1038) such as those with renal or hepatic impairment, cardiac problems, and epilepsy; pregnant or breastfeeding women; the elderly; children; and those on other medications which may interact with antidepressants. There are also well- recognized problems such as weight gain ( Weight gain with psychiatric medication, p. 1000), hyponatraemia ( Hyponatraemia and antidepressants, p. 1026), sexual dysfunction ( Sexual dysfunction and psychiatric medication, p. 1006), and discontinuation syndromes ( Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, p. 1024).

Swapping and stopping antidepressants

(See also Table 6.3.)

An adequate ‘washout’ period is required when switching to or from the MAOIs, whereas it is usual to

cross-taper between other antidepressants (i.e. gradually reducing the dose of one, while slowly increasing the dose of the other). During this process, side effects may be enhanced (due to pharmacokinetic effects) and it is possible to induce the serotonin syndrome (SS) ( Serotonin syndrome, p. 1022).

Table 6.3 Swapping or stopping antidepressants




Clomipramine Hydrazines Tranylcypromine Moclobemide Citalopram/escitalopram Fluoxetine

Fluvoxamine Paroxetine Sertraline Venlafaxine Duloxetine Mianserin Trazodone Mirtazapine Reboxetine Bupropion Agomelatine Vortioxetine

TCAs* Clomipramine Hydrazines Tranylcypromine Moclobemide Citalo

CCT XXX W3w W3w W3w W3w W1d W1d CCT WSLD W1w W2w


W3w W3w XXX W2w W2w XXX W1d W1d W7d W7d W6w W6w

W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W7d W2w W2w W7d W7d W2w W2w W1d W1d W3w W3w

W7d W3w W2w W2w W2w W2w XXX W1d W7d XXX W6w W1w

W7d WSLD W7d CCT W7d CCT W7d CCT W7d CCT W7d CCT W7d CCT W7d CCT W7d CCT W1d CCT W1d W1d W7d CCT

Key: TCAs* = all TCAs, except clomipramine; CCT = cautious cross-taper; W1d = withdraw and wait 1 day; W7d = withdraw and wait 7 days; WSLD = withdraw and start at low dose; W2w = withdraw and wait 2wks; W3w = withdraw and wait 3wks; W6w = withdraw and wait 6wks; RG4w(+) = reduce gradually over 4wks (or longer); RG1w = reduce gradually over 1wk; STOP = no dose tapering required; HDWS = half dose, add new agent, and then withdraw slowly.

Source: data from from MIMS online: https://www.mims.co.uk/antidepressants-guide-switching-withdrawing/mental- health/article/882430 [accessed: 12 July 2018].

Combining antidepressants

Combinations of antidepressants may be more efficacious than one alone. In clinical practice, combinations are not reserved solely for treatment-resistant cases ( An approach to treatment- resistant depression, p. 270), but may also help to treat residual symptoms or offset side effects. When combining antidepressants, safety is the main priority (even before efficacy)—there is little point in using theoretically effective (heroic) combinations if the patient cannot tolerate the side effects.

Common problems

• Combining other antidepressants with MAOIs is especially likely to result in SS ( Serotonin syndrome, p. 1022).

• Combining TCAs and SSRIs may lead to more severe TCA side effects due to elevated blood levels secondary to SSRI effects on the P450 2D6 liver enzyme system, resulting in a blockade of the metabolism of TCAs. Low doses of both agents are to be preferred if used together.

• Combining SSRIs or SSRIs + SNRIs risks SS and should be done only with great caution (and explicit informed patient consent).

Common combinations (generally well tolerated)

• SSRI + trazodone or mirtazapine for those troubled by insomnia but who have responded well to the antidepressant effects of the SSRI.

• Venlafaxine + mirtazapine (as in the STAR*D study; Box 6.5, p. 271) for treatment resistance.

• Bupropion or mirtazapine + SSRIs or SNRIs to combat sexual dysfunction, which can be a

consequence of SSRI or SNRI treatment.

The following topics outline the main groups of antidepressants. This information should be used as a

guide, and the clinician is always advised to consult manufacturers’ data sheets or more detailed formularies for less common problems or specific details of administration.

Tricyclic antidepressants

(See Table 6.4.)

• Common mode of action and effects/side effects:

• Serotonin/NA (and DA) reuptake inhibition—antidepressant effects.

• Anticholinergic (antimuscarinic—M1)—dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, urinary retention,

drowsiness, confusion/memory problems (particularly in the elderly), palpitations/tachycardia.

• Adrenergic antagonism (α1)—drowsiness, postural hypotension (occasionally syncope),

tachycardia, sexual dysfunction.

• 5-HT2antagonism—anxiolytic, reduced sexual dysfunction, sedation.

• Antihistaminergic (H1)—drowsiness, weight gain.

• Advantages: well-established efficacy and large literature (in all varieties of patient groups); possibly more effective in severe depression; low cost.

• Disadvantages: toxicity in OD; may be less well tolerated than SSRIs; all TCAs may slow cardiac conduction and lower seizure threshold.

• Contraindications: acute MI, heart block, arrhythmias, IHD, severe liver disease, pregnancy, and lactation ( Prescribing in pregnancy, p. 1028; Prescribing in lactation, p. 1030; Prescribing for patients with cardiovascular disease, p. 1032; Prescribing for patients with liver disease, p. 1034;

Prescribing for patients with renal impairment, p. 1036; Prescribing for patients with epilepsy, p. 1038).

• Cautions ( Antidepressants, p. 276): cardiovascular, liver, renal disease; endocrine disorders (hyperthyroidism, adrenal tumours, diabetes); urinary retention/prostatic hypertrophy; constipation; glaucoma; epilepsy; psychotic disorders; patients with thoughts of suicide; elderly (use lower doses).

• Significant interactions (variable for different agents—always check data sheets): alcohol, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, antihypertensives, antipsychotics, barbiturates, BDZs (rare), cimetidine, digoxin, MAOIs (rare), methylphenidate, morphine, SSRIs, smoking.

• Monitoring: it is good practice to monitor cardiac and liver function, U&Es, FBC, and weight during long-term therapy.

Table 6.4 Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)




Dosulepin (Prothiaden®)


Imipramine Lofepramine


Half- Formulations life


8– T 10/25/50mg; 24 C 25/50mg; S

25 or 50mg/5mL

17– C 10/25/50mg; 28 SR 75mg; Inj


14– C/T 25mg 40

8– C

24 10/25/50/75mg

4– T 10/25mg; S 18 25mg/5mL

1.6– T 70mg; S 5 70mg/5mL

18– T 10/25mg 96

Usual starting dose

75mg/day (divided or just at night)


75– 150mg/day


25mg up to tds


25mg tds

Usual maintenance dose


30– 150mg/day (divided or just at night)

75– 150mg/day

Up to 300mg/day (divided if <100mg/day)

50– 100mg/day

70– 210mg/day


Max daily dose



225mg (hospital)


200mg 210mg



Metabolized to nortriptyline

Most SSRI- like of the TCAs. Can be given IV/IM


Depression, nocturnal enuresis, chronic pain, migraine, insomnia

Depression, OCD, and phobic disorders, adjunctive treatment of catalepsy (in narcolepsy)

Depression (with anxiety)

Depression (especially if sedation needed)

Depression, nocturnal enuresis


Depression, nocturnal enuresis

Depression (with anxiety)


Key: T = tablets; C = capsules; S = oral suspension/solution; SR = modified-release capsules; Inj = injectable form.

7–23 T 10/25mg; C 50mg


150– 300mg/day


May be very sedating

Metabolized to desipramine

May be safer in overdose. Least pro- convulsant. Metabolized to desipramine

Manufacturer recommends plasma monitoring in doses <100mg/day (‘therapeutic window’ 50– 150ng/mL)

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors and reversible monoamine oxidase inhibitors

• Mode of action:

• MAOIs: irreversible inhibition of MAO-A (acts on NA, DA, 5-HT, and tyramine) and MAO-B (acts on

DA, tyramine, phenylethylamine, and benzylamine), leading to accumulation of monoamines in the

synaptic cleft (see Table 6.5).

• RIMAs: act by reversible inhibition of MAO-A (Table 6.5).

• Side effects:

• Risk of hypertensive crisis due to inhibition of intestinal monoamine oxidase, allowing pressor

amines to enter the bloodstream (hence foods high in tyramine and certain medications should be


• Sources of dietary tyramine: cheese (except cottage and cream cheese), meat extracts and yeast

extracts (including Bovril®, Marmite®, Oxo®, and other fermented soya bean extracts), alcohol— including low-alcohol drinks (especially chianti and fortified wines and beers), non-fresh fish, non- fresh poultry, offal, avocado, banana skins, broad bean pods, caviar, herring (pickled or smoked).

• Medications: indirect sympathomimetics (amphetamine, fenfluramine, ephedrine, phenylephrine, phenylpropanolamine), cough mixtures containing sympathomimetics, nasal decongestants with sympathomimetics, levodopa, pethidine, antidepressants [TCAs, SSRIs/SNRIs, mirtazapine, bupropion, St John’s wort (see Box 6.7)]. These effects may be less with RIMAs. However, large amounts of tyramine-rich food should be avoided.

• Other side effects: antimuscarinic actions, hepatotoxicity, insomnia, anxiety, appetite suppression, weight gain, postural hypotension, ankle oedema, sexual dysfunction, possible dependency.

• Indications: usually used as second-line therapy for treatment-resistant depression (particularly atypical symptoms)/anxiety disorders (with or without panic attacks).

• Cautions: cardiovascular disease, hepatic failure, poorly controlled hypertension, hyperthyroidism, porphyria, phaeochromocytoma.

• Advantages: well-established efficacy in a broad range of affective and anxiety disorders.

• Disadvantages: dietary restrictions and drug interactions (less so with RIMAs).

• Other significant drug interactions (variable for MAOIs vs RIMAs—always check data sheets):

antidiabetics, antiepileptics, antihypertensives, antipsychotics, barbiturates, BDZs, β-blockers, buspirone, cimetidine, dopaminergics (selegiline), dextromethorphan, mazindol, pethidine, morphine, 5-HT1 agonists (rizatriptan, sumatriptan), tetrabenazine.

Table 6.5 MAOIs and RIMAs Drug Class

Half- Formulations life


Usual starting dose

30mg/day (divided or single daily dose)

150mg bd

15mg tds 10mg bd

Usual Max daily maintenance dose dose


Hydrazine derivative—less stimulating

May be used for social phobia. Possible hyponatraemia. ‘Cheese reaction’ least likely

Hydrazine derivative—less stimulating

Most stimulant of MAOIs (amphetamine- related). Do not give after 3 p.m.

risk of significant interactions

Isocarboxazid MAOI 36

Moclobemide RIMA 1–2 (Manerix®)

Phenelzine MAOI 1.5 (Nardil®)

Tranylcypromine MAOI 2.5

Key: T = tablets.

T 10mg

T 150mg

T 15mg T 10mg

10– 40mg/day

150– 600mg/day

15mg every other day to 15mg qds




60mg/day (hospital 90mg/day)

30mg/day (or greater if supervised)

Box 6.7 St John’s wort (SJW, Hypericum perforatum)

Considered a first-line antidepressant in many European countries (and recently becoming popular in the USA); not yet in the UK. May be effective for mild to moderate depressive symptoms.1

• Mode of action: recent research suggests it may act as a weak SSRI (and/or NARI/MAOI).

• Usual dose: 300mg tds (with food to prevent GI upset).

• Notable interactions: anticoagulants (especially warfarin), antidepressants (risk of serotonin

syndrome; Serotonin syndrome, p. 1022), antiepileptics, antivirals, barbiturates, ciclosporin,

digoxin, 5-HT1 agonists (rizatriptan, sumatriptan), oral contraceptives, theophylline.

1 Linde K, Berner MM, Kriston L (2008) St John’s wort for major depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 4:CD000448.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

• Common mode of action and effects/side effects: serotonin reuptake inhibition (leads to synaptic cleft; see Table 6.6).

• 5-HT1Aagonism—antidepressant, anxiolytic, anti-obsessive, anti-bulimic effects.

• 5-HT2agonism—agitation, akathisia, anxiety/panic, insomnia, sexual dysfunction.

5-HT in

• 5-HT3agonism—nausea, GI upset, diarrhoea, headache.

• Advantages: ease of dosing; may be better tolerated than TCAs—less cardiotoxic; fewer

anticholinergic side effects; low toxicity in OD.

• Disadvantages: commonly cause nausea and GI upset, headache, restlessness, and insomnia; may

be less effective for severe depressive episodes; problems on discontinuation ( Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, p. 1024).

• Contraindications: manic episode, concomitant use of MAOIs.

• Cautions ( Antidepressants, p. 276): variable and significant inhibitory effects on hepatic P450

(particularly CYP2D6) enzymes. Hence, take care when co-prescribing with drugs that undergo

extensive liver metabolism and have a narrow therapeutic range.

• Significant interactions (variable for different agents—always check data sheets): alcohol,

anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, BDZs, β-blockers, bupropion, buspirone, cimetidine,

cyproheptadine, hypoglycaemics, lithium, methadone, MAOIs, morphine, theophylline, warfarin.

smoking, TCAs,


Depression, panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia)

Depression, panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia), social anxiety

Depression (with or without anxiety symptoms), OCD, bulimia nervosa, PMDD

Depression, OCD

Depression (with or without anxiety), OCD, panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia), social phobia, PTSD, GAD

Depression (with or without anxiety), OCD, PTSD

Table 6.6 Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Drug Half- Formulations life


Citalopram 33 (Cipramil®)

Escitalopram 30 (Cipralex®)

Fluoxetine 24–

(Prozac®, Oxactin®, Olena®, Prozep®)

Fluvoxamine 13–

Usual starting dose

20mg od (10mg for panic, increase slowly)

10mg od (5mg for panic, increase slowly)

20mg od

50– 100mg od

20mg od (10mg for panic, increase slowly)

50mg (25mg for PTSD, increase slowly)

Usual maintenance dose

20–60mg od

5–20mg od

20–60mg od

100–300mg (if <150mg, in divided doses)

20–50mg od

50–200mg od

Max daily dose








Least likely to interact with other drugs. Less likely to reduce seizure threshold (caution)

Active enantiomer of citalopram

Most alerting. May cause weight loss

Moderately sedating

Most anticholinergic. Withdrawal syndrome may be more frequent. May be sedating

Moderately alerting. Fewer drug interactions, but caution still necessary

22 Paroxetine 10–


Sertraline 25–




T 10/20/40mg; S 40mg/mL

T 5/10/20mg; S 10mg/mL

C 20/60mg; 140 S 20mg/5mL

T 50/100mg

T 20/30mg; S 24 20mg/10mL

T 50/100mg

Key: T = tablets; C = capsules; S = oral suspension/solution.

Other antidepressants 1

Serotonin/noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors

• Mode of action: 5-HT and NA reuptake inhibition.

• Common adverse effects: nausea, GI upset, constipation, loss of appetite, dry mouth, dizziness,

agitation, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, headache, nervousness, sweating, weakness.

Venlafaxine (Efexor®, Alventa®, Depeflex®, Politid®, Sunveniz®, Tonpular®, Venaxx®, Vencarm®, Venlablue®, Venladex®, Venlalic®, Venlasov®, Vensir®,Venzip®, Viepax®)

• Half-life: 1–2hrs; peak plasma concentration 5hrs [10hrs for metabolite: desmethylvenlafaxine

(Pristiqs®—licence in the USA for depression, anxiety, and menopausal symptoms, 2008; not licensed

in the UK yet)].

• Formulations: 37.5/75mg tablets (MR 75/150mg capsules; 75/150/225mg tablets).

• Indications: depression, GAD, social anxiety.

• Usual dose: depression—37.5mg bd (or 75mg od of MR form), if necessary after at least 2wks to

max 375mg/day. Severe depression—begin at 150mg/day, increasing by 75mg every few days to max

dose 375mg/day. GAD and social anxiety—75mg od ( 2-weekly to max 225mg/day).

• Advantages: variable pharmacological profile over dose range; possibly more rapid onset of action

than other antidepressants; available in controlled-release form, allowing od administration.

• Disadvantages: moderate to high doses less well tolerated; need to monitor BP at doses over 200mg;

troublesome side effects; discontinuation effects common.

Duloxetine (Cymbalta®, Yentreve®, Depalta®, Duciltia®)

• Half-life: 8–17hrs; peak plasma concentration 6hrs.

• Formulations: 30/60mg capsules.

• Cautions: potential hepatotoxicity (i.e. cases of severe elevations of liver enzymes or liver injury with a

hepatocellular, cholestatic, or mixed pattern have been reported); also caution in glaucoma secondary

to mydriasis.

• Indications: depression, GAD, diabetic neuropathy, stress urinary incontinence.

• Usual dose: depression 60mg od; GAD start with 30mg od, increasing, as necessary, to max

120mg/day; diabetic neuropathy 60–120mg/day (divided doses); stress urinary incontinence 20–40mg


• Advantages: as for venlafaxine, but no controlled-release form available. May have utility in treating

chronic pain and urinary incontinence.

• Disadvantages: dose-dependent elevations in BP require monitoring; discontinuation effects common.

(Note: little evidence that doses >60mg/day confer any additional benefit in depression.)

Tetracyclic antidepressants


• Mode of action: similar to TCAs, but with fewer anticholinergic side effects.

• Half-life: 12–29hrs; peak plasma concentration 1–3hrs.

• Formulations: 10/30mg tablets.

• Indications: depression, particularly if sedation required.

• Common adverse effects: as for TCAs, but fewer cardiovascular problems, blood dyscrasias more common (especially elderly—FBC recommended 4-weekly for first 3mths of treatment, thereafter 3- to 6-monthly; stop treatment and check FBC if fever, sore throat, stomatitis, or other signs of infection develop), jaundice, arthritis, arthralgia.

• Usual dose: 30–40mg (elderly 30mg) daily in divided doses or as a single night-time dose, gradually as necessary; usual range 30–90mg/day.

• Advantages: better side effect profile than some TCAs (e.g. cardiotoxicity), sedating (which may be a desirable effect).

• Disadvantages: idiosyncratic adverse effects. Serotonin antagonists/reuptake inhibitors

Trazodone (Molipaxin®)

• Mode of action:

• 5-HT1A/1C/2Aantagonism—sedating/anxiolytic, less sexual dysfunction.

• 5-HT agonism through the active metabolite (m-chlorophenylpiperazine)—antidepressant effect. • α1antagonism—orthostatic hypotension.

• H1antagonism—sedation and weight gain.

• Common adverse effects: sedation; orthostatic hypotension; otherwise similar to TCAs (but less anticholinergic and cardiotoxic); rarely priapism (discontinue immediately; see Priapism, p. 1008).

• Half-life: 3–7hrs; peak plasma concentration 0.5–2hrs.

• Formulations: 50/100mg caps; 150mg tablets; liquid 50mg/5mL.

• Indications: depression (especially with insomnia), anxiety disorders.

• Usual dose: 150mg/day (as divided dose or just at night), to 300mg/day (max dose 600mg/day in

divided doses—in hospital). For anxiety, start at 75mg/day—max 300mg/day.

• Advantages: sedation (may be used in low doses as an adjunct to other less sedating antidepressants

or to counter sexual dysfunction), safer than TCAs in epilepsy.

• Disadvantages: higher doses necessary for antidepressant effects may not be tolerated.

Other antidepressants 2

Noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants

Mirtazapine (Zispin SolTab®)

• Mode of action:

• α2antagonism—increases 5-HT and NA release (antidepressant). • α1antagonism—orthostatic hypotension.

• M1antagonism—anticholinergic side effects.

• 5-HT2A/Cantagonism—sedating/anxiolytic, less sexual dysfunction. • 5-HT3antagonism—reduced nausea/GI upset.

• H1antagonism—sedation and weight gain.

• Common adverse effects: sedation (greater at lower doses), appetite, weight gain. Less common: transaminase elevation, jaundice, oedema, orthostatic hypotension, tremor, myoclonus, blood dyscrasias (rare agranulocytosis—if a patient develops sore throat, fever, stomatitis, or signs of infection accompanied by neutropenia, discontinue medication and closely monitor the patient).

• Half-life: 20–40hrs; peak plasma concentration 1–3hrs.

• Formulations: 15/30/45mg tablets/orodispersible tablets; oral solution 15mg/mL.

• Indications: depression (with anxiety, agitation, insomnia, weight loss).

• Usual dose: 15–30mg nocte, if necessary to max 45mg/day (divided dose or just at night).

• Advantages: low toxicity in OD, less sexual dysfunction and GI upset.

• Disadvantages: weight gain, sedating effects may be lost at higher doses (may be used to


Noradrenergic and dopaminergic reuptake inhibitors

Bupropion (Zyban®)

• Mode of action: NA and DA reuptake inhibition.

• Common adverse effects: agitation/insomnia, dry mouth, GI upset (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain,

constipation), hypertension (especially if also using nicotine patches), risk of seizures (0.4%), taste


• Half-life: 3–16hrs (12–38hrs active metabolite hydroxybupropion); peak plasma concentration 4hrs.

• Formulations: 150mg MR.

• Indications: depression (with marked psychomotor retardation or hypersomnia; SAD), but only

licensed in the UK for treatment of nicotine dependence (and possibly withdrawal from other

stimulants); may be useful in adult/child ADHD (unlicensed).

• Usual dose: 150mg od; after 6 days to 150mg bd (max 300mg/day), max single dose 150mg,

minimum of 8hrs between doses (maximum duration of treatment for nicotine dependence 7–9 wks).

• Advantages: unusual mode of action; alerting effects may be useful for patients with symptoms of fatigue or hypersomnia; may help treat impulse disorders/addictions when used primarily as an


• Disadvantages: possible seizure induction, hypersensitivity reactions (rare but may be severe). Noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors

Reboxetine (Edronax®)

• Mode of action: NA reuptake inhibition.

• Common adverse effects: insomnia, sweating, postural hypotension/dizziness, tachycardia, sexual

dysfunction, dysuria, urinary retention, dry mouth, constipation, hypokalaemia if used long term in the


• Half-life: 13hrs; peak plasma concentration 2hrs.

• Formulations: 4mg tablets (scored).

• Indications: depression (particularly with atypical features).

• Usual dose: 4mg bd, after 3–4wks to 10mg/day in divided doses (max 12mg/day).

• Advantages: novel mode of action; alerting effects may be useful for patients with symptoms of fatigue

or hypersomnia; may improve social functioning; relatively safe in OD.

• Disadvantages: mainly due to adverse effects.


(See Box 6.8.)

Box 6.8 Psychedelics for mood disorders?

Psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin, were extensively used in the treatment of mood disorders and other psychiatric conditions before their prohibition in the late 1960s. A recent systematic review of published clinical treatment studies for mood disorders, while highlighting the methodological shortcomings of such other publications, did find clear evidence of clinician-judged improvement after treatment with psychedelics in 79.2% of participants.1 At the very least, there are reasonable grounds for further investigations using more robust methodologies. In one recently completed pilot study in the UK,2 psilocybin was tested with psychological support for treatment- resistant depressive disorder. After a single 25mg dose of psilocybin, depressive symptoms were markedly reduced at 1wk and 3mths, with marked and sustained improvements in anxiety and anhedonia. Another study giving psilocybin to cancer patients3 found marked improvements in both clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism and decreases in death anxiety that were sustained at 6-mth follow- up. The degree of mystical-type psilocybin experience on the session day correlated with positive therapeutic outcomes.

1 Rucker JJ, Jelen LA, Flynn S, Frowde KD, Young AH (2016) Psychedelics in the treatment of unipolar mood disorders: a systematic review. J Psychopharmacol 30:1220–9.

2 Carhart-Harris RL, Bolstridge M, Day CMJ, et al. (2016) Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: an open-label feasibility study. Lancet Psychiatry 3:619–27.

3 Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Carducci MA, et al. (2016) Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized double-blind trial. J Psychopharmacol 30:1181–97.

Other antidepressants 3

Melatonin agonist and specific serotonin antagonists (MaSSAs)

Agomelatine (Valdoxan®)

• Mode of action:

• MT1/MT2melatonin agonism—may promote sleep;

• 5-HT2Cantagonism—may increase NA and DA in the frontal cortex.

• Common adverse effects: nausea, dizziness, headache, somnolence, insomnia, migraine, diarrhoea, constipation, upper abdominal pain, sweating, back pain, fatigue, anxiety, raised serum transaminases. Less common: paraesthesiae, blurred vision, eczema. Rare: hepatitis, rash, suicidal behaviour.

• Half-life: 1–2hrs (no major active metabolites); peak plasma concentration 1–2hrs.

• Formulations: 25mg coated tablet.

• Indications: depression (with initial insomnia).

• Usual dose: 25mg nocte, if necessary after 2wks to 50mg nocte.

• Advantages: unusual mode of action, possibly useful if there is significant sleep–wake disturbance,

well tolerated—no known discontinuation symptoms, sexual side effects, weight gain, or cardiac


• Disadvantages: need to check liver function before starting and afterwards (recommended: 6, 12,


Serotonin modulator and stimulators (SMS)

Vortioxetine (Brintellex®)

• Mode of action:

• Inhibition of serotonin reuptake transporter. • 5-HT1Aagonist.

• 5-HT3, 5-HT1D, 5-HT7antagonist.

• 5-HT1Bpartial agonist.

• Common adverse effects: nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, dry mouth.

• Half-life: ~66hrs (no major active metabolites); peak plasma concentration 7–11hrs.

• Formulations: 5mg, 10mg, 20mg tablets.

• Indications: depression.

• Usual dose: 10mg mane, if necessary to 20mg mane; maintenance 5–20mg daily.

• Advantages: similar efficacy to other antidepressants, well tolerated, reduced risk of weight gain and

sexual dysfunction. Possibly cognitive enhancing.

• Disadvantages: high rates of nausea. Therapeutic role remains to be established, as just launched in

the UK in 2015 (in the USA and European Union in 2013); https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ta367/chapter/1-Guidance [accessed 20 June 2018].

The future

(See Box 6.9.)

Box 6.9 Antidepressants of the future

While there are a number of SNDRIs (‘triple reuptake inhibitors’) in development [e.g. tedatioxetine (Lu AA24530) (Lundbeck/Takeda), ansofaxine (LY03005) (Luye America Pharmaceuticals), amitifadine (DOV-21,947 or EB-1010) (Euthymics Bioscience)], there is a lot of anticipation around a new class of antidepressants—the NMDA receptor modulators (NRMs). Early work with ketamine1 has suggested that these drugs may be neuroprotective, have minimal side effects, and even treat depression within 24hrs of administration.

Not surprisingly, many drug companies have an NRM in development [e.g. AV-101 (VistaGen Therapeutics), AVP-786 (Avanir Pharmaceuticals), AZD-6423 (AstraZeneca), CERC-301 (Cerecor), esketamine (intra-nasal ketamine) (Janssen Pharmaceuticals), NRX-1074 and rapastinel (GLYX-13) (Naurex)].

Other non-monoaminergic drugs in the pipeline include: mifepristone (RU-486) (Corcept Therapeutics) for psychotic depression which acts by modulating activity within the HPA axis of the brain; LY2940094 (Eli Lilly) that acts as nociception (NOC) antagonist; ALKS-5461 (Alkermes) that targets opioid receptors; strada (MSI-195 or ademetionine) (MSI Methylation Sciences) which is a form of the amino acid methionine and acts by modulating cytokines through promoting methylation; and NSI-189 (NeuralStem) that stimulates neurogenesis within the hippocampus.

1 Malhi GS, Byrow Y, Cassidy F, et al. (2016) Ketamine: stimulating antidepressant treatment? BJPsych Open 2:e5–9.

ECT 1: background

Electroconvulsive therapy

A highly effective (if controversial) treatment for depression (particularly with psychotic symptoms). May act more rapidly than antidepressant medication. Advances in brief anaesthesia and neuromuscular paralysis, introduction of brief-pulse ECT machines, and use of EEG monitoring have led to improved safety and tolerability. Decline in the use of ECT reflects the influence of non-evidence-based factors, rather than being an indicator of its efficacy (see Box 6.10). Over the last 20yrs, there have been active

efforts to improve standards of delivery, education, and training. These are set out clearly in recent APA and Royal College of Psychiatrists publications.18,19 ECT clinics in England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland are accredited by Electroconvulsive Therapy Accreditation Service (ECTAS) and in Scotland by Scottish ECT Accreditation Network (SEAN).20

Does ECT actually work?

A comprehensive meta-analysis of all ECT studies in depression21 found:

• ECT vs all placebo (n = 523): odds ratio (OR) 4.77 [95% confidence interval (CI): 2.39–9.49]. • ECT vs sham ECT (n = 245): OR 2.83 (95% CI: 1.30–6.17).

• ECT vs pill placebo (n = 266): OR 11.08 (95% CI 3.10–39.65).

• ECT vs antidepressants (n = 892): OR 3.72 (95% CI 2.60–5.32).

Mode of action

Controversial therapy needs a sound evidence base. Presuming ignorance (‘we don’t really know how it works, but it does … ’) ignores real progress in our understanding of ECT.

• Rejected theories: psychoanalytical views of ECT efficacy as due to ‘fear’, ‘regression’, or

‘punishment’; brain injury theory ( Box 6.12, p. 309); amnestic theory—ECT has some effects on cognitive function ( ECT 6: side effects and other specific problems, p. 308), but it is not the primary mode of action.

• Anticonvulsant/altered functional activity theory: ECT acts as a powerful anticonvulsant (increases seizure threshold, delta activity, and inhibitory transmitters, e.g. GABA and opioids), causing a reduction in functional activity within, and in connectivity between, specific brain regions related to the therapeutic response (regional cerebral blood flow/glucose metabolism show reduction in anterior frontal regions post-ictally and for weeks to months after, associated with better outcomes and correlating with raised seizure threshold).

• Anti-delirium/restorative sleep theory: ECT does lead to EEG changes (e.g. delta activity with greater amplitude and reduced frequency) similar to those seen in normal sleep and correlated with clinical improvement. Whether this is a therapeutic action or an (albeit important) epiphenomenon is not certain.

• Neurochemical theories: despite the fact that neurochemical explanations have been advocated for explaining how ECT works, supporting evidence comes from pre-clinical and animal work. Preliminary human studies support a role for DA and GABA/glutamate.

• Neuroendocrine theory: it is proposed that ECT works by correcting a dysregulation of neuropeptides through diencephalic stimulation. Studies have found ECT enhances the production and release of several neuropeptides (e.g. TRH, prolactin, corticotropin, cortisol, oxytocin, vasopressin, β-endorphin, and, less consistently, GH). However, these changes could be non-specific effects of stress/seizure, and not necessarily the therapeutic effect of ECT.

• Other (speculative): neurogenesis—the animal model of ECT has been shown to promote neurogenesis in non-human primates; gene transcription—the likelihood of remission with ECT in patients with treatment-resistant depression has been associated with two polymorphisms related to DA metabolism in the prefrontal cortex; brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)—preliminary evidence suggests serum BDNF concentrations increase after ECT.

Box 6.10 ECT: an historical perspective

The use of convulsive treatments for psychiatric disorders originated with the clinical observation of apparent antagonism between schizophrenia (then dementia praecox) and epilepsy. Patients who had a seizure were relieved of their psychotic symptoms, and Meduna noted glial cells in the brains of patients with epilepsy, compared with reduced numbers in those with schizophrenia. In 1934, he induced a seizure with an injection of camphor-in-oil in a patient with catatonic schizophrenia and continued this treatment every 3 days. After the fifth seizure, the patient was able to talk spontaneously and began to eat and care for himself for the first time in 4yrs, making a full recovery with three further treatments. Chemically induced convulsive treatments using camphor or metrazol (pentylenetetrazol) became accepted for the treatment of schizophrenia but had problems. Cerletti and Bini introduced the use of ‘electric shock’ to induce seizures in 1938, a method that became the standard. Initially, ECT was unmodified (i.e. without anaesthetic or muscle relaxant), but because of

frequent injury, curare was first used as a muscle relaxant in the 1940s, followed by succinylcholine in the 1950s. Advances in brief anaesthesia mean the current procedure is much safer and recovery more rapid. Indications have also changed, with the majority of patients receiving ECT for severe depressive illness, although it is also effective in other conditions ( ECT 2: indications, contraindication, and considerations, p. 296).

Further reading: Shorter E, Healy D (2007) Shock Therapy: A History of Electroconvulsive Treatment in Mental Illness. Piscataway Township: Rutgers University Press.

ECT 2: indications, contraindications, and considerations


(See Box 6.11.)

• Depressive episode: severe episodes, need for rapid antidepressant response (e.g. due to failure to

eat or drink in depressive stupor; high suicide risk), failure of drug treatments, inability to tolerate side effects of drug treatment (e.g. puerperal depressive disorder, Disorders related to childbirth, p. 494), previous history of good response to ECT, patient preference.

• Other indications: treatment-resistant psychosis and mania (50–60% effective), schizoaffective disorder ( Disorders related to schizophrenia, p. 228), catatonia ( The catatonic patient, p. 1054), neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) ( Neuroleptic malignant syndrome, p. 1018), neurological crises (e.g. extreme Parkinsonian symptoms: on–off phenomena), intractable seizure disorders (acts to raise seizure threshold).


There are no absolute contraindications. Where possible, use of ECT should be limited for patients with cerebral aneurysm, recent MI, cardiac arrhythmias, intracerebral haemorrhage, acute/impending retinal detachment, phaeochromocytoma, high anaesthetic risk, and unstable vascular aneurysm/malformation ( ECT 5: further notes on treatment, p. 304).

Box 6.11 NICE Technology Appraisal 59 for ECT

Guidance on the use of electroconvulsive therapy (May 2003)

ECT is used only to achieve rapid and short-term improvement of severe symptoms after an adequate trial of other treatment options has proven ineffective and/or when the condition is considered to be life-threatening in individuals with severe depressive illness, catatonia, or prolonged or severe manic episode … The current state of the evidence did not allow general use of ECT in the management of schizophrenia to be recommended … ECT is not recommended as a maintenance therapy in depressive illness because the longer-term benefits and risks of ECT have not been clearly established … The decision as to whether ECT is clinically indicated should be based on a documented assessment of the risks and potential benefits to the individual, including: risks associated with the anaesthetic, contemporaneous comorbidities, anticipated adverse events, particularly cognitive impairment, and risks of not having the treatment.

Source: data from https://www.nice.org.uk/Guidance/ta59 [accessed 20 June 2018].

Other considerations

• Time-limited action: benefit from ECT tends to dissipate after a couple of weeks. There is a need for a clear maintenance plan to be in place before the course of ECT finishes. ECT should not be considered the only treatment—except in very rare cases when continution/maintenance treatment is indicated ( ECT 5: further notes on treatment, p. 304).

• Consent ( Capacity and consent, p. 856): guidelines on ECT vary between legislatures concerning the use of capacity legislation/Mental Health Act (MHA). Decisions rest on assessment of capacity, informal/formal status, active (or advance statement) refusal, and the potential as a lifesaving intervention.

• Side effects: ECT does cause potential side effects ( ECT 6: side effects and other specific problems, p. 308), and administration of ECT will always be a balance of risk and benefit. Of particular note is the potential to cause cognitive problems ( ECT 6: side effects and other specific problems,

p. 308), and this may dictate electrode positioning (see Fig. 6.2). (See Table 6.7 for the effects of psychiatric drugs on ECT.)

Table 6.7 Psychiatric drugs and ECT

Drug class







May reduce antidepressant efficacy of ECT. Make seizures less likely

May augment antidepressant effect of ECT. Reported prolongation of seizures and tardive seizures

Reduces seizure threshold. May prolong seizures. May increase post-ictal confusion (case reports only)

Raise seizure threshold

All tend to reduce seizure threshold. Concerns about clozapine (case reports of prolonged and tardive seizures) may be overstated


Avoid, if possible. Consider non-BDZ hypnotics. Do not suddenly stop if well established

Use low initial stimulus (dose titration methods). Problems reported more for SSRIs

Use low initial stimulus (dose titration methods)

Clarify if drug is for treatment of epilepsy or as a mood stabilizer. Higher doses of ECT may be necessary

Use low initial stimulus (dose titration methods)


Lowest dose possible. Do not give immediately before ECT (rule of thumb at least 3hrs pre- ECT for last dose)

Do not suddenly stop—safely reduce to minimum dose. Prophylaxis may require addition of antidepressant towards end of ECT course (inform ECT team)

Not contraindicated during ECT

If prescribed for epilepsy, continue—do not stop. If a mood stabilizer, continue initially and only reduce if seizure induction is problematic

Clozapine should be withheld 12hrs before any anaesthetic and restarted once fully recovered

Note: ensure the anaesthetist is fully informed of all medications the patient is currently taking. ECT 3: work-up and administration

ECT work-up

• Ensure full medical history and current medication are noted on the ECT recording sheet.

• Also note any relevant findings from the physical examination.

• Ensure recent routine blood results are available (FBC, U&Es, any other relevant investigations). • If indicated, arrange a pre-ECT CXR and/or ECG.

• Ensure ECT is prescribed correctly.

• Inform the anaesthetic team of the proposed ECT.

• Inform the ECT service of the proposed ECT.

• Ensure the patient is aware of the usual procedure and when treatment is scheduled.

• Ensure the consent form has been signed.

Pre-ECT checks

• Check the patient’s identity.

• Check the patient is fasted (for 8hrs) and has emptied their bowels and bladder prior to coming to the

treatment room.

• Check the patient is not wearing restrictive clothing and jewellery/dentures have been removed.

• Consult the ECT record of previous treatments (including anaesthetic problems).

• Ensure the consent form is signed appropriately.

• Check no medication that might increase or reduce the seizure threshold has been recently given. • Check the ECT machine is functioning correctly.

• Ensure dose settings are correct for the specific patient.

Administration of anaesthetic

• Establish IV access.

• Attach monitoring (pulse oximetry, BP, EEG, EMG).

• Ventilate the patient with pure O2 via a face mask.

• Give a short-acting anaesthetic, followed by a muscle relaxant.

• Hyperventilation with O2 is sometimes used to augment seizure activity.

• Insert a bite-block between the patient’s teeth to protect the tongue and teeth from jaw clenching (due

to direct stimulation of masseter muscles).

Administration of ECT

• Apply electrodes to the scalp (see Fig. 6.2 for positioning).

• Test for adequate contact between the electrodes and the scalp prior to treatment (‘self-test’ function

on the ECT machine).

• Administer the dose.

• Monitor the length of seizure ( ECT 4: notes on treatment, p. 302).

• Record the dose, seizure duration, and any problems on the ECT record (and ensure the anaesthetic

administration is also recorded).

• Transfer the patient to recovery.


• Ensure that there is an adequate airway.

• Monitor the patient’s pulse and BP until stable.

• There should be continuous recovery nurse presence and observation until the patient is fully


• Maintain IV access until able to leave recovery.

Fig. 6.2 ECT: electrode placement.

Bilateral ECT (BECT): one electrode is applied to each side of the head. This positioning is also referred to as bitemporal ECT or bi-frontotemporal ECT. The centre of the electrode on the left (L) and the right (R1) should be 4cm above, and perpendicular to, the midpoint of a line between the lateral angle of the eye and the external auditory meatus.

Unilateral ECT (UECT): the electrodes are applied to the same ‘non-dominant’ hemisphere (which is usually the right-hand side). The first electrode (R1) is in the same position as before, but the second electrode (R2) is applied over the parietal surface of the scalp. The exact position on the parietal arc is not crucial; the aims are to maximize the distance between the electrodes to reduce

shunting of electrical current and to choose a site on the arc where the electrode can be applied firmly and flat against the scalp. The position illustrated in Fig. 6.2 is also known as the ‘temporo-parietal’ or ‘d’Elia’ positioning.

Bilateral or unilateral electrode placement?

Local ECT policy may vary, but the usual reasons for using unilateral/bilateral electrode placement are:22

• BECT: speed of response is a priority, previous failure of UECT, previous good response without

significant memory problems to BECT.

• UECT: speed of response less important, previous good response to UECT, minimizing memory

problems is a priority, e.g. cognitive impairment already present.

ECT 4: notes on treatment

Ensure you have had adequate training and supervision before independently administering ECT.23

Energy dosing

Because the higher the stimulus used, the greater the likelihood of transient cognitive disturbance, and because once the current is above the seizure threshold, further increases only contribute to post-ECT confusion, there are a number of dosing strategies used. Local policy and the type of ECT machine used will dictate which method is preferred. For example:

• Dose titration: the most accurate method, delivering the minimum stimulus necessary to produce an adequate seizure, and therefore to be preferred. Treatment begins with a low stimulus, with the dose gradually until an adequate seizure is induced. Once the approximate seizure threshold is known, the next treatment dose is to about 50–100% (for BECT) or 100–200% (for UECT—some protocols 500–800%) above the threshold. The dose is only further if later treatments are sub-therapeutic, and the amount of dose increase will be governed by local policy.

• Age dosing: selection of a predetermined dose calculated on the basis of the patient’s age (and the ECT machine used). The main advantage is that this is a less complex regime. However, there is the possibility of ‘overdosing’ (i.e. inducing excessive cognitive side effects) because the seizure threshold is not determined.

As ECT itself raises the seizure threshold, the dose is likely to rise by an average of 80% over the length of a treatment course. Higher (or lower) doses will also be needed when the patient is taking drugs that raise (or lower) the seizure threshold (see Table 6.7).

Effective treatment

When a sub-therapeutic treatment is judged to have occurred, the treatment is repeated at different energy settings ( Energy dosing, see above).

• EEG monitoring: the gold standard, with an ictal EEG having typical phases (see Fig. 6.3). The

presence of these features [Royal College of Psychiatrists’ ECT Handbook ‘new’ (2005/13) criteria), no matter how short the seizure activity, is deemed to constitute a therapeutic treatment. Usually the ictal EEG activity lasts 25–130s (motor seizure ~20% less).

• Timing of convulsion: where EEG monitoring is not used, the less reliable measure of length of observable motor seizure is used, with an effective treatment defined as a motor seizure lasting at least 15s from the end of the ECT dose to the end of observable motor activity [Royal College of Psychiatrists’ ECT Handbook ‘old’ (1995) criteria].

• Cuff technique: often an under-used technique, involving the isolation of a forearm or leg from the effects of muscle relaxant, by inflation of a BP cuff to above the systolic pressure. As the isolated limb does not become paralysed, the motor seizure can be more easily observed.

ECT 5: further notes on treatment

Other physiological effects of ECT

• Musculoskeletal—direct stimulation: tonic contraction—opisthotonus, supraphysiological bite (not blocked by relaxants; may cause dental injury; bite-block essential); generalized (tonic–clonic) seizure —risk of fractures (vertebral, long bone, avulsion).

• Cardiovascular ( ECT 2: indications, contraindications, and considerations, p. 296): cerebrovascular — metabolic requirements due to seizure ( cerebral blood flow; cerebral blood volume; raised ICP); autonomic effects— vagal tone (bradycardia, risk of asystole/AF, salivation); adrenaline release —peaks during seizure, resolves over 10–20mins (tachycardia, hypertension—post-ECT monitoring essential).

• Neuroendocrine ( ECT 1: background, p. 294): increase in adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, and glucagon may lead to insulin resistance (closely monitor diabetic patients).

• Other: intra-gastric pressure—possible risk of aspiration (appropriate pre-ECT fasting/pre-med); raised intraocular pressure (risk in narrow-angle glaucoma, recent ophthalmic surgery).

A course of ECT

• Rarely will a single treatment be effective to relieve the underlying disorder (but this does occasionally occur).

• ECT is usually given twice a week, sometimes reducing to once a week once symptoms begin to respond. This limits cognitive problems, and there is no evidence that treatments of greater frequency enhance treatment response.

• Treatment of depression usually consists of 6–12 treatments; treatment-resistant psychosis and mania of up to (or sometimes more than) 20 treatments; and catatonia usually resolves in 3–5 treatments.

Continuation or maintenance ECT

Continuation ECT (C-ECT): the provision of additional treatments during the 6-mth period after remission for the primary purpose of preventing relapse.

Maintenance ECT (M-ECT): prophylactic use of ECT for periods longer than 6mths past the index episode for the purposes of mitigating recurrence.24

• Although not recommended in NICE guidelines in 2003 (see Box 6.11), the most recent update of

NICE depression guidelines (October 2009) is neutral on the issue.

• The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ ECT Handbook (2013) suggests that C-ECT ‘should be

considered for patients with a relapsing or refractory depression that has previously responded well to ECT, but for whom standard pharmacological and psychological continuation treatment is ineffective or inappropriate’.

• APA (2001) ECT guidelines identify a similar patient group but additionally require: (1) the patient is able to provide informed consent; (2) evidence that the patient’s cognitive function and physical condition do not preclude the ongoing administration of ECT; and (3) the patient’s attitude, circumstances, and level of social support are conducive to ensuring treatment compliance and safety after treatment.

• There is no specific or universally supported treatment schedule for C-ECT; however, after completing a course of conventional bi-weekly ECT, a common strategy is: weekly for 1mth; fortnightly for 1mth; and monthly for up to 6mths after remission.

• Only in exceptional circumstances should M-ECT (i.e. >6mths after remission) be considered as a treatment option, in close consultation with the patient and with a formal review by another consultant, preferably with specific ECT experience.

• Usually patients are aware of how effective ECT has been for them, and a collaborative approach can be established (balancing the frequency of ECT against the return of symptoms and side effects, especially memory problems).

Fig 6.3 EEG monitoring of ECT. ‘Real world’ examples of EEG traces for: (A) a short ‘therapeutic’ seizure (20s visual and 22s EEG) and (B) a subthreshold ‘non-therapeutic’ stimulation. In example (A), typical features are seen: 1. end of electrical stimulation; 2. latent phase— low-voltage polyspike activity (no visible convulsion); 3. increasing amplitude of polyspike activity and slowing of frequency (associated with clonic phase of convulsion); 4. classic 3Hz ‘spike and wave’ (delta) activity; 5. gradual loss of 3Hz pattern; 6. endpoint with lower amplitude and frequency than baseline (‘post-ictal suppression’).

Outpatient ECT

ECT should be given to outpatients in exceptional circumstances only if: • Mild to moderate illness, as defined by a psychiatrist (e.g. CGI 2–4).

• Availability of 24hr supervision to ensure safety and observation.

• The patient should not have active thoughts of suicide.

• Regular (weekly) assessment by the consultant (or deputy).

ECT in pregnancy

• ECT may be the preferred treatment choice due to its rapid action.

• ECT in the second or third trimester may present more technical difficulties for the anaesthetist, as the

risk of aspiration of stomach contents increases.

• The patient’s obstetrician and the anaesthetist should be involved before a decision is taken to

proceed to treatment.

• Preparation for ECT should be as per routine, with the addition of any instructions from the

anaesthetist, e.g. administration of antacids on the morning of treatment.

• Any concerns should be reported urgently to the obstetrician.

ECT in children and adolescents

An exceptionally rare circumstance—hence, special provisions apply:

• The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends that for those under 16yrs, two further opinions are

sought, in addition to the treating consultant—one from a child and adolescent psychiatrist and one

from another psychiatrist from a different clinical unit.

• Adolescents aged 16–18yrs are able to consent and refuse treatment in the same way as an adult, but

parental approval is advised. In Scotland, those under 16yrs can consent if they understand the

process, but again parental approval is advised.

• For compulsory treatment, it should be noted that provisions of legislation governing ECT have no

lower age limit.

ECT 6: side effects and other specific problems

Side effects

• Early: some loss of short-term memory (STM) ( ECT and memory loss, see below), retrograde amnesia—usually resolves completely (64%), headache (48%—if recurrent, use simple analgesia), temporary confusion (10–27%), nausea/vomiting (9%), clumsiness (5%), muscular aches.

• Late: loss of long-term memory (rare; ECT and memory loss, see below).

• Mortality: no greater than for general anaesthesia in minor surgery (2:100,000)—usually due to

cardiac complications in patients with known cardiac disease (hence the need for close monitoring).

Specific problems

• Persistent ineffective seizures: check the use of drugs that may raise the seizure threshold; consider use of IV caffeine or theophylline.

• Prolonged seizures (i.e. over 150–180s): administer IV Diazemuls® (5mg), repeated every 30s until seizure stops (alternative: midazolam). Lower energy dosing for next treatment.

• Post-seizure confusion: reassurance; nurse in a calm environment; ensure safety of patient; if necessary, consider sedation (e.g. Diazemuls®/midazolam). If a recurrent problem, use a low dose of a BDZ prophylactically during recovery, immediately after ECT.

ECT and memory loss

• Research has focused on retrograde amnesia because of (highly publicized) claims that ECT causes more enduring deficits in past memories (especially autobiographical) than new memories.

• These studies show that the period closest to receiving ECT is least well remembered and can be permanently lost.

• Recent systematic reviews of evidence for loss of past memories25 highlight the difficulties in interpreting the literature, e.g. unknown sensitivity of autobiographical memory measures, need for premorbid measures of cognitive status. Nevertheless, they find:

• Autobiographical memory loss does occur.

• It is related to how ECT is administered.

• Specific recommendations to minimize memory loss include: use of right UECT; brief pulse, rather

than sine wave, ECT; dose titration; and limited number and frequency of ECT sessions.

Does ECT damage the brain?

• Psychiatrists—such as Peter Breggin, author of Toxic Psychiatry (1993) and Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (2007)—have been very vocal opponents of ECT, believing official reports have deliberately ignored evidence of negative effects.

• Even proponents of ECT in early writings suggested they believed that a degree of cerebral damage (akin to a concussion) was necessary for ECT to work—the rejected brain injury theory.

• Strong evidence against ECT causing damage comes from a primate study comparing ECT, magneto- convulsive therapy (MCT), or anaesthesia alone, which reports no histological lesions after 6wks of daily treatment.26

• There are few post-mortem reports, but one study found no histopathological evidence of brain injury in the brain of a 92-yr-old lady with major depression who had received 91 sessions of ECT during the last 22yrs of her life.27

• Most mental health associations and colleges, including the APA and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, have concluded there is no evidence that ECT causes structural brain damage (see Box 6.12).

Box 6.12 Structural brain damage from ECT

Devanand, Dwork, Hutchinson, et al. (1994)1 stated that, ‘prospective CT and MRI studies show no evidence of ECT-induced structural changes’, commenting that early autopsy case reports from the unmodified ECT period had cerebrovascular lesions due to undiagnosed disease or agonal changes. Furthermore, animal studies using human-comparable intensity and frequency of stimulus showed no neuronal loss, even after long courses of ECT, when appropriate controls were in place.

‘It is more dangerous to drive to the hospital than to have the treatment. The unfair stigma against ECT is denying a remarkably effective medical treatment to patients who need it.’

1 Devanand DP, Dwork AJ, Hutchinson ER, et al. (1994) Does ECT alter brain structure? Am J Psychiatry 151:957–70.

Charles Kellner, Professor of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City quoted in USA Today (6 December, 1995) while editor of Convulsive Therapy (now Journal of ECT).

Neurosurgery for mental disorders

Despite the controversial nature of irreversible neurosurgery for mental disorders (NMD), it is surprising that patients—rather than psychiatrists—often raise the issue, particularly when they retain insight into the chronic, intractable nature of their illness.28 Neurosurgery is only performed in exceptional cases

(see Box 6.13) when all other treatments have failed, and its use is governed by specific mental health legislation. It is still possible, however, to encounter patients who have had surgical procedures

performed in the past, and this may complicate the diagnosis of current problems (e.g. depression, OCD, dementia, especially frontal lobe symptoms) when there is demonstrable damage to key brain structures on CT/MRI.

Current criteria for NMD

• Severe mood disorders, OCD, severe anxiety disorders.

• The patient must want the operation.

• All other reasonable treatments have repeatedly failed (i.e. pharmacological, ECT, psychological). • The patient remains ill but has capacity to provide informed consent.29

Current surgical techniques

These employ stereotactic methods using preoperative MRI to establish target coordinates and a fixed stereotactic frame (or new ‘frameless’ stereotactic instruments utilizing infrared positioning). Lesioning may be effected by implantation of yttrium rods or radiofrequency lesioning. Lesions are localized to the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate loop (the ‘limbic’ loop), which is strongly implicated in the regulation of emotion and mood,,30 e.g.:

• Stereotactic subcaudate tractotomy (SST).

• Anterior cingulotomy (ACING).

• Stereotactic limbic leucotomy (SLL) (combining subcaudate tractotomy and ACING). • Anterior capsulotomy (ACAPS).

Adverse effects

Older techniques were associated with severe amotivational syndromes (up to 24%), marked personality change (up to 60%), and epilepsy (up to 15%). Stereotactic techniques report minimal post- operative problems with confusion (3–10%), incontinence (1–9%), apathy, weight gain, and seizures (dependent on the type of surgery). More significant personality change and impaired social or cognitive functioning are infrequent, and there is more likely to be improvement.


Given the treatment-resistant nature of the patients receiving surgery, reports of good outcome are surprisingly high (e.g. depression 34–68%; OCD 27–67%), although results should be interpreted cautiously in view of the obvious lack of any control data. ACAPS and SLL appear better for OCD, and ACING and SST better for severe mood disorder.

Box 6.13 Psychosurgery—a historical perspective

In 1935, Egas Moniz and Almeida Lima carried out the first ‘prefrontal leucotomy’ (based on the work of Fulton and Jacobsen in bilateral ablation of prefrontal cortices in chimpanzees in 1934). At the time, this was viewed with great enthusiasm (culminating in Moniz being awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in 1949), and other practitioners adapted the early procedures, with Freeman and Watts introducing the standard ‘prefrontal leucotomy’ (the notorious lobotomy) in 1936, publishing a standard textbook Psychosurgery in 1942, and Freeman pioneering ‘transorbital leucotomy’ in 1946.

The impact of surgical treatment at a time when there were few other physical treatments should not be underestimated, and around 12,000 procedures were performed between 1936 and 1961 in the UK alone (over 40,000 in the USA). Techniques were refined (e.g. open cingulotomy, bimedial leucotomy, orbital undercut) from earlier blind, free-hand procedures. However, the advent of effective psychopharmacological treatments and changes in the social climate led to a marked decline in practice from the 1960s onwards.

Nowadays, the term ‘psychosurgery’ has been abandoned and replaced with the more accurate ‘neurosurgery for mental disorder’. Modern techniques could not be further removed from older procedures and utilize neuroimaging and neurosurgical techniques to lesion clearly defined neuroanatomical targets ( Current surgical techniques, see opposite). Between 1984 and 1994, there were a total of only 20 operations per year performed in the UK,1 and since then, the number has diminished further. Available data for England and Wales report four procedures in 2015/2016 and only one in 2016/2017.2 In Scotland, the Dundee Advanced Interventions Service similarly reported just four procedures for 2015/2016 and none in 2016/2017.3

1 CRAG Working Group (1996) Neurosurgery for Mental Disorder. Scotland: HMSO (J2318 7/96).

2 Care Quality Commission (2019) Monitoring the Mental Health Act in 2016/17 report. https://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/20190108_mhareport2017_amend_1.pdf [accessed 24 January 2019].

3 Advanced Interventions Service (2018) AIS annual report 2018. http://www.advancedinterventions.org.uk/index.php/most-recent- reports.html [accessed 20 June 2018].

Other physical treatments

Bright light therapy (phototherapy)

First introduced for the treatment of SAD (a proposed new syndrome at the time) by Rosenthal,31 on the basis that bright light therapy might ameliorate symptoms of winter depression, due to effects on circadian and seasonal rhythms mediated by melatonin. Recent research has suggested that the effects of phototherapy may be independent of melatonin and produce a ‘phase advance’ in circadian rhythms (hence, treatment may be best given first thing in the morning). It is usually administered by use of a light box (alternatives include light visors) producing 2500–10,000lx. Treatment duration is for 2hrs (with 2500lx) or 30min (with 10,000lx) a day, with a course lasting 1–3wks (treatment response is usually noticeable within 5 days). If no response within 3wks, discontinue. When effective, continue until time of natural remission to prevent relapse (usually 2–5wks). Dawn-stimulating alarm clocks that gradually illuminate the bedroom over 2hrs to around 250lx at the point of waking may also be effective.

Adverse effects Particularly with 10,000lx: headache, visual problems (e.g. eye strain, blurred vision) —usually settle; if persistent, reduce the duration or intensity of exposure; irritability; rarely: manic episodes, thoughts of suicide (possibly due to alerting effect and energy).

Indications SAD ( Seasonal affective disorder, p. 273), circadian rhythm disorders ( Circadian rhythm sleep–wake disorders (CRSD) 1: overview, p. 454), possibly other depressive disorders and dysthymia.

Contraindications Agitation, insomnia, history of hypomania/mania.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation

Currently being researched. However, the difference in stimulation parameters used across reported studies makes comparisons difficult. The rationale for treatment is either to increase activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (using high-frequency stimulation, e.g. 20Hz) or to reduce activity in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (using lowfrequency stimulation, e.g. 1Hz). Initial results in treatment- resistant depression ought to be viewed with caution (see Cochrane review),32 although this mode of therapy presents an attractive alternative to ECT, without the accompanying risks and adverse effects. The 2015 NICE recommendations found the evidence of efficacy for repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to be adequate in the short term and encouraged further research.33

Adverse effects Minimal, but patients often report headache or facial discomfort; rarely, seizure induction.

Indications Experimental treatment for treatment-resistant depression; possible use in treatment of treatment-resistant auditory hallucinations; negative symptoms of schizophrenia; OCD; panic disorder.

Contraindications History of stroke, brain tumour, or epilepsy.

Magneto-convulsive therapy

Another experimental treatment that utilizes the potential problem of seizure induction by rTMS. A varying magnetic field is used to induce seizures in a more controlled way than is possible with ECT. The potential advantages include targeting of brain structures essential for treatment response and a reduction in side effects (particularly memory impairment).34

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)

Vagus stimulation by an implanted pacemaker (first used as a treatment for epilepsy) has been tested as a treatment of depression since 1998. Stimulation is of the left cervical vagus nerve using bipolar electrodes, attached below the cardiac branch (usually 0.5ms pulse-width, at 20–30Hz, with 30s stimulation periods alternating with 5min breaks). Response rates of 31–40% (short-term)35 and 27– 58% (long-term) have been quoted for treatment-resistant depressive disorder, but the quality of this evidence is low and further research is required. NICE recommends special arrangements for clinical governance, consent, and audit or research.36

Adverse effects May include voice alteration (e.g. hoarseness), pain, coughing, and dysphagia.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS)

Best regarded as an experimental treatment for OCD and depression. Has been used in the treatment of neurological disorders, including: Parkinson’s disease, tremor, dystonia, refractory pain syndromes, and epilepsy. Involves implantation of bilateral electrodes under stereotactic guidance and MRI confirmation. Targets for DBS in OCD include the anterior limb of the internal capsule (like ACAPS NMD) and, for depression, the subgenual cingulate gyrus (like ACING NMD). Initial reports of long-term outcomes are promising.37

Adverse effects Reported problems include throbbing/buzzing sensations, nausea, jaw tingling, and unexpected battery failure resulting in rebound depression with marked suicidal ideation.

1 Post F (1994) Creativity and psychopathology. A study of 291 world-famous men. Br J Psychiatry 165:22–34.

2 For an exhaustive critique of conceptual ideas, see: Jackson SW (1987) Melancholia and Depression: From Hippocratic Times to Modern Times. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

3 Brown GW, Harris TO (1978) Social Origins of Depression: A Study of Psychiatric Disorders in Women. London: Tavistock Publications. 4 Steele JD, Lawrie SM (2004) Segregation of cognitive and emotional function in the prefrontal cortex: a stereotactic meta-analysis. Neuroimage 21:868–75.

5 The Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale is copyright © free, and one version can be found at: http://www.mentalhealthministries.net/resources/flyers/zung_scale/zung_scale.pdf [accessed 13 June 2018].

6 The Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale is also copyright © free and can be found at: https://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad16/papers/therapy16/sugarmanzunganxiety.pdf [accessed 13 June 2018].

7 See National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2009) Depression in adults: recognition and management. Clinical guideline [CG90] (this is a partial update of NICE clinical guideline CG23). https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg90 [accessed 13 June 2018].

8 Recently published NICE guidelines ( Box 6.11, p. 296) do not allow for some of these uses of ECT. However, NICE guidance does not override the individual responsibility of health professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of a specific patient (such action should be discussed, documented in the notes, and, where appropriate, validated by a second opinion).

9 Wijkstra J, Lijmer J, Burger H, Cipriani A, Geddes J, Nolen WA (2015) Pharmacological treatment for psychotic depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 30:CD004044.

10 RCT evidence actually suggests a combination approach is superior to an antipsychotic alone for olanzapine vs olanzapine/fluoxetine [Rothschild AJ, Williamson DJ, Tohen MF, et al. (2004) A double-blind, randomized study of olanzapine and olanzapine/fluoxetine combination for major depression with psychotic features. J Clin Psychopharmacol 24:365–73]; olanzapine/sertraline vs olanzapine/placebo [Meyers BS, Flint AJ, Rothschild AJ, et al. (2009) A double-blind randomized controlled trial of olanzapine plus sertraline vs. olanzapine plus placebo for psychotic depression: the study of pharmacotherapy of psychotic depression (STOP-PD). Arch Gen Psychiatry 66:838–47]; and for OFC (olanzapine–fluoxetine) vs olanzapine or fluoxetine alone [Trivedi MH, Thase ME, Osuntokun O, et al. (2009) An integrated analysis of olanzapine/fluoxetine combination in clinical trials of treatment resistant depression. J Clin Psychiatry 70:387–96). In the USA, the FDA has approved four SGAs as adjunctive therapies for MDD: aripiprazole, quetiapine, brexpiprazole, and olanzapine (specifically with fluoxetine). In the UK, only quetiapine is licensed.

11 Wijkstra J, Lijmer J, Balk FJ, et al. (2006) Pharmacological treatment for unipolar psychotic depression: systematic review and meta- analysis. Br J Psychiatry 188:410–15.

12 Cleare A, Pariante CM, Young AH, et al. (2015) Evidence-based guidelines for treating depressive disorders with antidepressants: a revision of the 2008 British Association for Psychopharmacology guidelines. J Psychopharmacol 29:459–25.

13 Useful guidance and assessment tools for treatment-resistant depression, including advice regarding criteria for ‘adequate treatment’, can be found on the Dundee Advanced Interventions Service website: http://www.advancedinterventions.org.uk [accessed 16 June 2018].

14 ‘Rejection sensitivity’ (to both real and imagined rejection) adds to the difficulty of managing atypical depression, as the patient may have had adverse experiences with doctors in the past, may have been labelled as ‘personality-disordered’, and may find the idea of a therapeutic alliance alien.

15 Henkel V, Mergl R, Allgaier AK, Kohnen R, Möller HJ, Hegerl U (2006) Treatment of depression with atypical features: a meta-analytic approach. Psychiatry Res 141:89–101.

16 Gartlehner G, Nussbaumer B, Gaynes BN, et al. (2015) Second-generation antidepressants for preventing seasonal affective disorder in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 8:CD011268..

17 Silva de Lima M, Hotopf M (2003) A comparison of active drugs for the treatment of dysthymia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 3:CD004047.

18 American Psychiatric Association (2001) The Practice of Electroconvulsive Therapy: Recommendations For Treatment, Training and Privileging, 2nd edn. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

19 Royal College of Psychiatrists (2005) The ECT Handbook, 2nd edn. The third report of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Special Committee on ECT (Council Report CR128). London: Royal College of Psychiatrists.

20 ECTAS is the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ ECT Accreditation Service, https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/improving-care/ccqi/quality- networks-accreditation/ectas [accessed 24 January 2019]; SEAN is the Scottish ECT Accreditation Network, http://www.sean.org.uk/ [accessed 20 June 2018].

21 Pagnin D, de Queiroz V, Pini S, et al. (2004) Efficacy of ECT in depression: a meta-analytic review. J ECT 20:13–20.

22 Kellner CH, Knapp R, Husain MM, et al. (2010) Bifrontal, bitemperal and right unilateral electrode placement in ECT: randomised trial. Br J Psychiatry 196:226–34.

23 Royal College of Psychiatrists (2017) ECT competencies 2017. https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/improving- care/ccqi/quality-networks/electro-convulsive-therapy-clinics-(ectas)/ect-competencies-for-psychiatrists-sep17.pdf?sfvrsn=f62e329_4 [accessed 24 January 2019].

24 Trevino BA, McClintock SM, Husain MM (2010) A review of continuation electroconvulsive therapy: application, safety, and efficacy. J ECT 26:186–95.

25 Fraser LM, O’Carroll RE, Ebmeier KP (2008) The effect of electroconvulsive therapy on autobiographical memory: a systematic review. J ECT 24:10–17.

26 Dwork AJ, Arango V, Underwood M, et al. (2004) Absence of histological lesions in primate models of ECT and magnetic seizure therapy. Am J Psychiatry 161:576–8.

27 Scalia J, Lisanby SH, Dwork AJ, et al. (2007) Neuropathological examination after 91 ECT treatments in a 92-year-old woman with late- onset depression. J ECT 23:96–8.

28 Christmas D, Morrison C, Eljamel MS, Matthews K (2004) Neurosurgery for mental disorder. Adv Psychiatr Treat 10:189–99.

29 For current criteria in the UK, see Dundee Advanced Interventions Service website at http://www.advancedinterventions.org.uk/index.php/the-service/referral-information/professionals.html [accessed 20 June 2018].

30 Alexander GE, Crutcher MD, DeLong MR (1990) Basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuits: parallel substrates for motor, oculomotor, ‘prefrontal’ and ‘limbic’ functions. Progr Brain Res 85:119–46.

31 Rosenthal NE, Sack DA, Gillin JC, et al. (1984) Seasonal affective disorder. A description of the syndrome and preliminary findings with light therapy. Arch Gen Psychiatry 41:72–80.

32 Rodriguez-Martin JL, Barbanoj JM, Schlaepfer T, et al. (2002) Transcranial magnetic stimulation for treating depression. Cochrane Database System Rev 2:CD00393.

33 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2015) Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression. Interventional procedure guidance [IPG542]. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ipg542/chapter/1-Recommendations [accessed 20 June 2018].

34 Alice Engel A, Kayser S (2016) An overview on clinical aspects in magnetic seizure therapy. J Neural Transm 123:1139–46.

35 George MS, Sackeim HA, Rush AJ, et al. (2000) Vagus nerve stimulation: a new tool for brain research and therapy. Biol Psychiatry 47:287–95.

36 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2009) Vagal nerve stimulation for treatment-resistant depression. Interventional procedures guidance [IPG330]. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ipg330 [accessed 20 June 2018].

37 Naesström M, Blomstedt P, Bodlund O (2016) A systematic review of psychiatric indications for deep brain stimulation, with focus on major depressive and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Nord J Psychiatry 70:483–91.

Chapter 7

Bipolar illness


Historical perspective

Mania/manic episode

Hypomania/hypomanic episode

Bipolar spectrum disorder

Bipolar (affective) disorder 1: classification

Bipolar (affective) disorder 2: clinical notes

Bipolar affective disorder 3: aetiology

Bipolar affective disorder 4: management principles Other issues affecting management decisions Treatment of acute manic episodes

Treatment of depressive episodes


Psychotherapeutic interventions



Lithium: adverse effects

Valproate/valproic acid




Bipolar affective disorder (previously known as manic depression) is one of the most common, severe, and persistent psychiatric illnesses. In the public mind, it is associated with notions of ‘creative madness’, and indeed it has affected many creative people—both past and present (see Box 7.1). Appealing as such notions are, most people who battle with the effects of the disorder would rather live a

normal life, free from the unpredictability of mood swings, which most of us take for granted.

Chameleon-like in its presentation, the symptoms may vary from one patient to the next, and from one episode to the next within the same patient. The variety of presentations make this one of the most difficult conditions to diagnose. More than other psychiatric disorders, the clinician needs to pay attention to the life history of the patient and to third-party information from family and friends.

Classically, periods of prolonged and profound depression alternate with periods of excessively elevated and/or irritable mood, known as mania. The symptoms of mania characteristically include a

need for sleep, pressured speech, libido, reckless behaviour without regard for consequences, and grandiosity ( Mania/manic episode, p. 320). In severe cases, there may be severe thought disturbances and even psychotic symptoms. Between these highs and lows, patients usually experience periods of full remission.

This classic presentation appears, however, to be one pole of a spectrum of mood disorders ( Bipolar spectrum disorder, p. 324). A milder form of mania (hypomania), associated with episodes of depression, may also occur ( Hypomania/hypomanic episode, p. 322). There is also a subclinical presentation—cyclothymia—in which an individual may experience oscillating high and low moods, without ever having a significant manic or depressive episode ( Cyclothymia, p. 348). Equally, it may be difficult to distinguish a manic episode with psychotic symptoms from schizoaffective disorder ( Disorders related to schizophrenia, p. 228) on the basis of a single episode.

Full assessment should consider: the number of previous episodes (which may have been subclinical); the average length of previous episodes; the average time between episodes; the level of psychosocial functioning between episodes; previous responses to treatment (especially treatment of early depressive episodes); family history of psychiatric problems; and current (and past) use of alcohol and drugs.

Although, at the present time, there is no cure for bipolar disorder, for most cases, effective treatment is possible and can substantially decrease the associated morbidity and mortality (the suicide rate is

high). Some patients do develop severe or chronic impairments and may need specific rehabilitative services. In general, however, the specific aims of treatment are to decrease the frequency, severity, and psychosocial consequences of episodes and to improve psychosocial functioning between episodes.

Box 7.1 Famous people and bipolar disorder

Famous people who have publicly stated they have bipolar disorder

Buzz Aldrin, astronaut

Tim Burton, artist and movie director Francis Ford Coppola, director Patricia Cornwell, writer

Ray Davies, musician

Robert Downey Jr, actor

Larry Flynt, magazine publisher

Connie Francis, actor and musician

Stephen Fry, actor, author, and comedian

Stuart Goddard (Adam Ant), musician

Linda Hamilton, actor

Kay Redfield Jamison, psychologist and writer

Ilie Nastase, athlete (tennis) and politician

Axl Rose, musician

Ben Stiller, actor and comedian

Gordon Sumner (Sting), musician and composer Jean-Claude Van Damme, athlete (martial arts) and actor Tom Waits, musician and composer

Brian Wilson, musician, composer, and arranger Catherine Zeta Jones, actress

Famous people (deceased) who had a confirmed diagnosis of bipolar disorder

Louis Althusser, 1918–1990, philosopher and writer

Clifford Beers, 1876–1943, humanitarian Neal Cassady, 1926–1968, writer

Carrie Fisher, 1956–2016 writer and actor Graham Greene, 1904–1991, writer

Historical perspective

Bipolar affective disorder has been known since ancient times. Hippocrates described patients as ‘amic’ and ‘melancholic’, and clear connections between melancholia and mania date back to the descriptions of the two syndromes by Aretaius of Cappadocia (c.150 bc) and Paul of Aegina (625–690). Thinking at that time reflected ‘humoral’ theories, with melancholia believed to be caused by excess of ‘black bile’ and mania by excess of ‘yellow bile’.

Despite the view of some clinicians in the eighteenth century that melancholia and mania were interconnected (e.g. Robert James, 1705–1776), it was the middle of the nineteenth century before this was more widely accepted. In 1854, Jules Baillarger (1809–1890) published a paper in the Bulletin of the Imperial Academy of Medicine describing la folie à double forme, closely followed 2wks later by a paper in the same journal by Jean-Pierre Falret (1794–

Frances Lear, 1923–1996, writer, editor, and women’s rights activist

Vivien Leigh, 1913–1967, actor

Robert Lowell, 1917–1977, poet

Burgess Meredith, 1908–1997, actor and director Spike Milligan, 1919–2002, comic actor and writer Theodore Roethke, 1908–1963, writer

Don Simpson, 1944–1996, movie producer

David Strickland, 1970–1999, actor

Joseph Vasquez, 1963–1996, writer and movie director Mary Jane Ward, 1905–1981, writer

Virginia Woolf, 1882–1941, writer

Other famous people thought to have had bipolar disorder

William Blake, Napoleon Bonaparte, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, TS Eliot, F Scott Fitzgerald, Cary Grant, Victor Hugo, Samuel Johnson, Robert E Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe, Mozart, Isaac Newton, Plato (according to Aristotle), Edgar Allan Poe, St Francis, St John, St Theresa, Rod Steiger, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lord Tennyson, Mark Twain, Van Gogh, Walt Whitman, Tennessee Williams.

1870), who claimed that he had been teaching students at the Salpêtrière about la folie circulaire for 10yrs. Although the two men were to continue arguing about who originated the idea, they at least agreed that the illness was characterized by alternating periods of melancholia and mania, often separated by periods of normal mood. In 1899, Emil Kraepelin comprehensively described ‘manic– depressive insanity’ (MDI) in the sixth edition of his textbook Psychiatrie: Ein Lehrbuch für Studirende und Ärzte. In the fifth edition, he had already divided severe mental illnesses into those with a deteriorating course (i.e. schizophrenia and related psychoses) and those with a periodic course (i.e. the mood disorders). It was his view that the mood disorders ‘represented manifestations of a single morbid process’.

At the turn of the twentieth century, hopes were high that understanding of the pathophysiology of mental illness might be within reach. In 1906, the German microbiologist August Wassermann discovered a method of detecting syphilitic infection in the CNS, and in the same year, an effective treatment was developed by Paul Ehrlich using arsenic compounds. Syphilis was, at that time, one of the most common causes of severe (often mania- like) psychiatric symptoms—GPI. Reliably diagnosing and treating such a condition was a huge step forward. In cases of MDI, however, neuropathologists failed to find any structural brain abnormalities. Although some still maintained it was a physical illness, caused by disruptions in biological functioning, the pervasive new psychodynamic theories regarded functional illnesses (i.e. schizophrenia and MDI) as illnesses of the mind, not the brain. In 1903, Carl Jung introduced a non-psychotic version of MDI, describing ‘a number of cases whose peculiarity consists in chronic hypomanic behaviour’, with associated episodes of depression and mixed mood states, in the context of personal and interpersonal difficulties.

The idea that patients could be understood and treated only if the traumatic childhood events, repressed sexual feelings, or interpersonal conflicts were uncovered influenced psychiatric thinking for over half a century. Adolf Meyer’s (1866–1950) reframing of mental disease as biopsychosocial ‘reaction types’, in the context

of an individual’s life, rather than biologically specifiable entities, led to the adoption of the terms ‘depressive reaction’ and ‘manic– depressive reaction’ in DSM-I (1952).

It was not until specific drug treatments for these functional illnesses were found that psychiatry came full circle again, and new life was breathed into the old search for biological mechanisms. In 1949, John Cade published a report on the use of lithium salts in manic patients, but it took nearly three decades, and the work of many psychiatrists, including Morgens Schou in Denmark and Ronald Fieve in the USA, before lithium would become the mainstay of treatment for MDI. Equally significant was the observation by Ronald Kuhn in 1958 that when patients with ‘manic–depressive psychosis’ were treated with imipramine, they could switch from depression to mania. That this did not occur in all patients with depression suggested that there was a different biological mechanism underlying depressive illness, compared to MDI. In 1957, Karl Leonhard introduced the terms ‘bipolar’ and ‘unipolar’. In 1968, both the newly revised classification systems ICD-8 and DSM- II acknowledged the shift in aetiological view by using the term ‘manic–depressive illness’, but it took another decade before Leonhard’s bipolar/unipolar dichotomy was adopted in the RDC in the 1970s, and ultimately integrated into ICD-9 (1975) and DSM-III (1980). This created a very narrow ‘bipolar disorder’ and reflected a turning away from the Kraepelinian MDI concept.

Much of the subsequent controversy over ‘bipolar spectrum’ disorders ( Bipolar spectrum disorder, p. 324) reflected a clinical need to broaden the diagnosis to encompass less severe presentations such as type II bipolar disorder (hypomania + depression), which was included in DSM-III-R (1987), ICD-10 (1992), and DSM-IV (1994). Cyclothymia and dysthymia were also re- categorized as mood disorders, rather than personality disorders. ICD-10 recognized ‘mixed affective’ presentations, but it was only in DSM-5 (2013) that the symptomology specifier ‘with mixed features’ could be applied to both bipolar I/II and depressive episodes.

With the growth of biological research in the 1990s and 2000s, it became clear that neurotransmitter theories about catecholamines had been overly simplistic. Second messengers and long-term

neuroplastic changes in the brain were seen in both bipolar and unipolar disorders. Newer antipsychotics also showed efficacy in both acute mania and depressive episodes. Some anticonvulsants also appeared to be good in treating bipolar disorder and, in some cases (e.g. lamotrigine), more effective in preventing depression, rather than mania.

The remaining questions regarding the true nature of the mood disorders are likely to be settled only by future research utilizing neuroimaging, genetic, and other biomarker data to help identify the underlying aetiology and pathophysiology, with the ultimate aim of developing early diagnostic tests and, perhaps through pharmacogenomics, better individualized treatments.

Mania/manic episode


A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, with three or more characteristic symptoms of mania (see Box 7.2). DSM-5, ICD-10, and ICD-11 specify the episode should last at least 1wk, or less if admission to hospital is necessary. By definition, the disturbance is sufficiently severe to impair occupational and social functioning. Psychotic features may be present.

Clinical features

• •

Elevated mood (out of keeping with circumstances). energy, which may manifest as:

• Over-activity.

• Reduced need for sleep.

Formal thought disorder which may manifest as: • Pressured speech.

• Flight of ideas.

• Racing thoughts.

self-esteem, evident as:

• Over-optimistic ideation.

• Grandiosity.

• Reduced social inhibitions.

• Over-familiarity (which may be overly amorous).

• Facetiousness.

• Reduced attention/i distractibility.

• Tendency to engage in behaviour that may have serious


• Preoccupation with extravagant, impracticable schemes. • Spending recklessly.

• Inappropriate sexual encounters.

• Other behavioural manifestations, including excitement, irritability, aggressiveness, and suspiciousness.

• Marked disruption of work, usual social activities, and family life. Psychotic symptoms

In its more severe form, mania may be associated with psychotic symptoms (usually mood-congruent but may also be incongruent):

• Grandiose ideas may be delusional, related to identity or role (with

special powers or religious content).

• Suspiciousness may develop into well-formed persecutory


• Pressured speech may become so great that there is significant

difficulty in communicating with, and understanding, the individual


• Flight of ideas, prolixity, and pressured thoughts can result in the

loss of clear associations.

• Irritability and aggression may lead to violent behaviour.

• Preoccupation with thoughts and schemes may lead to self-

neglect, to the point of not eating or drinking, and poor living


• Catatonic features—also termed manic stupor.

• Total or partial loss of insight.

Differential diagnosis

• Schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, other psychotic disorders.

• Anxiety disorders/PTSD.

• Circadian rhythm sleep–wake disorders ( Circadian rhythm

sleep–wake disorders (CRSD) 1: overview, p. 454).

• ADHD/conduct disorder.

• Alcohol or drug misuse, e.g. stimulants, hallucinogens, opiates.

• Physical illness, e.g. hyper-/hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, SLE, MS, head injury, brain tumour, epilepsy, HIV, other encephalopathies, neurosyphilis, Fahr’s disease, WD, and pseudobulbar palsy.

• Other antidepressant treatment or drug-related causes (see Box 7.2).


• Risk assessment and ensure safety.

• Exclusion of other causes and appropriate investigations (

Bipolar (affective) disorder 2: clinical notes, p. 330).

• Address any specific psychosocial stressors.

• For specific management, see Treatment of acute manic

episodes, p. 340.

Box 7.2 Medications that may induce symptoms of hypomania/mania

• Antidepressants: drug-induced mania described with most antidepressants (or withdrawal; Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, p. 1024), less so with SSRIs and bupropion (also seen with ECT and light therapy). May be a particular problem with TCAs and SNRIs such as venlafaxine

• Other psychotropic medications:

• BDZs—may be confused with ‘paradoxical’ agitation reactions

( Paradoxical reactions to benzodiazepines, p. 999).

• Antipsychotics (rare)—olanzapine, risperidone.

• Lithium—toxicity and when combined with TCAs.

• Anticonvulsants (rare)—carbamazepine (and withdrawal),

valproate, gabapentin.

• Psychostimulants—fenfluramine, amphetamine,

dexamfetamine, methylphenidate.

• Other—disulfiram.

• Anti-Parkinsonian medication: amantadine, bromocriptine, levodopa, procyclidine.

• Cardiovascular drugs: captopril, clonidine, digoxin, diltiazem, hydralazine, methyldopa withdrawal, procainamide, propranolol

Hypomania/hypomanic episode


Three or more characteristic symptoms ( Clinical features, see below) lasting at least 4 days (DSM-5/ICD-10) or ‘several’ days (ICD- 11) and are clearly different from ‘normal’ mood (third-party corroboration). By definition, not severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning, require admission to hospital, or include psychotic features.

Clinical features

Hypomania shares symptoms with mania, but these are evident to a lesser degree and do not significantly disrupt work or lead to social rejection:

• • • • • • • • •

Mildly elevated, expansive, or irritable mood. energy and activity.

Marked feelings of well-being, physical, and mental efficiency. self-esteem.

Sociability. Talkativeness. Over-familiarity.

sex drive.

Reduced need for sleep.

(and withdrawal), reserpine.

• Respiratory drugs: aminophylline, ephedrine, salbutamol,

terfenadine, pseudoephedrine.

• Anti-infection: anti-TB medication, chloroquine, clarithromycin,

dapsone, isoniazid, zidovudine.

• Analgesics: buprenorphine, codeine, indometacin, nefopam

(IM), pentazocine, tramadol.

• GI drugs: cimetidine, metoclopramide, ranitidine.

• Steroids: ACTH, beclometasone, corticosteroids, cortisone,

dexamethasone, DHEA, hydrocortisone, prednisolone,


• Other: baclofen (and withdrawal), cyclizine, ciclosporin,


• Difficulty in focusing on one task alone (tasks often started, but not finished).

Differential diagnosis

(See Box 7.3.)

• Agitated depression.

• OCD/other anxiety disorders.

• Circadian rhythm sleep–wake disorders ( Circadian rhythm

sleep–wake disorders (CRSD) 1: overview, p. 454).

• Substance misuse/physical illness/medication-related (see Box



• Exclusion of other possible causes with appropriate investigations ( Bipolar (affective) disorder 2: clinical notes, p. 330).

• Address any specific psychosocial stressors.

• Ensure safety of the patient and others is maintained.

• If sleep disturbance is a problem, consider use of a hypnotic.

• If agitation is prominent, judicious use of BDZs may be


• If the episode is prolonged, discuss medication possibilities (

Treatment of acute manic episodes, p. 340) and the possibility of prophylaxis ( Prophylaxis, p. 344).

Bipolar spectrum disorder

In the early 1980s, Gerald Klerman proposed a ‘spectrum of mania’, which included ‘bipolar subtypes’ and Hagop Akiskal originally suggested a similar ‘bipolar spectrum’ that broadened the very narrow DSM-III bipolar concept (see Table 7.1). Type II would become accepted officially a decade later and included in ICD-10 in 1992 and DSM-IV in 1994. Type III finally made it into DSM-5 in 2013 as ‘Substance/medication-induced bipolar and related disorder’.

Table 7.1 Subtypes of bipolar disorder

Klerman (1981)1

Bipolar I

Bipolar II

Bipolar III

Bipolar IV

Akiskal (1999)2

Bipolar 1⁄2

Bipolar I

Bipolar I 1⁄2

Bipolar II

Bipolar II 1⁄2

Bipolar III

Bipolar III 1⁄2

Bipolar IV

Description—‘Depression plus … ’



Protracted hypomania

Hypomania Cyclothymia

Hypomania or mania precipitated by tricyclic (antidepressant) drugs

Bipolarity masked and unmasked by stimulant abuse

Cyclothymia Hyperthymia

Familial history of bipolar disorder

Bipolar V Bipolar VI

Mania alone (i.e. without depression) 1 Klerman GL (1981) The spectrum of mania. Compr Psychiatry 22:11–20.

2 Akiskal HS, Pinto O (1999) The evolving bipolar spectrum. Prototypes I, II, III, and IV. Psychiatr Clin North Am 22:517–34.

Also in the 1980s, Athanasios Koukopoulos challenged the prevailing dichotomous view by showing that mood episodes were usually not purely depressive or manic, but ‘mixed’. ‘Mixed depression’ was the opposite of ‘melancholia’. It was not characterized by marked psychomotor retardation, but rather excitation, including ‘manic’ symptoms (e.g. flight of ideas or

pressured speech), agitation, irritability, rage, marked anxiety, and suicidal impulsivity. Much like bipolar disorder, mixed depression often got worse with antidepressants and responded to antipsychotics, whereas in melancholia, antidepressants sometimes worked, ECT was very effective, and lithium reduced recurrence rates. High rates of mixed depression symptoms were seen in both

bipolar illness and major depressive disorder (MDD).1

Box 7.3 ‘I think I’m a little bit bipolar … ’

A worrying trend in outpatient clinics is the ‘expert’ patient who has self-diagnosed bipolar disorder. One of the unexpected consequences of anti-stigma campaigns is the identification of individuals with celebrities who claim to have a psychiatric disorder (usually of a ‘softer’ variety—like bipolar II). While acceptance and more positive attitudes to psychiatric disorders are to be welcomed, it is still the provenance of the psychiatrist to legitimize such presumptive diagnoses. Good history-taking is of paramount importance. It is essential that differentials and comorbidity are considered (e.g. personality traits, anxiety, alcohol and substance misuse). As far as possible, collateral information may help with possible recall bias, and evidence of secondary gain prohibits the medicalization of difficult or imprudent behaviour. Clinicians must try and remain objective, and not collude with the patient, professional colleagues, fashionable labelling (e.g. ‘bipolar spectrum’; Bipolar spectrum disorder, see opposite), or unsubstantiated claims of Big Pharma. Diagnosis carries not only far-reaching psychosocial consequences, but also will often suggest a need for specific interventions which are not without risk.

The main differentials not to miss include:

• Thyroid disorders: may resemble depression or

mania/hypomania; can be caused by lithium; may present

subclinically as mixed states; and are treatable!

• Substance abuse: can mimic affective states; may unmask pre-

existing illness/predisposition; may be a form of self-medication; should always be treated first.

Jules Angst, whose work had previously been central to the move to a dichotomous view of the mood disorders in the 1960s, become an advocate for the bipolar spectrum concept (‘bipolarity’) when, in later studies, he found many intermediate forms between the original bipolar and unipolar ideal types, with mixed states (three or more mania symptoms of any duration) occurring in up to 50% of all

depressive conditions.2 These findings brought into question the whole idea of ‘polarity’ as a useful distinction. Perhaps it might be better to base any nosology on something like recurrence, in much the same way that Emil Kraepelin originally framed ‘manic depressive insanity’? ( Box 7.3, p. 325). DSM-5 maintained the dichotomy but allowed the specifier ‘with mixed features’ to be applied to both bipolar I/II and depressive episodes.

• ADHD: overlapping symptoms—restlessness, hyperactivity, distractibility, impulsiveness, poor concentration/attention, temper dyscontrol; lifelong, pervasive, not episodic; may respond to antidepressants and mood stabilizers.

• Borderline personality disorder: stormy, unstable lifestyles; overly dramatic; intense unstable relationships; acutely sensitive to abandonment; unrealistically demanding of families and physicians; exhibiting self-defeating and self-destructive behaviours; heightened sense of personal rights (repeated vexatious complaints); frequently associated with dissociative symptoms, substance abuse, self-harm (mutilation), and repeated suicidal acts.

• Other personality disorders: traits often seen in bipolar disorder: dependency, passive aggression, histrionics, paranoia, narcissism, hypochondriasis, manipulative antisocial traits. When these are secondary to bipolar disorder, they tend to disappear between episodes and with treatment, and the patient is more likely to be embarrassed and remorseful. Patients with fixed personality disorders are often demanding, defiant, manipulative, self-defeating, actively undermine efforts to address needs, are non-compliant with medication, abuse alcohol or substances, and end up in prison.

Researchers also voiced concerns about the possible underdiagnosis of bipolar disorder and the potential problems of mis- prescribing antidepressants to patients for whom mood stabilizers might be of greater benefit. To help identify patients with ‘bipolar

spectrum illness’, Nassir Ghaemi3 proposed operational criteria that included a history of recurrent severe depression, no spontaneous hypomanic/manic episodes, and some additional features, e.g. first- degree relative with bipolar disorder, antidepressant-induced

mania/hypomania, hyperthymic4 or cyclothymic personality, recurrent major depressive episodes (>3), brief major depressive episodes (on average <3mths), atypical depressive symptoms, psychotic major depressive episodes, early age of onset of major depressive episode (age <25), postpartum depression, antidepressant ‘wear-off’ (acute, but not prophylactic, response), or lack of response to up to three antidepressant trials. These features were already part of screening questionnaires, e.g. the MDQ ( http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/images/res/MDQ.pdf [accessed 20 June 2018]).

The term ‘bipolar spectrum’ is often erroneously used to denote a clinical presentation with mood instability or lability and a history of impulsive, foolish, excessive, or risky behaviour. Without other significant mood symptoms, it is highly unlikely that this is a bipolar presentation ( Box 7.3, p. 325). DSM-5 does use the category ‘Other specified bipolar and related disorder’ to capture ‘subsyndromal’ disorders that do not meet the duration criteria for hypomania (<4+ consecutive days), have too few symptoms for bipolar II syndrome (despite lasting 4+ days) in the context of a history of MDD, and have hypomania without prior depressive episode or short-duration cyclothymia (<24mths). Patients with these features may represent a subset of patients who do not respond well to antidepressants (often precipitating a switch to a hypomanic or manic episode) and for whom a mood stabilizer may be a better choice if a treatment trial is proposed.

Bipolar (affective) disorder 1: classification

Diagnostic classification

(See Box 7.4.) ICD-10

Requires at least two episodes, one of which must be hypomanic, manic, or mixed, with recovery usually complete between episodes. Criteria for depressive episodes are the same as unipolar depression ( Diagnosis 1: symptoms, p. 246). Separate category (manic episode) for hypomania or mania (with or without psychotic symptoms) without a history of depressive episodes. Cyclothymia included with dysthymia in the persistent mood disorders section.


Allows a single manic episode and cyclothymic disorder to be considered as part of bipolar disorder, and defines two subtypes (with additional specifiers):

• Bipolar I disorder: the occurrence of one or more manic episodes

with or without a history of one or more depressive episodes or

hypomanic episodes.

• Bipolar II disorder: the occurrence of one or more depressive

episodes accompanied by at least one hypomanic episode.

• Severity specifiers: mild, moderate, severe.

• Special syndrome specifiers: with anxious distress, mixed features,

rapid cycling, catatonia, melancholic features, atypical features, peripartum onset, seasonal pattern, mood-congruent or mood- incongruent psychotic features.

• Longitudinal course specifiers: in partial or full remission. Mixed episodes (ICD-10)/with mixed features (DSM-5)

• The occurrence of both manic/hypomanic and depressive symptoms in a single episode, present every day for 2wks (ICD- 10) or the majority of days during the episode of hypomania or mania (DSM-5).

• Typical presentations include:

• depression plus over-activity/pressure of speech.

• mania plus agitation and reduced energy/libido.

• dysphoria plus manic symptoms (with the exception of elevated


• rapid cycling (fluctuating between mania and depression—four or more episodes/year)—DSM-5 uses the specifier ‘with rapid cycling’ for bipolar I or II disorder.

Note: ‘ultra-rapid’ cycling refers to an illness where fluctuations in mood are over days or even hours.

‘The clinical reality of manic-depressive illness is far more lethal and infinitely more complex than the current psychiatric nomenclature, bipolar disorder, would suggest. Cycles of fluctuating moods and energy levels serve as a background to constantly changing thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. The illness encompasses the extremes of human experience. Thinking can range from florid psychosis, or “madness”, to patterns of unusually clear, fast and creative associations, to retardation so profound that no meaningful mental activity can occur. Behavior can be frenzied, expansive, bizarre, and seductive, or it can be seclusive, sluggish, and dangerously suicidal. Moods may swing erratically between euphoria and despair or irritability and desperation. The rapid oscillations and combinations of such extremes result in an intricately textured clinical picture. Manic patients, for example, are depressed and irritable as often as they are euphoric; the highs associated with mania are generally only pleasant and productive during the earlier, milder stages.’

Dr Kay Redfield Jamison (1993) Touched with fire: manic-depressive illness and the artistic temperament, pp. 47–8. New York: Free Press, Macmillan.

Box 7.4 Classification of bipolar disorder

ICD-10: bipolar affective disorder

• Current episode, hypomanic.

• Current episode, manic without psychotic symptoms.

• Current episode, manic with psychotic symptoms.

• Current episode, mild or moderate depression.

• Current episode, severe depression without psychotic


• Current episode, severe depression with psychotic symptoms.

• Current episode, mixed.

• Currently in remission.

• Other bipolar affective disorders/unspecified.

DSM-5: bipolar and related disorders

• Bipolar I disorder:

• Current or most recent episode manic.

Bipolar (affective) disorder 2: clinical notes


Lifetime prevalence 0.3–1.5% (0.8% bipolar I; 0.5% bipolar II); ♂ = ♀ (bipolar II and rapid cycling more common in ♀; first episodes: ♂ tend to be manic, ♀ depressive); no significant racial differences; age range 15–50+ yrs (peaks at 15–19yrs and 20–24yrs; mean 21yrs).


Extremely variable. First episodes may be hypomanic, manic, mixed, or depressive. This may be followed by many years (5 or more) without a further episode, but the length of time between subsequent episodes may begin to narrow. There is often a 5- to 10-yr interval between the age at onset of illness and age at first treatment or first admission to hospital. Often patients with recurrent depression have a first manic episode in later life (>50yrs). Presentation in later life increases the suspicion of an underlying organic cause. It is known that untreated patients may have >10 episodes in a lifetime and that the duration and period of time between episodes stabilize after the fourth or fifth episode. Although the prognosis is better for treated patients, there still remains a high degree of unpredictability.


• Current or most recent episode hypomanic. • Current or most recent episode depressed. • Current or most recent episode mixed.

• Bipolar II disorder:

• Current or most recent episode hypomanic. • Current or most recent episode depressed.

• Cyclothymic disorder.

• Substance/medication-induced bipolar and related disorder.

• Bipolar and related disorder due to another medical condition.

• Other specified/unspecified bipolar and related disorder.

Note: ICD-11 is very similar to DSM-5 with bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder, other, and unspecified. Bipolar I and II include current episode manic (± psychotic symptoms), hypomanic, depressive [mild, moderate, severe (± psychotic symptoms), in partial or complete remission]. Bipolar I may also have mixed symptoms.

Morbidity and mortality rates are high, in terms of lost work, lost productivity, and effects on marriage ( divorce rates) and the family, with attempted suicide in 25–50% and completed suicide in 10% (♂ > ♀ , usually during a depressive episode). Often significant comorbidity—especially drug/alcohol misuse and anxiety disorders (both increase the risk of suicide).

Differential diagnosis

Depends upon the nature of the presenting episode ( Mania/manic episode, p. 320; Hypomania/hypomanic episode, p. 322, and Diagnosis 1: symptoms, p. 246).


As for depression; full physical and routine blood tests to exclude

any treatable cause, including FBC, ESR/CRP, glucose, U&Es, Ca2+, TFTs, LFTs, and drug screen. Less routine tests: urinary copper [to exclude WD (rare)], ANF (SLE), infection screen (VDRL, syphilis serology, HIV test). CT/MRI brain (to exclude tumour, infarction, haemorrhage, MS)—may show hyperintense subcortical structures (esp. temporal lobes), ventricular enlargement, and sulcal prominence; EEG (baseline and to rule out epilepsy). Other baseline tests prior to treatment should include ECG and creatinine clearance.


See specific sections ( Bipolar affective disorder 4: management principles, p. 336) for management principles, other issues, treatment of acute manic episodes, depressive episodes, prophylaxis, and psychotherapeutic interventions.


Within the first 2yrs of first episode, 40–50% of patients experience another manic episode. Fifty to 60% of patients on lithium gain control of their symptoms (7% no recurrence; 45% some future episodes; 40% persistent recurrence). Often, the cycling between depression and mania accelerates with age. Poor prognostic factors: poor employment history; alcohol abuse; psychotic features; depressive features between periods of mania and depression;

evidence of depression; ♂ sex; treatment non-compliance. Good prognostic factors: manic episodes of short duration; later age of onset; few thoughts of suicide; few psychotic symptoms; few comorbid physical problems; good treatment response and compliance.

Bipolar affective disorder 3: aetiology

(See Box 7.5.)

Despite significant research efforts, the definitive pathophysiology

of bipolar disorder remains elusive. There are many similarities with gene expression and neuroimaging studies of persons with schizophrenia and major depression, suggesting that mood disorders and schizophrenia may share a biological basis.

Box 7.5 Aetiological theories

Abnormal programmed cell death

Animal studies have shown that antidepressants, lithium, and valproate indirectly regulate a number of factors involved in cell survival pathways (e.g. CREB, BDNF, Bcl-2, and MAP kinases), perhaps explaining their delayed long-term beneficial effects (via under-appreciated neurotrophic effects, especially in the frontal

cortex and the hippocampus1). Neuroimaging studies also indicate cell loss in these same brain regions, suggesting that bipolar disorder may result from abnormal programmed cell death (apoptosis) in critical neural networks involved in emotional regulation. Treatments may stimulate cell survival pathways, increase neurotrophic factors, and improve cellular resilience.


Through a mechanism of electrophysiological kindling, this older

hypothesis2 draws on animal models to suggests a role for neuronal injury. A genetically predisposed individual experiences an increasing number of minor neurological insults (e.g. due to drugs of abuse, excessive glucocorticoid stimulation, acute or chronic stress, or other factors), which eventually result in mania. After the first episode, neuronal damage may persist, allowing for


Twin, family, and adoption studies point to a significant genetic contribution. First-degree relatives are 7 times more likely to develop the condition than the general population (i.e. 10–15% risk). Children of a parent with bipolar disorder have a 50% chance of developing a psychiatric disorder (genetic liability appears shared for schizophrenia and schizoaffective and bipolar affective disorders). Monozygotic (MZ) twins: 33–90% concordance; dizygotic (DZ) twins: ~23%. Recent evidence indicates an overall heritability of ~70%.

Candidate genes

Results from four genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of large samples of subjects with bipolar disorder give combined support for two particular genes ANK3 (ankyrin G) and CACNA1C (α1C subunit

of the L-type voltage-gated calcium channel).5 Other candidates are genes associated with biochemical pathways that lithium regulates, e.g. the phosphatidyl inositol pathway [diacylglycerol kinase eta (DGKH) gene); cell death/neuroprotection mechanisms [e.g. glycogen synthase kinase 3-beta (GSK3β)]; circadian periodicity (e.g. CLOCK gene); neuronal migration (NCAN); and oestrogen

recurrence with or without minor environmental or behavioural stressors (like epilepsy), which may result in further injury. This could explain why later episodes become more frequent, anticonvulsants may be useful in preventing recurrent episodes, and treatment should be as early as possible and long term. It may be that the balance between primary pathological, secondary adaptive alterations in gene expression in the illness, and pharmacological enhancement or dampening determines the typical episodic course of relapses and remissions of mood


1 Manji HK, Duman RS (2001) Impairments of neuroplasticity and cellular resilience in severe mood disorders: implications for the development of novel therapeutics. Psychopharmacol Bull 35:5–49.

2 Post RM, Weiss SR (1989) Sensitization, kindling, and anticonvulsants in mania. J Clin Psychiatry 50(Suppl):23–30.

3 Post RM, Speer AM, Hough CJ, Xing G (2003) Neurobiology of bipolar illness: implications for future study and therapeutics. Ann Clin Psychiatry 15:85–94.

receptor binding site variations in women associated with the transglutaminase 2 (TGM2) gene. There are indications that large copy number variants (>100kb—both deletions and duplications) increase the risk of bipolar disorder. Post-mortem studies have found

levels of expression of oligodendrocyte-myelin-related genes, implicating abnormal myelination in the illness.

Shared genetics with schizophrenia

As well as overlapping family susceptibility, there are reports of shared genes, e.g. G72 on 13q34, which encodes d-amino acid oxidase activator (DAOA) and DISC1 (Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1) on 1q42. A large meta-analysis by the NIH on recent GWAS found evidence for a shared susceptibility locus around 6p22.1 known to harbour genes involved in immunity and turning other genes on and

off.6 Neuroimaging

A recent meta-analysis of structural and functional brain imaging found activation and reduced grey matter in areas associated with emotional regulation, and activation in ventral limbic brain regions

that mediate and generate emotional responses.77 A post-mortem study88 has shown evidence of loss of hippocampal interneurons in

patients with bipolar disorder.

Biochemical factors

There is increasing evidence of the importance of glutamate in bipolar disorder and major depression; the cathecholamine hypothesis study suggests that an increase in adrenaline and noradrenaline causes mania, while a decrease causes depression; drugs that may cause mania (e.g. cocaine, levodopa, amphetamines, antidepressants) suggest a role for DA and 5-HT;

disruption of Ca2+ regulation may be caused by neurological insults such as excessive glutaminergic transmission or ischaemia; hormonal imbalances and disruptions of the hypothalamic–pituitary– adrenal axis involved in homeostasis and stress response are also important.

Environmental factors

Stressful life events may precipitate episodes, particularly in vulnerable individuals. Pregnancy especially carries a high risk of a mixed affective presentation or puerperal psychosis ( Post-partum psychosis, p. 494).

Pharmacological risk factors

Concerns about the possibility of antidepressant treatment precipitating mania have been investigated recently in over 21,000 patients presenting with unipolar depression. Conversion to mania/bipolar disorder was 10.9 per 1000 person-years, with a peak incidence between 26 and 35 years (12.3 per 1000 person-years). Prior antidepressant treatment the likelihood of conversion by

about 30%.99

Bipolar affective disorder 4: management principles

Acute episodes

This will depend upon the nature of the presenting episode ( Mania/manic episode, p. 320; Hypomania/hypomanic episode, p. 322; Bipolar spectrum disorder, p. 324). Often the episode may require hospital admission ( Hospital admission, see opposite). Special consideration should also be given to certain specific issues related to the clinical presentation, the presence of concurrent medical problems, and particular patient groups, both in terms of setting and choice of treatment ( Other issues affecting management decisions, p. 338). Issues of prophylaxis ( Prophylaxis, p. 344) should be considered, and this may sometimes involve not only pharmacological, but also psychotherapeutic interventions ( Psychotherapeutic interventions, p. 346).

Outpatient follow-up

Once the diagnosis has been clearly established, possible physical causes excluded, and the presenting episode effectively treated, follow-up has a number of key aims:

• Establishing and maintaining a therapeutic alliance.

• Monitoring the patient’s mental state.

• Providing education regarding bipolar disorder.

• Enhancing treatment compliance.

• Monitoring side effects of medication and ensuring therapeutic

levels of any mood stabilizer.

• Identifying and addressing any significant comorbid conditions (

Other issues affecting management decisions, p. 338).

• Promoting regular patterns of activity and wakefulness.

• Promoting understanding of, and adaption to, the psychosocial

effects of bipolar disorder.

• Identifying new episodes early.

• Reducing the morbidity and sequelae of bipolar disorder.

• Maintaining a pragmatic view of how interventions will help—to

reduce the frequency and severity of episodes, but perhaps not to

eliminate them completely—bipolar disorder is a chronic condition.

• Providing an opportunity to discuss any new treatment

developments in a balanced and evidence-informed manner.

Relapse prevention

A key part of psychiatric management is helping patients to identify precipitants or early manifestations of illness, so that treatment can be initiated early. This may be done as part of the usual psychiatric follow-up or form part of a specific psychotherapeutic intervention ( Psychotherapeutic interventions, p. 346), e.g. insomnia may often be either a precipitant or an early indicator of mania or depression— education about the importance of regular sleep habits and occasional use of a hypnotic ( Insomnia 2: general management strategies, p. 442) to promote normal sleep patterns may be useful in preventing the development of a manic episode. Other early or subtle signs of mania may be treated with the short-term use of BDZs or antipsychotics. A good therapeutic alliance is critical, and the patient, who often has good insight, ought to feel that they can contact their clinician as soon as they are aware of these early warning signs. Use of a Mood Diary or Life Chart can help in this regard (see http://bipolarnews.org; select the ‘Mood Charting’ tab).

Hospital admission

Frequently acute episodes of bipolar disorder are severe enough to require hospital admission (often on a compulsory basis). Issues of

safety and the provision of effective treatment will govern decisions about whether a patient can remain in the community.

Points to note

• Patients with symptoms of mania/hypomania or depression often have impaired judgement (sometimes related to psychotic symptoms), which may interfere with their ability to make reasoned decisions about the need for treatment.

• Risk assessment includes not only behaviours that may cause direct harm (e.g. suicide attempts or homicidal behaviour), but also those that may be indirectly harmful (e.g. overspending, sexual promiscuity, excessive use of drugs/alcohol, driving while unwell).

• The relapsing/remitting nature of the disorder makes it possible to work with the patient (when well) and their family/carers to anticipate future acute episodes—agree a treatment plan.

Clinical features and situations where admission may be necessary

• High risk of suicide or homicide.

• Illness behaviour endangering relationships, reputation, or assets.

• Lack of capacity to cooperate with treatment (e.g. directly due to

illness or secondary to availability of social supports/outpatient


• Lack (or loss) of psychosocial supports.

• Severe psychotic symptoms.

• Severe depressive symptoms.

• Severe mixed states or rapid cycling (days/hours).

• Catatonic symptoms.

• Failure of outpatient treatment.

• Address comorbid conditions (e.g. physical problems, other

psychiatric conditions, inpatient detoxification).

Suitable environment

During an acute manic episode, maintain a routine, calm environment (not always possible). A balance should be struck between avoiding over-stimulation (e.g. from outside events, TV, radio, lively conversation) and provision of space to walk or exercise to use up excess energy. Where possible, restrict access to alcohol

and drugs. Regular observations by staff may be overly intrusive and feel uncomfortable on a busy ward. Patients may make requests that may be reasonable, but not practical. Psychiatrists should adopt a pragmatic approach, listen to concerns, and balance risks. This may result in a difficult decision about whether to detain a patient to a hospital environment, which, although far from ideal, is the ‘least worst’ option.

Other issues affecting management decisions

Specific clinical features

Certain clinical features will strongly influence the choice of treatment. For issues of substance misuse or other psychiatric morbidity, these should be addressed directly (see specific sections).

• Psychotic symptoms: not uncommon for patients to experience

delusions and/or hallucinations during episodes of mania or depression. Management—an antipsychotic with mood-stabilizing properties (e.g. olanzapine or quetiapine) is the first-line choice. A mood stabilizer (semisodium valproate or lithium typically) may also be appropriate for prophylaxis; consider ECT; if severe, consider admission to hospital.

• Catatonic symptoms: during a manic episode (manic stupor). Management—admit to hospital; exclude medical problem; clarify psychiatric diagnosis; if clear, treat with ECT and/or BDZ, alongside mood-stabilizing antipsychotic medication.

• Risk of suicide: assess nature of risk ( Asking about depressed mood, p. 64); note association with rapid cycling mood. If significant risk, or unacceptable uncertainty, admit to hospital (or if in hospital, increase the level of observation).

• Risk of violence: assess nature of risk ( Assessing risk of violence, p. 748). Note risk with rapid mood cycling, paranoid delusions, agitation, and dysphoria. Admit to hospital; consider the need for secure setting.

• Substance-related disorders: comorbidity is high, often confusing the clinical picture. Substance misuse may lead to relapse both directly and indirectly (by reducing compliance and precipitating difficult social circumstances). Equally, alcohol consumption may

increase when on lithium. Management—address issues of misuse; if detoxification considered, admit to hospital as risk of suicide may be i.

• Other comorbidities: personality difficulty/disorder, anxiety or conduct disorder, ADHD.

Concurrent medical problems

The presence of other medical problems may affect management either by exacerbating the course or severity of the disorder or by complicating drug treatment (i.e. issues of tolerability and drug interactions).

• Cardiovascular/renal/hepatic disorders: may restrict the choice of drug therapy or increase the need for closer monitoring ( Prescribing for patients with cardiovascular disease, p. 1032; Prescribing for patients with liver disease, p. 1034; Prescribing for patients with renal impairment, p. 1036).

• Endocrine disorders: e.g. hypo-/hyperthyoidism.

• Infectious diseases: e.g. HIV-infected patients may be more

sensitive to CNS side effects of mood stabilizers.

• Use of steroids: e.g. for treatment of asthma/irritable bowel

syndrome (IBS).

Special patient groups

• Children and adolescents ( Management, p. 701) Lithium has been shown to be effective, but long-term effects on development have not been fully studied. Lithium may be excreted more quickly, allowing more rapid dose adjustments, but therapeutic levels are the same as for adults. Risks associated with other adjunctive agents (e.g. antipsychotics, antidepressants, BDZs) should be considered separately. ECT is rarely used but may be effective. Education, support, and other specific psychosocial interventions should be considered (usually involving family, teachers, etc.).

• The elderly ( Management, p. 553) When a first manic episode occurs in a patient after age 60, there is usually evidence of previous depressive episodes in their 40s and 50s. Full physical examination is necessary to exclude medical causes (especially CNS disorders). Older patients may be more sensitive to the side

effects of lithium (particularly neurological and renal) and may

require lower therapeutic levels (i.e. below 0.7mmol/L).

• Pregnancy and lactation ( Prescribing in pregnancy, p. 1028;

Prescribing in lactation, p. 1030). Consider ECT earlier than in other situations of significant manic, depressed, or psychotically depressed episodes.

Published guidelines

There are now a number of guidelines that can help inform practice, including the slightly ageing APA guideline (2002)1010 and the more up-to-date UK NICE guideline (2014)1111 and the BAP guideline

(2016)1212. Many UK hospitals are also developing integrated care pathways (ICPs), which will include treatment guidelines based on these, as well as reflecting local custom and practice.

Treatment of acute manic episodes

For severe behavioural disorder

Follow local protocols for management ( Severe behavioural disturbance, p. 1048). Pharmacological interventions should be regarded as separate from specific management of acute mania, although there is a degree of overlap. Cautious treatment with BDZs (e.g. lorazepam) and low-dose antipsychotics (e.g. haloperidol) are recommended. Local guidelines should be followed.

For severe/life-threatening manic episode

ECT has been shown to be a valid treatment option in acute mania13 and should be offered, especially if the patient has had a previous good response or there is an advance statement/directive of preference. Current practice reserves ECT for clinical situations where pharmacological treatments may not be possible, such as pregnancy or severe cardiac disease, or when the patient’s illness is refractory to drug treatments.

If currently on antidepressant medication

Give consideration to reducing, stopping, or swapping to an alternative medication if manic episode related to commencement or recent dose change (or possible compliance issues).

Not currently on any treatment

Most guidelines recommend the use of one of the licensed SGAs first line in view of ease of use, rapidity of action, and tolerability (see Table 7.2)—with most evidence for olanzapine, risperidone, and quetiapine. Haloperidol is also one of the best options for the

treatment of manic episodes.14 Valproic acid or lithium are usually second line, unless there is clear evidence of previous benefit.

Table 7.2 Licensed antipsychotics (UK): starting doses and therapeutic ranges (see BNF for further details)


Olanzapine Quetiapine Risperidone Aripiprazole Asenapine

Starting dose

15mg/day 50mg bd 2mg/day 15mg/day 10mg bd

Therapeutic range

5–20mg/day 400–800mg/day 1–6mg/day 15–30mg/day 10–20mg/day

If already on semisodium valproate or lithium

• Ensure compliance and therapeutic dose.

• Consider combining lithium with semisodium valproate. • Consider adding antipsychotic treatment.

If already on antipsychotic medication

• Ensure compliance and therapeutic dose.

• Consider adding lithium or semisodium valproate.

Treatment notes

• Lithium ( Lithium, p. 350) Up to 3wks of treatment may be necessary to reach maximal effectiveness for manic patients. Due to this delayed effect, especially for severe mania or psychotic symptoms, with associated acute behavioural disturbance, an antipsychotic and/or BDZ is often used first line (see ‘Benzodiazepines’ further below). Predictors of good response include—previous response to lithium, compliance with medication,

>3 previous episodes, family history of mood disorder, euphoria

(not dysphoria), lack of psychotic symptoms or suicidal behaviour.

• Semisodium valproate ( Valproate/valproic acid, p. 354) Well tolerated and has very few drug interactions, making it more suitable for combined treatment regimes. May also work faster than lithium, but not suitable for women of childbearing age due to the risk of neural tube defects. Predictors of good response include —rapid cycling, dysphoric mania, mixed episodes/features, stable or decreasing frequency of manic episodes, less severe bipolar

spectrum disorders.

• Benzodiazepines May reduce the need for using high

antipsychotic doses in order to achieve sufficient sedation. Clonazepam and lorazepam are most widely studied, alone or in combination with lithium.

• Carbamazepine ( Carbamazepine, p. 356) Or its derivative oxcarbazepine, may be effective, either alone or in combination

with lithium or antipsychotics.15 May be better tolerated in patients with comorbid drug or alcohol problems, in obesity, or in women of childbearing age. Predictors of good response include—previous response to carbamazepine, poor compliance (due to wide therapeutic window), absence of psychotic symptoms, secondary mania (e.g. drug-induced, neurological disorder, brain injury), dysphoria, mixed episodes/features, rapid cycling, episode part of schizoaffective disorder.

• Other anticonvulsants Meta-analysis does not support the use of lamotrigine, gabapentin, or topiramate for acute mania.14

• Clozapine ( Clozapine 1: general guidelines, p. 218 May be considered for refractory illness where symptoms are inadequately controlled with optimized doses of the first-line medicine and/or mania is very severe.

Treatment of depressive episodes

Bipolar depression occurs more frequently, lasts longer, is more disruptive, and may be associated with a greater risk of suicide than mania. Until recently, research has focused more on treatment of mania and prophylaxis. The pharmacological treatment of

depressive episodes in bipolar disorder represents a particular

challenge.16 Although almost all of the antidepressants used in the treatment of unipolar depression are used in the treatment of bipolar depression, the response rates are lower and it is not confirmed that they have a significant effect at all. Despite this, many clinicians choose to prescribe them pragmatically, given the risks of depressive episodes in the context of bipolar disorder. Furthermore, antidepressants can increase the risk of precipitating a manic

episode or inducing/accelerating rapid cycling.17 When symptoms are mild to moderate, consider combining pharmacological and psychological interventions (as for unipolar depression; Management principles and outpatient treatment, p. 262).

If the patient is already on prophylaxis

• Optimize (ensure compliance), check serum levels.

• Exclude/treat associated problems (e.g. hypothyroidism).

• Review the need for other medications that may lower the mood.

Consider other conditions that may mimic or cause depression (

Differential diagnosis, p. 253).

• Consider adding SSRI (along with mood-stabilizing prophylaxis).

• If not on antipsychotic, then consider the addition of quetiapine

instead of SSRI ( Treatment notes, see opposite).

If evidence of recent mood instability (manic/hypomanic episodes and depression)

• First line: increase or (re)commence antimanic agent. • Second line: consider using lamotrigine.

If no response to SSRI

• Consider alternative antidepressant, e.g. mirtazapine, venlafaxine; or augmentation strategies ( Treatment notes, see opposite).

• Consider the addition of quetiapine or olanzapine if not currently on an antipsychotic ( Treatment notes, see opposite).

For severe/life-threatening depressive episode (or previous good response/advance statement of preference)

• ECT should be strongly considered as first-line treatment.

• Although well established for treatment of unipolar depressive disorder, ECT in bipolar disorder has not been fully researched but should not be overlooked (especially severe cases).

• Take care if the patient is on prophylaxis ( Table 6.7, p. 298). Following remission of depressive symptoms

• Taper antidepressants after 8–12wks of maintenance treatment. • Continue a mood stabilizer to prevent relapse.

Treatment notes

• Choice of antidepressant: although evidence is scarce, recent studies have suggested that SSRIs may be better tolerated, work more quickly, and have a lower associated risk of inducing mania or rapid cycling, compared to TCAs. In general, choice will depend on issues of previous response, side effects (both desired and undesired), and tolerability issues ( Antidepressants, p. 276).

• Role of antipsychotics: quetiapine is licensed to treat depression in bipolar disorder (50mg nocte day 1, 100mg day 2, 200mg day 3, 300mg day 4; adjust according to response, usual dose 300mg nocte; max 600mg daily). Efficacy has been demonstrated in two RCTs (BOLDER 1 and 2) and the EMBOLDEN I and II replication

trials.18 Olanzapine, as an olanzapine–fluoxetine combination

(OFC), is licensed for bipolar depression in the USA as Symbyax® (6/25, 6/50, or 12/50mg/day). Not licensed for bipolar depression in the UK, but licensed for mania and propylaxis. Recommended as first line either on its own or with fluoxetine in NICE (CG185, 2014) and BAP (2016) guidelines ( Published guidelines, p. 339). Similarly, lurasidone is unlicensed in the UK but recommended for use first line in BAP (2016) guidelines.

• Other anticonvulsants: a recent meta-analysis supports monotherapy with lamotrigine (licensed in the USA, but not in the UK; Lamotrigine, p. 358), particularly for treatment-refractory bipolar depression.19 Gabapentin appears much less effective. Controlled clinical trials comparing standard treatments for depression in patients with bipolar disorder are lacking. It is a widely accepted practice to add a second mood stabilizer to the treatment regimens of patients with bipolar disorder (e.g.

carbamazepine or valproate). Be alert for evidence of lithium

toxicity, even at ‘normal’ serum levels ( Toxicity, p. 353).

• Alternative strategies/treatment resistance: other suggested strategies include the use of adjunctive tri-iodothyronine (T3)—

even if there is no evidence of clinical hypothyroidism20—and the

novel use of inositol.21 Evidence for omega-3 fatty acids is equivocal at best. For treatment-resistant depressive episodes, the principles of management are as for unipolar depression ( An approach to treatment-resistant depression, p. 270).


Primary aim

Prevention of recurrent episodes (mania, hypomania, or depression).

Suicide prevention

Patients with bipolar disorder represent a group at high risk of suicide. Retrospective and prospective studies do suggest that long- term lithium therapy reduces the risk of suicide. There are still little data available on the anti-suicidal effects of other prophylactic treatments.


Following effective remission of acute symptoms of mania or bipolar depression; also recommended in bipolar II disorder.

Procedure following remission of acute symptoms of mania or depression

• Ensure therapeutic dose of mood stabilizer/optimal balance of risk–benefit for any antipsychotic medication.

• Withdraw gradually any additional antipsychotic or BDZ used to manage acute symptoms.

• When euthymia achieved following depressive episode, consider tapering antidepressant after 8–12wks.

• Continue monitoring of side effects, blood levels, and physical checks as per protocols for individual agents ( Lithium, p. 350; Lithium: adverse effects, p. 352; Valproate/valproic acid, p. 354;

Carbamazepine, p. 356; Lamotrigine, p. 358).

Guiding principles

• Manage with the lowest dose necessary of any maintenance medication.

• Aim for a single agent, if possible; most will require mood stabilizer + low-dose antipsychotic or mood stabilizer + antidepressant.

• Off-licence use of valproate or antipsychotic may be justified in the maintenance phase if there is good evidence of benefit in acute phase management (i.e. continuation is not unreasonable, perhaps at a lower dose, and few medications are licensed).

• ‘Wait and see’ policy for possible bipolar II disorder where use of mood stabilizer may prevent more serious later episodes should be discussed with the patient in light of a detailed clinical interview (especially high genetic risk), since treatments themselves are not without risks (evidence supports possible use of quetiapine or lamotrigine in this regard, but these are off-licence indications).

Licensed treatments

• Lithium ( Lithium, p. 350): to date, remains the gold standard

choice for maintenance treatment in patients,22 especially with a

‘classical’ course of illness.

• Carbamazepine ( Carbamazepine, p. 356): appears to be

effective in the long-term treatment of bipolar disorder, with an overall response rate of 63%. Although it does not have worldwide approval as yet, carbamazepine may be more effective in the treatment of bipolar spectrum than classical bipolar disorder.

• Lamotrigine ( Lamotrigine, p. 358): licensed as monotherapy or adjunctive therapy (200–400mg/day); efficacy established in a pair of controlled studies for the prevention of depression and, to a lesser extent, mania following discontinuation of other psychotropic


• Olanzapine: licensed for prevention of recurrence in bipolar

disorder (5–20mg/day); appears to be effective either alone or in

combination with lithium or valproate.

• Aripiprazole: licensed for treatment and recurrence prevention of

mania (15–30mg/day).

• Quetiapine: licensed for prevention of mania and depression in

bipolar disorder (300–800mg/day in two divided doses).

Unlicensed treatments

• Semisodium valproate/valproate/valproic acid ( Valproate/valproic acid, p. 354): licensed for treatment of mania, but not specifically as prophylaxis. Caution required in women of childbearing age. Evidence of efficacy in rapid-cycling bipolar disorder and the most widely prescribed therapy for bipolar depression (unequivocal evidence of successful prophylaxis has not yet emerged). Indeed, the recent BALANCE study showed that both combination therapy (lithium plus valproate) and lithium monotherapy are more likely to prevent relapse than valproate


• Other antipsychotics: risperidone may have an adjunctive or

maintenance role orally and as depot. Asenapine is licensed for use in mania and may be continued as prophylaxis. FGAs, including depots (usually low dose), are anecdotally effective, but evidence is lacking.

• Other anticonvulsants: there have been promising reports on the efficacy of oxcarbazepine, topiramate, gabapentin, and tiagabine, but the evidence is relatively weak.

• Alternative/augmentative agents: a number of other compounds

that may have clinical utility include: Ca2+ channel antagonists such as verapamil, nifedipine, and nimodipine; thyroid hormones; tamoxifen; omega-3 fatty acids; and even vitamin/mineral supplements. These agents should only be considered following attempts to treat with more conventional approaches.

Risks of discontinuation

Substantial evidence exists that abrupt discontinuation of lithium is associated with an risk of relapse. The risk, particularly of mania, may be minimized by gradually reducing the lithium dose. Although comparable studies are not available for the anticonvulsants or antipsychotics, a similarly cautious approach would seem advisable.

Psychotherapeutic interventions

Most patients will struggle with some of the following issues:

• Emotional consequences of significant periods of illness and

receiving the diagnosis of a chronic psychiatric disorder.

• Developmental deviations and delays caused by past episodes.

• Problems associated with stigmatization.

• Problems related to self-esteem.

• Fear of recurrence and the consequent inhibition of normal

psychosocial functioning.

• Interpersonal difficulties.

• Issues related to marriage, family, childbearing, and parenting.

• Academic and occupational problems.

• Other legal, social, and emotional problems that arise from illness-

related behaviours.

For some patients, a specific psychotherapeutic intervention (in

addition to usual psychiatric management and social support) will be needed to address these issues. Approaches include: psychodynamic, interpersonal, behavioural, and cognitive therapies. In addition, couple, family, and group therapy may be indicated for some patients. The selection of appropriate interventions is influenced by the local availability of such treatments, as well as the patient’s needs and preferences.

Key elements of selected interventions

• Psychoeducation:25,26 key component to most therapies, psychoeducation goes further than simply delivering information and does appear to reduce recurrence and relapse. Patients are given a theoretical and practical approach to understanding their illness and the medication they are prescribed. Through understanding, patients can attain improved adherence to medication, recognize symptoms that might lead to decompensation, and recover occupational and social function.

• CBT:27 time-limited, with specific aims—educating the patient about bipolar disorder and its treatment, teaching cognitive behavioural skills for coping with psychosocial stressors and associated problems, facilitating compliance with treatment, and monitoring the occurrence and severity of symptoms.

• Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPT/SRT):28 to reduce lability of mood by maintaining a regular pattern of daily activities, e.g. sleeping, eating, physical activity, and emotional stimulation. Evidence suggests IPT/SRT should be initiated immediately

following an acute episode when individuals are most likely to make the lifestyle changes required to achieve social rhythm stability.

• Family-focused therapy (FFT):29 usually brief, includes psychoeducation (of patient and family members) with specific aims—accepting the reality of the illness, identifying precipitating stresses and likely future stresses inside and outside the family, elucidating family interactions that produce stress on the patient, planning strategies for managing and/or minimizing future stresses, and bringing about acceptance of the patient’s family of the need for continued treatment. Benefits more pronounced in depressed patients and in those living in a high-expressed emotional environment.

• Support groups: may provide useful information about bipolar disorder and its treatment. Patients may benefit from hearing the experiences of others, struggling with similar issues. This may help them to see their problems as not being unique, understand the need for medication, and access advice and assistance with other practical issues. In the UK, groups such as the Manic Depression Fellowship, MIND, and SANE provide both support and educational material to patients and their families ( Resources for patients, p. 1072).

‘At this point in my existence, I cannot imagine leading a normal life without both taking lithium and having had the benefits of psychotherapy. Lithium prevents my seductive but disastrous highs, diminishes my depressions, clears out the wool and webbing from my disordered thinking, slows me down, gentles me out, keeps me out of a hospital, alive, and makes psychotherapy possible. But, ineffably, psychotherapy heals. It makes some sense of the confusion, reins in the terrifying thoughts and feelings, returns some control and hope and possibility of learning from it all. Pills cannot, do not, ease one back into reality; they only bring one back headlong, careening, and faster than can be endured at times. Psychotherapy is a sanctuary; it is a battleground; it is a place I have been psychotic, neurotic, elated, confused, and despairing beyond belief. But, always, it is where I have believed or have learned to believe—that I might someday be able to contend with all of this. No pill can help me deal with the problem of not wanting to take pills; likewise, no amount of psychotherapy alone can prevent my manias and depressions. I need both. It is an odd thing, owing life to pills, one’s own quirks and tenacities, and this unique, strange, and ultimately profound relationship called psychotherapy.’

Dr Kay Redfield Jamison (1996) An unquiet mind: a memoir of moods and madness, pp. 88–9. London: Picador.


Previously regarded as a disorder of personality (‘cyclothymic temperament’; see Boxes 7.6 and 7.7), mainly because of its early age of onset and relative stability throughout adult life, cyclothymia is

now considered to be a mood disorder.30 Clinical features

• Persistent instability of mood, numerous periods of mild depression and mild elation, not sufficiently severe or prolonged to fulfil the criteria for bipolar affective disorder or recurrent depressive disorder.

• The mood swings are usually perceived by the individual as being unrelated to life events.

The diagnosis is difficult to establish without a prolonged period of observation or an unusually good account of the individual’s past behaviour. In DSM-5, the symptoms must have been present for at least 2yrs (or 1yr in children and adolescents), with no period lasting longer than 2mths, during which they have been at a normal state, and an additional specifier ‘with anxious distress’ may be used.


• Prevalence: 3–6% of general population.

• Age of onset: usually early adulthood (i.e. teens or 20s), but

sometimes may present later in life.

• More common in relatives of patients with bipolar affective


Differential diagnosis

Bipolar affective disorder, recurrent depressive disorder, drug or alcohol misuse, ADHD, conduct disorder, personality disorder (emotionally unstable), medical conditions ( Differential diagnosis, p. 321).


Onset often gradual, making it difficult to pinpoint when symptoms began. Alternating ups and downs may fluctuate in hours, weeks, or

months. Because mood swings are relatively mild and periods of mood elevation may be enjoyable (with activity and productivity, self-confidence, and sociability), cyclothymia frequently fails to come to medical attention. The person may often present either because of the impact of the depressive episodes on social and work situations or because of problems related to comorbid drug or alcohol misuse. Usually runs a chronic course, persisting throughout adult life. In some cases, symptoms may cease temporarily or permanently or develop into more severe mood swings meeting the criteria for bipolar affective disorder or recurrent depressive disorder.


• If pharmacological treatment is contemplated, this usually consists of a trial of a mood stabilizer (e.g. lithium, low dose 600– 900mg/day).

• Recently, there has been a tendency to use anticonvulsants, such as valproate (500–750mg/day), carbamazepine, or lamotrigine, as these may be better tolerated. As yet, there is no clear evidence to suggest any of these approaches is superior.

• At times of ‘crisis’ due to temperamental excesses, a short course of a low-dose sedating antipsychotic (e.g. chlorpromazine 50mg nocte; risperidone 1mg nocte; olanzapine 2.5mg nocte; quetiapine 25–50mg nocte) may be helpful.

• Psychoeducation and insight-orientated psychotherapy may help the person to understand the condition and allow them to develop better ways of coping.

• There is often a reluctance to continue to take medication, as this not only treats the depressive episodes, but also may be perceived as ‘blunting’ creativity, productivity, or intellectual capacity.

Box 7.6 Kraepelin’s ‘cyclothymic temperament’

These are the people who constantly oscillate hither and thither between the two opposite poles of mood, sometimes ‘rejoicing to the skies’, sometimes ‘sad as death’. Today lively, sparkling, beaming, full of the joy of life, the pleasure of enterprise, and the pressure of activity, after some time they meet us depressed,

Box 7.7 Schneider 1958

‘(Kurt) Schneider (1958, in Psychopathic Personalities) admonished the kin of labile individuals (who might approximate what we might diagnose today as cyclothymia with borderline personality features) “on their bad days … to keep out of their way as far as possible” (p. 121). Cyclothymes, with some insight into their own temperament, would give the same advice to their loved ones. Cautious trial of anticonvulsants will often prove effective in those distressed enough by their behavior as to comply with such treatment.’

Extract from Akiskal HS (2001) Review article: dysthymia and cyclothymia in psychiatric practice a century after Kraepelin. J Affect Disord 62: 17–31 with permission from Elsevier.


Despite problems with tolerability, lithium31 still remains the gold standard in the prophylactic treatment of bipolar affective disorder. The effectiveness of long-term treatment with lithium is supported by

at least nine controlled, double-blind studies,32 far exceeding the available support for other alternatives such as anticonvulsants or antipsychotics.

Mode of action

Uncertain—numerous effects on biological systems (particularly at high concentrations). Lithium can substitute for sodium (Na+),

potassium (K+), Ca2+, magnesium (Mg2+) and may have effects on cell membrane electrophysiology. Lithium interacts with systems involving other cations, including the release of neurotransmitters and second messenger systems (e.g. adenylyl cyclase, inositol- 1,4,5-triphosphate, arachidonate, protein kinase C, G proteins, and

Ca2+), effectively blocking the actions of transmitters and hormones.

enervated, ill-humored, in need of rest, and again a few months later they display the old freshness and elasticity.

Kraepelin E (1896) Manic-depressive insanity and paranoia. (Extract from translation of the 8th edn of Kraepelin’s textbook Psychiatrie).

It may also reduce receptor upregulation and have a neuroprotective action through glycogen synthase-3 (GSK-3) gene expression and upregulation of the neuroprotective protein Bcl-2.


• plasma concentration (risk of toxicity, even at therapeutic serum levels): angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)


(especially NSAIDs),

antiepileptics, antihypertensives (e.g. methyldopa), antipsychotics (especially haloperidol), calcium channel blockers, diuretics, metronidazole.

II receptor antagonists, analgesics antidepressants (especially SSRIs),

• d plasma concentration (risk of d efficacy): antacids, theophylline.

• Other interactions: anti-arrhythmics (e.g. amiodarone: risk of hypothyroidism), antidiabetics (may impair glucose tolerance), antipsychotics ( risk of EPSEs), muscle relaxants (enhanced effect), parasympathomimetics (antagonizes neostigmine and pyridostigmine).

Guidelines on lithium therapy

(See Box 7.8.)33

• Prior to commencing lithium therapy: physical examination,

FBC, U&Es, TFTs, renal function, baseline weight and height [body

mass index (BMI)], if clinically indicated—ECG, pregnancy test.

• Starting dose: usually 400–600mg given at night; weekly, depending on serum monitoring, to max 2g (usual dose 800mg– 1.2g)—actual dose depends upon preparation used (molar availability varies: 200mg carbonate is equivalent to 509mg citrate;

see Table 7.3).

• Monitoring: check lithium level 5 days after starting and 5 days

after each change of dose. Take blood samples 12hr post-dose.

• Once a therapeutic serum level has been established:34 continue to check lithium level/estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) every 3mths, TFTs every 6mths, monitor weight (BMI), and check for side effects ( Lithium: adverse events, p. 352).

• Stopping: reduce gradually over 1–3mths, particularly if the patient has a history of manic relapse (even if started on other antimanic agent).

Box 7.8 Safer lithium therapy

The UK National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) issued a Patient Safety Alert (NPSA/2009/PSA005) on safer lithium therapy, following reports of harm caused to patients, including fatalities, by lithium therapy. In collaboration with the Prescribing Observatory for Mental Health (POMH-UK) of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), other organizations, clinicians, and patients, it was designed to help NHS organizations to take steps to minimize the risks associated with lithium therapy. The following recommendations were made:

• Patients should be monitored in accordance with NICE guidelines.

• There are reliable systems to ensure blood test results are communicated between laboratories and prescribers.

• Throughout their treatment, patients receive appropriate ongoing

verbal and written information and complete a record book.*

• Prescribers and pharmacists check that blood tests are monitored regularly and that it is safe to prescribe and/or

dispense lithium.

• Systems are in place to identify and deal with medicines that

might adversely interact with lithium therapy.

* NPSA patient information booklet, lithium alert card, and record book can be found at: https://www.sps.nhs.uk/articles/npsa-alert-safer-lithium-therapy-2009/ [accessed 20

June 2018].

Table 7.3 Lithium preparations (UK)


Camcolit® (tablets) Li-liquid® (oral solution) Liskonum® (tablets) Priadel® (tablets) Priadel® (liquid)

Active component Available strengths

Lithium: adverse effects

Lithium carbonate Lithium citrate Lithium carbonate Lithium carbonate Lithium citrate

250/400mg (scored) 509mg/5mL

450mg (scored) 200/400mg (scored) 520mg/5mL

As lithium is a highly toxic ion, safe and effective therapy requires monitoring of serum levels. Up to 75% of patients treated with lithium

will experience some side effects.35 Dose-related side effects

Polyuria/polydipsia [reduced ability to concentrate urine due to antidiuretic hormone (ADH) antagonism], weight gain (effects on carbohydrate metabolism and/or oedema), cognitive problems (e.g. dulling, impaired memory, poor concentration, confusion, mental slowness), tremor, sedation or lethargy, impaired coordination, GI distress (e.g. nausea, vomiting, dyspepsia, diarrhoea), hair loss, benign leucocytosis, acne, and oedema.


Usually dealt with by lowering the dose of lithium, splitting the total daily dose, or changing the formulation. If side effects persist, additional medications may be necessary, e.g. β-blockers (tremor), thiazide or loop diuretics (polyuria, polydipsia, or oedema), and topical antibiotics or retinoic acid (acne). GI problems can be managed by administering lithium with meals or switching from carbonate to citrate.

Cardiac conduction problems

Usually benign ECG changes (e.g. T-wave changes, widening of QRS). Rarely, exacerbation of existing arrhythmias or new arrhythmias due to conduction deficits at the sinoatrial (SA) or atrioventricular (AV) nodes (contraindicated in heart failure and sick sinus syndrome).

Long-term effects

Renal function

Ten to 20% of patients on long-term therapy demonstrate morphological kidney changes (interstitial fibrosis, tubular atrophy, and sometimes glomerular sclerosis). Over 1% may develop irreversible renal failure (rising serum creatinine levels) after 10yrs or more of treatment. If urea and creatinine levels become elevated, assess the rate of deterioration ( Prescribing for patients with renal impairment, p. 1036); the decision whether to continue lithium depends on clinical efficacy and the degree of renal impairment; seek advice from a renal specialist and a clinician with expertise in the management of bipolar disorder.

Subclinical/clinical hypothyroidism

Five to 35%, more frequent in women, tends to appear after 6– 18mths of treatment, and may be associated with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Although hypothyroidism is generally reversible on discontinuation of lithium, it is not an absolute contraindication for continuing lithium treatment, as the hypothyroidism is readily treated

with levothyroxine.36 In addition to the classic signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, patients with bipolar disorder are also at risk of developing depression and/or rapid cycling as a consequence of suboptimal thyroid functioning. Should this occur and suboptimal thyroid functioning confirmed, supplementation with or without lithium discontinuation is the treatment of choice.


( Prescribing in pregnancy, p. 1028.)

The much-quoted 400-fold risk of Ebstein’s anomaly (a

congenital malformation of the tricuspid valve) due to first trimester lithium exposure now appears to be substantially less than first

reported—at most an 8-fold relative risk.37 Other reported second and third trimester problems include polyhydramnios, premature delivery, thyroid abnormalities, nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, and floppy baby syndrome. The estimated risk of major congenital anomalies for lithium-exposed babies is 4–12%, compared with 2– 4% in untreated control groups.


A balance needs to be struck between the risks of teratogenicity and the risks of relapse following discontinuation:

• Mild, stable forms of bipolar disorder: lithium may be tapered

down and stopped pre-pregnancy.

• Moderate risk of relapse: lithium should be tapered and

discontinued either before pregnancy or during the first trimester (following discussion with the patient and with a clear multidisciplinary care plan).

• Severe forms of bipolar disorder, at high risk of relapse: lithium should be maintained during pregnancy (with informed consent, appropriate counselling, prenatal diagnosis, detailed ultrasound and echocardiography at 16–18wks’ gestation, and lithium monitoring).


The usual upper therapeutic limit for 12-hr post-dose serum lithium level is 1.2mmol/L. With levels of >1.5mmol/L, most patients will experience some symptoms of toxicity; >2.0mmol/L definite, often life-threatening, toxic effects occur. There is often a narrow therapeutic window where the beneficial effects outweigh the toxic effects (especially in older patients).

Early signs and symptoms Marked tremor, anorexia, nausea/vomiting, diarrhoea (sometimes bloody), dehydration, and lethargy.

As lithium levels rise Severe neurological complications: restlessness, muscle fasciculation, myoclonic jerks, choreoathetoid movements, marked hypertonicity. This may progress to ataxia, dysarthria, lethargy, drowsiness, and confusion/delirium. Hypotension and cardiac arrhythmias precede circulatory collapse,

with emerging seizures, stupor, and coma (high risk of permanent neurological impairment or death).


• Education of patients (methods of avoiding toxicity, e.g. maintaining hydration and salt intake, and being alert to early signs and symptoms).

• Careful adjustment of dosage may be all that is required.

• In severe toxicity [e.g. following overdose (OD)], rapid steps to reduce serum lithium level are urgently necessary (e.g. forced diuresis with IV isotonic saline) and, if accompanied by renal

failure, haemodialysis.

• Review the need for prophylaxis ( Prophylaxis, p. 344).

Valproate/valproic acid

From April 2018 in the UK: valproate medicines must not be used in women or girls of childbearing potential, unless a Pregnancy

Prevention Programme is in place.38

Valproate [valproic acid (as the semisodium salt—Depakote®) and

sodium valproate (Episenta®)] is licensed for the treatment of acute mania. Although not specifically licensed, other preparations are also used as prophylaxis for bipolar disorder (see Table 7.4). Note: the

equivalent amount of valproic acid available from Depakote® 500mg,

Epilim® 500mg, and Epilim Chrono® 500mg are 500mg, 433mg, and 433mg, respectively.

Psychiatric indications

• Acute mania (up to 56% effective) ( Treatment of acute manic episodes, p. 340).

• Acute depressive episode (in bipolar affective disorder), in combination with an antidepressant. Data limited ( Treatment of depressive episodes, p. 342).

• Prophylaxis of bipolar affective disorder—possibly more effective in rapid cycling ( Prophylaxis, p. 344).

Mode of action

Uncertain. Modulates voltage-sensitive Na+ channels, acts on second messenger systems, and increases the bioavailability of GABA (or mimics action at post-synaptic receptor sites) in the CNS.


Sodium valproate is available in multiple forms. Semisodium

valproate (Depakote®)comes as enteric-coated tablets containing valproic acid and sodium valproate. Both are rapidly absorbed orally (peak serum level: sodium valproate ~2hr; semisodium valproate 3– 8hr), with a plasma half-life of 6–16hr) (see Box 7.9 and Table 7.4).


• Raised serum levels with phenobarbital, phenytoin, and antidepressants (TCAs, fluoxetine). serum levels with carbamazepine.

• Toxicity may be precipitated by other highly protein-bound drugs (e.g. aspirin), which can displace valproate from its protein-binding sites.

Side effects and toxicity

• Dose-related side effects: GI upset (anorexia, nausea, dyspepsia, vomiting, diarrhoea), raised LFTs, tremor, and sedation —if persistent, may require dose reduction, change in preparation, or treatment of specific symptoms (e.g. β-blocker for tremor; H2-

blocker for dyspepsia).

• Unpredictable side effects: mild, asymptomatic leucopenia and

thrombocytopenia (reversible upon drug reduction/discontinuation),

hair loss (usually transient), appetite, and weight gain.

• Rare, idiosyncratic side effects: irreversible hepatic failure, pancreatitis, agranulocytosis, polycystic


• Toxicity/OD: wide therapeutic window; hence, unintentional OD is

uncommon. Signs of OD include somnolence, heart block, eventually coma, and even death (haemodialysis may be needed).

Table 7.4 Valproate/valproic acid preparations (UK)



Depakote® Epilim® (IV)

Epilim Chrono® (MR)


Chronosphere® (MR granules)

Episenta® (MR) (IV)

Epival® (MR)

Sodium valproate (generic)

Active agent

Valproic acid

Valproic acid

Sodium valproate

Sodium valproate

Sodium valproate

Sodium valproate

Sodium valproate

Sodium valproate

Available strengths

C 150/300/500mg T 250/500mg

T 100/200/500mg L 200mg/5mL IV 400mg powder with 4mL water ampoule


50/100/250/500 750/1000mg sachets

C 150/300mg Granules 500mg/1g IV 100mg/mL 3mL ampoule

T 300/500mg

T 100/200/500mg L 200mg/5mL

Key: T = tablet; C = capsule; L = liquid.

Box 7.9 Guidelines for sodium valproate use

• Full medical history (particularly liver disease, haematological problems, and bleeding disorders)/full physical examination; pregnancy test; check FBC, LFTs, baseline ECG, weight/height (BMI).

• Sodium valproate: start with a low, divided dose (e.g. 200mg bd or tds), increase every few days/week by 200–400mg/day,


Psychiatric indications

• Acute mania (less effective than lithium/equivalent efficacy to antipsychotics)—alone or in combination with lithium ( Treatment of acute manic episodes, p. 340).

• Acute depressive episode (in bipolar affective disorder)—alone or in combination with lithium ( Treatment of depressive episodes, p. 342).

• Prophylaxis of bipolar affective disorder—data limited ( Prophylaxis, p. 344).

Mode of action

Uncertain. Modulates Na+ and Ca2+ ion channels, receptor mediation of GABA and glutamine, and various intracellular signalling pathways.


according to response and side effects, up to a maximum of 2500mg/day, or until serum levels are 50–125mmol/L. Usual maintenance dose 1–2g/day.

• Valproic acid as semisodium valproate: start with 250mg tds (or up to 20mg/kg for acute manic episode), increase every few days/every week by 250–500mg/day to a maximum of 2000mg/day, or until serum levels are 50–125mmol/L. Usual maintenance dose 1–2g/day.

• Once the patient is stable, simplify the regimen and consider use of a slow-release preparation to enhance compliance/reduce side effects.

Points to note

• Once established, check 6-monthly FBC, LFTs, valproate level, and BMI.

• Use doses and serum levels considered therapeutic for epilepsy.

• Closer clinical monitoring for side effects may be necessary for

patients who cannot reliably report early signs.

Available in a variety of forms (solutions, suspensions, syrups, and chewable or slow-release formulations), all with similar bioavailability. Peak plasma concentrations 4–8hrs (usually), may be as late as 26hrs. Plasma half-life 18–55hrs. With long-term use, carbamazepine induces its own metabolism, decreasing the half-life to 5–26hrs (see Box 7.10 and Table 7.5).


• Carbamazepine decreases the plasma levels of many drugs metabolized by the liver, e.g. antipsychotics, BDZs (except clonazepam), TCAs, other anticonvulsants, hormonal contraceptives, and thyroid hormones.

• Carbamazepine serum concentrations can be by certain drugs, e.g. erythromycin, calcium channel blockers (diltiazem and verapamil, but not nifedipine or nimodipine), and SSRIs.

Side effects and toxicity

• Unpredictable side effects: antidiuretic effects leading to hyponatraemia (6–31%), more common in the elderly, sometimes many months after starting treatment; decrease in total and free thyroxine levels/increase in free cortisol levels (rarely clinically significant).

• Idiosyncratic side effects: agranulocytosis, aplastic anaemia, hepatic failure, exfoliative dermatitis (e.g. Stevens–Johnson syndrome), and pancreatitis (usually occur within the first 3–6mths of treatment, rarely after longer periods). Note: routine blood monitoring does not reliably predict blood dyscrasias, hepatic failure, or exfoliative dermatitis—patient education about early symptoms and signs is essential.

• Other rare side effects: systemic hypersensitivity reactions, cardiac conduction problems, psychiatric symptoms (including occasional cases of mania and psychosis), and, extremely rarely, renal problems (failure, oliguria, haematuria, and proteinuria).

• Toxicity/OD: early signs—dizziness, ataxia, sedation, and diplopia. Acute intoxication may present as marked irritability, stupor, or even coma. May be fatal in OD (if >6g ingested). Symptoms of OD—nystagmus, ophthalmoplegia, cerebellar/extra- pyramidal signs, impairment of consciousness, convulsions,

respiratory depression, cardiac problems (tachycardia, hypotension, arrhythmias/conduction disturbances), GI upset, and other anticholinergic symptoms. Significant OD requires emergency medical management (i.e. close monitoring,

symptomatic treatment, gastric haemodialysis).

Table 7.5 Carbamazepine preparations

lavage, and possible

Available strengths


100mg/5mL 125/250mg 200/400mg

200/400mg 100/200/400mg



Tegretol® prolonged release

Carbagen® SR

Carbamazepine (generic)


Tablet (also Chewtabs®)

Liquid Suppositories MR tablet

MR capsule Tablet

Box 7.10 Guidelines for carbamazepine use

• Full medical history (particularly liver disease, haematological problems, and bleeding disorders); physical examination; check FBC, LFTs, U&Es, baseline ECG, and weight/height (BMI).

• Start with a low, divided dose (e.g. 200–600mg/day in 2–4 divided doses), increase every few days or every week by 200mg/day, according to response and side effects, up to 800– 1200mg/day, with slower increases thereafter as indicated, to a maximum of 2000mg/day or until serum levels are 4–15g/mL (trough level—taken immediately prior to morning dose, and 5 days after dose change) (see Table 7.5).


Psychiatric indications

• Maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder to delay relapse (depression, mania, hypomania, mixed episodes) ( Prophylaxis, p. 344).

• May be more effective than other mood stabilizers in preventing depressive episodes in bipolar disorder.

Mode of action

Unknown. Inhibits voltage-gated Na+ channels and glutamate release. Also has weak inhibitory effect on 5-HT3 receptors.


Rapidly and completely absorbed after oral administration, with negligible first-pass metabolism (absolute bioavailability 98%). Bioavailability is not affected by food/drug administration. Peak plasma concentrations occur anywhere from 1 to 5hrs, half-life

• Maintenance doses are usually around 1000mg/day (range 200– 1600mg/day). Doses higher than 1600mg/day are not recommended.

• Check FBC, LFTs, and serum carbamazepine level every 2wks during first 2mths of treatment, then reduce monitoring to every 3mths, then every 6mths once well established (and monitor BMI).

• Once the patient is stable, simplify the regimen and consider use of a slow-release preparation, to enhance compliance/reduce side effects.

Points to note

• Closer clinical monitoring for side effects may be necessary for patients who cannot reliably report early signs.

• If carbamazepine is combined with lithium, there may be an risk of developing acute confusional state.

• Closer monitoring is advisable and minimization of the use or dose of other medications (e.g. antipsychotics, anticholinergics, BDZs) that may contribute to confusion.

24hrs, time to steady state 5–8 days. Drug is 55% protein-bound (see Box 7.11 and Table 7.6).


• Certain medications have been shown to increase clearance of lamotrigine: carbamazepine (40%), oxcarbazepine (30%), phenobarbital (40%), phenytoin (50%), ritonavir, mesuximide, rifampicin, primidone, and certain oestrogen-containing oral contraceptives.

• Valproate decreases the clearance of lamotrigine (i.e. more than doubles the elimination half-life of lamotrigine), so reduced doses (no greater than 50% of the usual dose) of lamotrigine should be given.

Side effects and toxicity

• Most common side effects: dizziness, headache, blurred/double vision, lack of coordination, sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and rash.

• Rare side effects: rare incidence of multi-organ failure, various degrees of hepatic failure, aseptic meningitis, movement disorders.

• Risk of rash: 10–14% of patients receiving lamotrigine will develop a rash. Most are benign. A minority may be serious/life- threatening skin reactions requiring hospitalization, e.g. Stevens– Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, angio-oedema, and a rash associated with a number of systemic manifestations (i.e. fever, lymphadenopathy, facial swelling, and haematological and hepatological abnormalities). Rash is most likely to occur within first 2–8wks of treatment and more likely when combined with valproate, exceeding the recommended initial dose or rapid dose escalation. Although most rashes resolve even with continuation of treatment, it is not possible to predict which rashes will prove to be serious or life-threatening. Lamotrigine should be discontinued at first sign of rash, unless the rash is clearly not drug-related, and even this may not prevent a rash from becoming life-threatening or permanently disabling/disfiguring. Lamotrigine should not be restarted in patients who discontinued due to rash associated with prior treatment (unless the potential benefits clearly outweigh the


• Other rare side effects: serious hypersensitivity reactions, blood dyscrasias (neutropenia, leucopenia, anaemia, thrombocytopenia, pancytopenia and, rarely, aplastic anaemia and pure red cell aplasia), withdrawal seizures.

Table 7.6 Lamotrigine preparations



Lamotrigine (generic)



Dispersible tablet


Dispersible tablet

Available strengths





Box 7.11 Guidelines for lamotrigine use

• Prior to starting: pregnancy test (in women of childbearing age).

• As monotherapy: start 25mg/day for wks 1 and 2. Increase to 50mg/day for wks 3 and 4. Increase by max 50–100mg/day every 1–2wks thereafter. Usual dose 100–200mg/day in 1–2 divided doses (max 500mg/day) (see Table 7.6).

• With valproate: start 25mg every other day for wks 1 and 2. Increase to 25mg/day for wks 3 and 4. Increase by 25– 50mg/day every 1–2wks. Usual dose 100–200mg/day in 1–2 divided doses.

• With carbamazepine and NOT taking valproate: start 50mg/day for wks 1 and 2. Then 50mg bd for wks 3 and 4. Increase by max 100mg/day every 1–2wks. Usual dose 200– 400mg/day in two divided doses (up to 700mg/day sometimes needed).

• If a patient has discontinued lamotrigine for a period of >5 half- lives (i.e. 5 days), it is recommended that initial dosing recommendations and guidelines be followed.

• Although there is no well-established correlation between serum concentrations and mood-stabilizing effects, antiepileptic

1 Benazzi F (2007) Mixed depression and the dimensional view of mood disorders. Psychopathology 40:431–9.

2 Angst J (2007) The bipolar spectrum. Br J Psychiatry 190:189–91.

3 Ghaemi SN, Ko JY, Goodwin FK (2002) ‘Cade’s disease’ and beyond: misdiagnosis, antidepressant use, and a proposed definition for bipolar spectrum disorder. Can J Psychiatry 47:125–34.

4 Characterized by cheerful, optimistic personality style, a tendency to become easily irritated, extroverted, and sociable, and requiring little sleep (<6hrs/night)—a lifelong disposition, unlike short-lived hypomania. Neither in ICD-10 nor DSM-5, but significant overlap with narcissistic or antisocial personality.

5 Ferreira MA, O’Donovan MC, Meng YA, et al. (2008) Collaborative genome-wide association analysis supports a role for ANK3 and CACNA1C in bipolar disorder. Nat Genet 40:1056–8.

6 National Institutes of Health (2009) Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder share genetic roots. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/schizophrenia-bipolar-disorder- share-genetic-roots [accessed 20 June 2018].

7 Houenou J, Frommberger J, Carde S, et al. (2011) Neuroimaging-based markers of bipolar disorder: evidence from two meta-analyses. J Affect Disord 132:344–55.

8 Konradi C, Zimmerman EI, Yang CK, et al. (2011) Hippocampal interneurons in bipolar disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 68:340–50.

9 Patel R, Reiss P, Shetty H, et al. (2015) Do antidepressants increase the risk of mania and bipolar disorder in people with depression? A retrospective electronic case register cohort study. BMJ Open 5:e008341.

10 American Psychiatric Association (2002) Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with bipolar disorder. Am J Psychiatry 159(Suppl 4): 1–50. https://psychiatryonline.org/pb/assets/raw/sitewide/practice_guidelines/guidelines/bipolar.pdf [accessed 20 June 2018].

11 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014) Bipolar disorder: assessment and management. Clinical guideline [CG185]. http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg185

therapeutic serum levels are 8–10mg/mL.


• The value of monitoring plasma concentrations has not been established; however, due to drug interactions, monitoring of concomitant drugs may be indicated, particularly during dosage adjustments.

• Prior to treatment, the patient should be warned that a rash or other signs or symptoms of hypersensitivity (e.g. fever, lymphadenopathy, hives, painful sores in the mouth or around the eyes, or swelling of the lips or tongue) warrant urgent medical assessment to determine if lamotrigine should be discontinued ( Risk of rash, see opposite).

[accessed 20 June 2018].

12 Goodwin GM; Consensus Group of the British Association for Psychopharmacology (2016) Evidence-based guidelines for treating bipolar disorder: revised third edition— recommendations from the British Association for Psychopharmacology. J Psychopharmacol 30:495–553. http://www.bap.org.uk/pdfs/BAP_Guidelines-Bipolar.pdf [accessed 20 June 2018].

13 Mukherjee S, Sackeim HA, Schnur DB (1994) Electroconvulsive therapy of acute manic episodes: a review of 50 years’ experience. Am J Psychol 151:169–76.

14 Cipriani A, Barbui C, Salanti G, et al. (2011) Comparative efficacy and acceptability of antimanic drugs in acute mania: a multiple-treatments meta-analysis. Lancet 378:1306–15. 15 McElroy SL, Keck PE Jr (2000) Pharmacologic agents for the treatment of acute bipolar mania. Biol Psychiatry 48:539–57.

16 Hirschfeld RM (2004) Bipolar depression: the real challenge. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 14(Suppl 2): S83–8.

17 Compton MT, Nemeroff CB (2000) The treatment of bipolar depression. J Clin Psychiatry 61(Suppl):57–67.

18 For a review of the studies, see: Bogart GT, Chavez B (2009) Safety and efficacy of quetiapine in bipolar depression. Ann Pharmacother 43:1848–56.

19 Geddes JR, Calabrese JR, Goodwin GM (2009) Lamotrigine for treatment of bipolar depression: independent meta-analysis and meta-regression of individual patient data from five randomised trials. Br J Psychiatry 194:4–9.

20 Bauer M, Berghofer A, Bschor T, et al. (2002) Supraphysiological doses of L-thyroxine in the maintenance treatment of prophylaxis-resistant affective disorders. Neuropsychopharmacol 27:620–8.

21 Chengappa KN, Levine J, Gershon S, et al. (2000) Inositol as an add-on treatment for bipolar depression. Bipolar Disord 2:47–55.

22 Kessing LV, Hellmund G, Geddes JR, et al. (2011) Valproate v. lithium in the treatment of bipolar disorder in clinical practice: observational nationwide register-based cohort study. Br J Psychiatry 199:57–63.

23 Goodwin GM, Bowden CL, Calabrese JR, et al. (2004) A pooled analysis of 2 placebo- controlled 18-month trials of lamotrigine and lithium maintenance in bipolar I disorder. J Clin Psychiatry 65:432–41.

24 BALANCE investigators and collaborators (2010) Lithium plus valproate combination therapy versus monotherapy for relapse prevention in bipolar I disorder (BALANCE): a randomised open-label trial. Lancet 375:385–95.

25 Vieta E, Pacchiarotti I, Scott J, et al. (2005) Evidence-based research on the efficacy of psychologic interventions in bipolar disorders: a critical review. Curr Psychiatry Rep 7:449– 55.

26 Colom F, Vieta E, Martinez-Aran A, et al. (2003) A randomized trial on the efficacy of group psychoeducation in the prophylaxis of recurrences in bipolar patients whose disease is in remission. Arch Gen Psychiatry 60:402–7.

27 Lam DH, Watkins ER, Hayward P, et al. (2003) A randomized controlled study of cognitive therapy for relapse prevention for bipolar affective disorder: outcome of the first year. Arch Gen Psychiatry 60:145–52.

28 Frank E, Kupfer DJ, Thase ME, et al. (2005) Two-year outcomes for interpersonal and social rhythm therapy in individuals with bipolar I disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 62:996– 1004.

29 Miklowitz DJ, George EL, Richards JA, et al. (2003) A randomized study of family- focused psychoeducation and pharmacotherapy in the outpatient management of bipolar disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 60:904–12.

30 When Kahlbaum (1863) introduced the term ‘cyclothymia’ into modern psychiatry, he described it as the mildest form of manic–depressive disease. Kraepelin (1896) treated it the same way (see Box 7.6), but Schneider (1958) used the term cyclothymia synonymously with manic–depressive disease. He described and conceptualized the ‘labile psychopath’ as a personality disorder (see Box 7.7) as distinct from manic–depressive illness. Classification systems no longer reflect Schneider’s view, and DSM-5, ICD-10, and ICD-11 include cyclothymia (or cyclothymic disorder) within the affective (mood) disorders. Debate continues regarding the interface between such subthreshold affective conditions,

personality, and temperament ( Bipolar spectrum disorder, p. 324; Box 7.3, p. 325). 31 The use of lithium salts in the treatment of ‘psychotic excitement’ is usually credited to John Cade in 1949 (Med J Aust 2:349–52). However, this was a ‘rediscovery’ of the use of lithium to treat ‘insanity’ first described by WA Hammond WA in 1871 (in A Treatise on Diseases of the Nervous System. Appleton, New York, NY, pp. 325–84).

32 Burgess S, Geddes J, Hawton K, et al. (2001) Lithium for maintenance treatment of mood disorders. Cochrane Database System Rev 3:CD003013.

33 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014) Bipolar disorder: assessment and management. Clinical guideline [CG185]. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG185 [accessed 20 June 2018].

34 NICE suggests lithium levels of between 0.6 and 0.8mmol/L when prescribed for the first time. Those who have relapsed on lithium or who still have subthreshold symptoms with functional impairment while on lithium may warrant a trial of at least 6mths with levels of between 0.8 and 1.0mmol/L.

35 Goodwin FK, Jamison KR (1990) Manic-Depressive Illness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

36 Bocchetta A, Bernardi F, Pedditzi M, et al. (1991) Thyroid abnormalities during lithium treatment. Acta Psychiatr Scand 83:193–8.

37 Cohen LS, Friedman JM, Jefferson JW, et al. (1994) A reevaluation of risk of in utero exposure to lithium. JAMA 271:146–50.

38 Details and materials are available at: https://www.gov.uk/drug-safety- update/valproate-medicines-epilim-depakote-pregnancy-prevention-programme-materials- online? [accessed 20 June 2018].

Chapter 8

Anxiety and stress-related disorders


Historical perspective

Hyperventilation syndrome

Panic disorder 1: clinical features

Panic disorder 2: aetiological models

Panic disorder 3: management guidelines


Simple or specific phobias

Social phobia (ICD-10)/social anxiety disorder (DSM-5) Generalized anxiety disorder 1—clinical features and aetiology Generalized anxiety disorder 2—differential diagnosis and management

Obsessive–compulsive disorder 1—clinical features Obsessive–compulsive disorder 2—management

Olfactory reference disorder (ORD)

Hoarding disorder (DSM-5)

Exceptional stressors and traumatic events

Acute stress reaction (ICD-10)

Acute stress disorder (DSM-5)

Adjustment disorders

Normal and abnormal grief

Post-traumatic stress disorder 1: diagnosis

Post-traumatic stress disorder 2: management Depersonalization (derealization) syndrome


If schizophrenia is ‘the heartland of psychiatry’, then the neurotic disorders surely make up much of the rest of the continent, in view of

their prevalence in the general population (see Table 8.1) and the morbidity they cause.

As unpopular as the term ‘neurosis’ has become (for a historical perspective, see Historical perspective, p. 364), it is still retained in the ICD-10 in the rubric ‘neurotic, stress-related, and somatoform disorders’. DSM-5 has effectively carved up the neuroses into ‘anxiety disorders’, ‘obsessive–compulsive and related disorders’ (OCRD), ‘trauma- and stressor-related disorders’, ‘dissociative disorders’, and ‘somatic symptom and related disorders’. Here, we retain the use of ‘neuroses’ as shorthand for all these disorders but will use the subdivisions when talking about the particular disorders.

We have all experienced anxiety symptoms, perhaps suffer from a particular ‘phobia’, or are a little bit obsessive about certain things, but to be clinically significant, these problems must be severe enough to cause marked distress and/or substantially interfere with our day-to-day lives. Because of the recognizable quality of some of the symptoms of neurotic disorders, it may be helpful to divide them into three categories.

Table 8.1 Estimated 12-mth prevalence of psychiatric disorders in the general population of the European Union (2010)*

Diagnosis (DSM-IV) Best

estimate affected (in millions)


Alcohol 3.4 dependence

Psychotic 1.2 disorders

Major depression 6.9

Bipolar disorder 0.9

Anxiety disorders 14.0

Panic disorder 1.8

Agoraphobia 2.0

Social anxiety 2.3 disorder

Specific phobias 6.4

Generalized anxiety 2.6 disorder

Obsessive– 0.7 compulsive disorder

Post-traumatic stress 2.0 disorder

14.6 5.0

30.3 3.0 61.5 7.9 8.8 10.1

22.7 8.9



* Data derived from Eurostat Directorate General of European Commission (Eurostat 2010) reported by Wittchen, HU, et al. (2011) The size and burden of mental disorders and other disorders of the brain in Europe 2010. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 21:655– 679.

The common neuroses

Number of persons

• Anxiety/phobic disorders: e.g. panic disorder, agoraphobia, GAD, specific (understandable) phobias (e.g. snakes, spiders), hypochondriasis, social phobia.

• Stress-related disorders: e.g. acute stress reactions, adjustment disorder, PTSD.

• OCD.

The unusual neuroses (i.e. outwith ‘normal’ experience)

• Anxiety/phobic disorders: e.g. ‘non-understandable’ phobias (e.g. dirt, feathers), dysmorphophobia.

• ‘Hysterical’ conversion disorders.

• Dissociative/depersonalization–derealization disorder.

• Somatoform disorders.

‘Culture-specific’ disorders

Seen only in certain populations:

• Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/eating disorders ( Anorexia

nervosa 1: overview, p. 410).

• Other ‘culture-bound’ disorders/cultural concepts of distress


This chapter deals with anxiety, phobic, and stress-related

disorders. Other disorders are covered in Chapter 18 ( pp. 864– 875 conversion, somatization, CFS, hypochondriasis, and dysmorphophobia), Chapter 9 ( pp. 410–419: eating disorders), and Chapter 21 ( pp. 984-–991: CCDs).

Points to note

• Anxiety symptoms are common in the general population.

• Comorbidity is frequent (other neuroses, depression, substance

misuse, personality disorder).

• Anxiety disorders may often present with physical symptoms.

• Management will usually involve a combined approach

(pharmacological and psychological).

Historical perspective

The term ‘neurosis’ was coined by William Cullen in 1777, replacing ‘illness of the nerves’ (coined by Robert Whytt in 1764 to replace the

old ‘vapours’) and meaning any disease of the nervous system without a known organic basis (which, at the time, also included epilepsy). Clinical descriptions of neurotic symptoms can be found in the works of Hippocrates. However, the ‘illness’ later vanished under the cloak of both pagan and Christian beliefs, with typical symptoms attributed to the work of spirits, possession, or divine punishment. It did not resurface properly until the Renaissance (the 1500s) thanks (in part) to the witchcraft trials, when doctors were called in to present diagnoses of known illnesses that could be mistaken for demonic possession (the first recorded ‘medical defence’!). Although there was much debate, the brain became the final resting place as the organ most likely to be involved in the aetiology of the condition.

The history of the neuroses is tightly bound to the (re)discovery of hypnosis (formerly the remit of faith healing). The work of Franz- Anton Mesmer (1734–1815)—mesmerism—and James Braid (1795– 1860)—braidism—was brought to France by Azam in 1859, coming to the attention of Charcot, whose experiments with hysterics would have a profound influence on one particular assistant—Sigmund Freud. Freud’s first paper, published in 1886, shortly after his return to Vienna, was of a case of ‘traumatic hysteria’ in a ♂ patient. It was his Studies on Hysteria, written with Josef Breuer and published in 1895, that provided the starting point of his subsequent major concepts of psychoanalytical theory—including repression, psychic reality, and the subconscious.

The idea of repression of trauma (out of consciousness) and the appearance of ‘defences’ was highly influential, with the neuroses regarded as illnesses of the mind, needing psychotherapeutic treatment. Old arguments of emotional vs physical factors resurfaced in the aftermath of the World War I, as some authorities found it difficult to attribute the illnesses seen in fit, healthy young men (who had indisputably experienced traumatic events) to conversion hysteria or phobic neurosis. The encephalitis lethargicans epidemic in 1919, and the presence of numerous ‘hysterical’ symptoms (e.g. convulsions, mutism, feelings of passion, obsessions/compulsions, spasms), argued in favour of at least some of the neuroses having an organic basis.

In the 1920s, Walter Cannon proposed the concept of the ‘emergency reaction’, believing this ‘fight-or-flight’ response was mediated by the autonomic nervous system. He also noted that the physiological responses were too slow to account for feelings and that some other ‘neural mechanism’ must be at work.

The dominance of the behaviourists in psychology relegated emotion to just another ‘way of acting’ in a particular situation (albeit internally perceived). Although an over-simplification, this led to the development of the ‘conditioning theory’ of anxiety. John Watson, the father of behaviourism, claimed to have produced an animal phobia in an 11-mth-old boy ‘little Albert’ by making a loud clanging noise whilst the boy was playing with a rat. Watson proposed that neuroses arose out of traumatic learning situations and then persist to influence behaviour throughout life. This was adapted by the 1930s to include the concept of ‘instrumental conditioning’ (association of an emotionally arousing stimulus and a neutral response), and, in the 1940s, Mowrer attempted to translate Freud’s theory of anxiety neurosis into the language of learning theory— responses that reduce anxiety are learnt—sometimes these reinforced behaviours may be aberrant, unhelpful, or simply bizarre and present as neuroses. ‘Avoidance’ was postulated as the behaviour that was reinforced due to successfully removing a ‘negative reinforcer’ (e.g. fear). These ideas led to the rational treatment of phobias with desensitization techniques.

In the search for Cannon’s neural mechanism, neurophysiologists used lesioning experiments to identify the thalamus as a critical gateway for stimuli, and the hypothalamus as mediating the physiological response [via the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis]—the Cannon–Bard theory. Other theories emerged over the years (e.g. the Papez Circuit, 1937), and understanding the emotional life of the brain remains at the forefront of research (see The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux, 1998).

Inviting as psychological explanations appeared, the late 1950s

also heralded the arrival of the BDZs. ‘Tranquillizers’ (e.g. Miltown®,

Librium®, Valium®) became the ‘housewives’ choice’, effectively treating a multitude of neurotic symptoms. Unfortunately, the indiscriminate use of these drugs led to them being demonized as

causing dependence problems (despite evidence for their effectiveness when properly used). The advent of antidepressants artificially separated neurotic depression from the other neuroses, but nonetheless some utility was also seen in treating the anxiety disorders. A key study was the use of clomipramine in the treatment of OCD (see The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing by Judith Rapoport, 1989). The fact that clomipramine was the most serotonergic of the TCAs paved the way for the second-generation antidepressants (the SSRIs) used in neuroses (previously thought only to be amenable to psychological approaches).

Brain imaging demonstrated underlying functional changes in OCD patients [in the frontal cortex (left orbital gyrus) and bilateral caudate nuclei], which ‘normalized’ after successful treatment with medication (and interestingly with CBT techniques, although this took longer). For many patients with panic attacks, structural and functional changes were found in the temporal lobes. These findings resonated with the long-held observation that neurotic symptoms (e.g. anxiety, panic, somatic symptoms, depersonalization/derealization) were often reported in other ‘organic’ conditions (e.g. temporal lobe epilepsy).

Modern views are eclectic in their approach, e.g. the biopsychosocial model ( Figure 6.1, p. 256). For the neuroses, early environmental influences (including social factors like maternal deprivation) can alter the sensitivity of physiological stress responses in adulthood. Hence, the experience of stressors (psychological or physical) may lead (e.g. through the effects of stress hormones such as cortisol, and other neurophysiological mechanisms) to alterations in the structure and/or function of the brain, which, in turn, manifest as clinical symptoms (i.e. behavioural and/or emotional change).

Hyperventilation syndrome


Ventilation exceeds metabolic demands, leading to haemodynamic and chemical changes producing characteristic symptoms (dyspnoea, agitation, dizziness, atypical chest pain, tachypnoea,

hyperpnoea, paraesthesiae, and carpopedal spasm) usually in a

young, otherwise healthy, patient.1 Hyperventilation syndrome (HVS), a relatively common presentation; may be mistaken for panic disorder. Considerable overlap, hence inclusion here:

• 50–60% of patients with panic disorder or agoraphobia have

symptoms of HVS.

• 25–35% of HVS patients have symptoms of panic disorder.

It may also be confused with other organic diseases, particularly of the cardiorespiratory system, due to the physical symptoms manifest.


Unknown, but certain stressors provoke an exaggerated respiratory response in some individuals [e.g. emotional distress, sodium lactate, caffeine, isoprenaline, cholecystokinin, and carbon dioxide (CO2)]. HVS patients tend to use accessory muscles to breathe,

rather than the diaphragm, resulting in hyperinflated lungs and perceived effort or dyspnoea when stressors induce the need to take a deep breath. This leads to anxiety and triggers further deep breathing, setting up a vicious cycle.

Epidemiology ♂:♀ = 1:7, usually presents between 15 and 55yrs but can occur at any age (except infancy).

Symptoms and signs

• Cardiac: chest pain/angina [atypical of cardiac origin: may last hours, not minutes; often relieved by exercise; glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) ineffective], ECG changes (prolonged QT, ST depression or elevation, and T-wave inversion).

• Respiratory: hyperpnoea, tachypnoea, dyspnoea, wheeze [bronchospasm secondary to low partial pressure of carbon dioxide in arterial blood (PaCO2)]. Note: in chronic forms, hyperventilation

may not be clinically apparent.

• CNS [due to reduced cerebral blood flow (CBF) secondary to

hypocapnia): dizziness, weakness, confusion, agitation, depersonalization, visual hallucinations, syncope or seizure (rare), paraesthesiae (usually upper limbs and bilateral), peri-oral numbness.

• GI: bloating, belching, flatus, epigastric pressure (due to aerophagia), dry mouth (due to mouth breathing and anxiety).

• Metabolic (due to electrolyte disturbance secondary to respiratory alkalosis): acute hypocalcaemia (signs: carpopedal spasm, muscle twitching, +ve Chvostek and Trousseau signs, and prolonged QT interval), hypokalaemia (with generalized weakness), acute hypophosphataemia (may contribute to paraesthesiae and generalized weakness).

Differential diagnosis

Extensive. Diagnosis of exclusion—acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), (venous) air embolism, asthma, atrial fibrillation (AF), atrial flutter, cardiomyopathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), costochondritis, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), hyperthyroidism, metabolic acidosis, methaemoglobinaemia, MI, nasopharyngeal stenosis, panic (and other anxiety) disorder, pleural effusion, pneumonia, pneumothorax, pulmonary embolism (PE), smoke inhalation, CO poisoning, withdrawal syndromes.


• Unless there is a clear history of HVS, any first presentations of hyperventilation should be referred for exclusion of serious underlying medical problems ( Differential diagnosis, see above).

• These investigations may include full physical, FBC, U&Es, TFTs, glucose, Ca2+, phosphate (PO4), pulse oximetry, arterial blood gas (ABG) [in HVS: pH normal, PaCO2 and bicarbonate (HCO3) low],

toxicology, ELISA, D-dimer (PE), ECG, CXR, and possibly

ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) scan.

• Repeating these investigations at later presentations should only

be done if there are new clinical findings.


Acute management

If serious underlying pathology excluded, management includes: • Reassuring the patient.

• Alleviating severe anxiety (e.g. use of BDZs).

• Establishment of normal breathing pattern (instructing the patient to breathe more abdominally using the diaphragm; physically compressing the upper chest and instructing the patient to exhale maximally to reduce hyperinflation).

Note: use of rebreathing techniques (e.g. into a paper bag) is no longer recommended due to reports of significant hypoxia and death. This form of rebreathing may be unsuccessful anyway because very distressed patients have difficulty complying with the technique and because CO2 itself may be a chemical trigger for anxiety.

Further management

• Education, e.g. hyperventilation, relaxation, and breathing techniques (‘provocation’ should only be performed in this setting).

• Formal breathing retraining (usually provided by physiotherapists) is available in some centres.

• β-blockers and BDZs may be of some use. Some success reported for use of antidepressants in preventing further episodes.

• If there is clear psychiatric morbidity (e.g. anxiety or depression), this should also be specifically addressed.

Panic disorder 1: clinical features


• Panic attack: period of intense fear characterized by a constellation of symptoms (see Box 8.1) that develop rapidly, reach a peak intensity in about 10min, and generally do not last longer than 20–30min (rarely over 1hr). Attacks may be either spontaneous (‘out of the blue’) or situational (usually where attacks have occurred previously). Sometimes attacks may occur during sleep (nocturnal panic attacks; Nocturnal panic attacks, p. 470), and rarely physiological symptoms of anxiety may occur without

the psychological component (non-fearful panic attacks).2

• Panic disorder:3 recurrent panic attacks, which are not secondary to substance misuse, medical conditions, or another psychiatric disorder. Frequency of occurrence may vary from many attacks a day to only a few a year. Usually a persistent worry about having another attack or consequences of the attack (which may lead to

phobic avoidance of places or situations; Agoraphobia, p. 374) and significant behavioural changes related to the attack.


(See Box 8.1.)

• Physical symptoms/signs related to autonomic arousal (e.g.

tremor, tachycardia, tachypnoea, hypertension, sweating, GI upset), often compounded by HVS (in 50–60% of cases; Hyperventilation syndrome (HVS), p. 366).

• Concerns of death from cardiac or respiratory problems may be a major focus, leading to patients presenting (often repeatedly) to emergency medical services.

• Panic disorder may be undiagnosed in patients with ‘unexplained’ medical symptoms (chest pain, back pain, GI symptoms including IBS, fatigue, headache, dizziness, or multiple symptoms).

• Thoughts of suicide (or homicide) should be elicited; acute anxiety (particularly when recurrent) can lead to impulsive acts (usually directed towards self). Note: risk of attempted suicide substantially raised where comorbid depression or alcohol or substance misuse.

Box 8.1 Symptoms associated with panic attacks

In order of frequency of occurrence:

• Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.

• Sweating.

• Trembling or shaking.

• Sense of shortness of breath or smothering.

• Feeling of choking or difficulties swallowing (globus hystericus).

• Chest pain or discomfort.

• Nausea or abdominal distress.

• Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint.

• Derealization or depersonalization (feeling detached from

oneself or one’s surroundings).

• Fear of losing control or going crazy.

• Fear of dying (angor animus).

• Numbness or tingling sensations (paraesthesiae).

• Chills or hot flashes.


Lifetime prevalence [National Comorbidity Survey–Replication 2001– 2002 (NCS-R)]: 1.5–3.7% for panic disorder, 7–9% for panic attacks. Rates much higher in medical clinic samples, e.g. dizziness clinics (15%), cardiac clinics (16–65%), HVS clinics (25–35%). Women are 2–3 times more likely to be affected than men. Age of onset has a bimodal distribution, with highest peak incidence at 15–24yrs and a second peak at 45–54yrs. Rare after age 65 (0.1%). Other risk factors include: being widowed, divorced, or separated; living in a city; limited education; early parental loss; and physical or sexual abuse.


Agoraphobia (community surveys: 30–50%; psychiatric clinics: 75%), depressive disorder (up to 68%), other anxiety and related disorders (up to 50%, e.g. social phobia, OCD), alcohol (up to 30%) and substance misuse, bipolar affective disorder (20%), medical conditions (e.g. mitral valve prolapse, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, COPD, HVS, IBS, migraine).

Differential diagnosis

Other anxiety or related disorder (panic attacks may be part of the disorder), substance or alcohol misuse/withdrawal (e.g. amphetamines, caffeine, cannabis, cocaine, theophylline, sedative hypnotics, steroids), mood disorders, psychiatric disorders secondary to medical conditions, medical conditions presenting with similar symptoms (e.g. endocrine: carcinoid syndrome, Cushing’s disease/syndrome, hyperthyroidism, hypoglycaemia, hypoparathyroidism, phaeochromocytoma; haematological: anaemia; cardiac: arrhythmias (supraventricular), atypical chest pain, mitral valve prolapse, MI; respiratory: COPD, asthma, HVS; neurological: epilepsy—especially TLE, vestibular dysfunction).


No specific tests for panic disorder; basic investigations should be performed to exclude physical causes [e.g. FBC, U&Es, glucose, TFTs, ECG; if supported by history/physical examination: toxicology,

Ca2+, urinary vanillyl mandelic acid (VMA)/plasma homovanillic acid (pHVA), echo, and EEG].

Panic disorder 2: aetiological models

A number of theories, based primarily on successful pharmacological treatment, explain the biological basis of panic disorder.

• The serotonergic model: exaggerated post-synaptic receptor

response to synaptic serotonin, possibly secondary to subsensitivity (reduced binding) at 5-HT1A receptors and 5-HT

transporters, perhaps secondary to disturbances in serotonin

transporter (5-HTTLPR) and promoter (SLC6A4) genes.

• The noradrenergic model: adrenergic activity, with hypersensitivity of presynaptic α2 receptors. (Locus caeruleus

activity affects the HPA axis, and the firing rate is in panic.)

• The GABA model: inhibitory receptor sensitivity (impaired GABA

neuronal response to BDZs), with resultant excitatory effect.

• The cholecystokinin–pentagastrin model: pentagastrin induces panic in a dose-dependent fashion in patients with panic disorder. Gene studies also implicate CCK gene polymorphisms in panic

disorder (see Box 8.2).

• The lactate model: postulated aberrant metabolic activity induced

by lactate, from studies involving exercise-induced panic attacks

(replicated by IV lactate infusion).

• The false suffocation CO2hypothesis: explains panic

phenomena by hypersensitive brainstem receptors. Panic disorder occurs more frequently in individuals with a raised pCO2, e.g.

during sleep, during the premenstrual period, and due to

respiratory disorders.

• The cognitive theory postulates that panic disorder is due to a

heightened sensitivity to internal autonomic cues such as


• The neuroanatomical model: suggests that panic attacks are

mediated by an overactive ‘fear network’ in the brain that involves the amygdala, hippocampus, periaqueductal grey, locus caeruleus, thalamus, cingulate, and orbitofrontal areas. ‘Fear’ is thought to occur through reciprocal activity that originates in the amygdala

and is projected to the anterior cingulate cortex and/or orbitofrontal cortex. Other projections from the amygdala to the hypothalamus mediate endocrine responses.

Box 8.2 The genetic hypothesis

Panic disorder has moderate heritability of around 25–50% (from family and twin studies). Most studies to date suggest that vulnerability is genetically determined and most likely multifactorial, but critical stressors are required to develop clinical symptoms (e.g. separation/loss event, adjusting to a new role, relationship problems, physiological stress—childbirth, surgery, hyperthyroidism). Replicated linkages have been found with chromosomes 13q, 22q, 7p, and 9q31. Candidate genes include ADOR2A, 10832/T, CCK, and those coding for 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A,

COMT, NPY1R, MAOA, HCRT (hypocretin), and linked to the CRH

gene. Recent large GWAS have identified the neuropeptide S gene, the amiloride-sensitive cation channel gene, and the adenosine A(2A) genes as candidate genes, with 4q21 and 7p being considered the strongest candidate regions for panic- and

fear-associated anxiety disorder loci.1

1 Logue MW, Bauver SR, Knowles JA, et al. (2012) Multivariate analysis of anxiety disorders yields further evidence of linkage to chromosomes 4q21 and 7p in panic disorder families. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet 159B:274–80.

Panic disorder 3: management guidelines

Combination of pharmacological and psychological treatments may be superior to single approach. Choice of initial approach will depend upon patient preference, past history of previous benefit, costs,

availability, and local guidelines.5,6 For emergency treatment of a panic attack, see Box 8.3.


Current evidence does not suggest any superior efficacy between SSRIs, SNRIs, BDZs, TCAs, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Other factors will determine the choice of medication ( Antidepressants, p. 276).

• SSRIs: in the UK, citalopram (20–30mg), escitalopram (5–10mg), paroxetine (10–40mg), and sertraline (50–200mg) are all licensed for panic disorder (and recommended as first line by NICE). In view of possibly initially increasing panic symptoms, start with the lowest possible dose and gradually increase. Beneficial effect may take up to 12wks and require high doses.

• Alternative antidepressants (unlicensed in the UK): SNRIs (e.g. venlafaxine), TCAs (e.g. imipramine, clomipramine), MAOIs (e.g. phenelzine)—thought by some clinicians to be superior to TCAs (for severe, chronic symptoms), RIMAs (e.g. moclobemide).

• BDZs (e.g. alprazolam or clonazepam): not recommended by NICE. Should be used with caution (due to potential for abuse or dependence and cognitive impairment) but may be effective for severe, frequent, incapacitating symptoms. Use for 1–2wks in combination with an antidepressant may ‘cover’ symptomatic relief until the antidepressant becomes effective. Note: ‘anti-panic’ effects do not show tolerance, although sedative effects do.

• Limited benefit: little evidence to support use of buspirone, bupropion, mirtazapine, inositol, reboxetine, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and, perhaps surprisingly, propranolol.

• Second-line treatment: consider changing to a different class agent (i.e. TCA, SNRI, SSRI, MAOI), addition of BDZ (or a different BDZ), trial of bupropion, or for severe symptoms, an SGA (e.g. olanzapine).

• If successful: continue treatment for 12–18mths before trial discontinuation (gradually tapering of dose over 2–4mths). Do not confuse ‘withdrawal’ effects (10–20% of patients) with re- emergence of symptoms (50–70% of patients). If symptoms recur, continue for ~1yr before considering second trial discontinuation. (Note: patient may wish to continue treatment, rather than risk return of symptoms.)

Box 8.3 Emergency treatment of an acute panic attack

• Maintain a reassuring and calm attitude (most panic attacks resolve spontaneously within 30min).


• CBT—behavioural methods: to treat phobic avoidance by exposure, use of relaxation, and control of hyperventilation. Cognitive methods: teaching about bodily responses associated with anxiety/education about panic attacks, modification of thinking errors.

• Psychodynamic psychotherapy: there is some evidence for brief dynamic psychotherapy, particularly ‘emotion-focused’ treatment (e.g. ‘panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy’) where typical fears of being abandoned or trapped are explored.

Issues of comorbidity

• In view of high levels of comorbidity, treatment of these conditions should not be neglected.

• For the other anxiety disorders and depression, this issue is somewhat simplified by the fact that SSRIs and other antidepressants have been shown to be effective for these conditions too. However, behavioural interventions (e.g. for OCD, social phobia) should also be considered.

• Alcohol/substance abuse may need to be addressed first, but specific treatment for persistent symptoms of panic ought not to be overlooked.


• Most patients seeking treatment have already experienced chronic symptoms for 10–15yrs.

• Untreated, the disorder runs a chronic course.

• If symptoms are severe and distressing, consider prompt use of BDZs (immediate relief of anxiety may help reassure the patient, provide confidence that treatment is possible, and reduce subsequent ‘emergency’ presentations).

• If first presentation, exclude medical causes (may require admission to hospital for specific tests).

• If panic attacks are recurrent, consider differential diagnosis for panic disorder and address underlying disorder (may require psychiatric referral).

• With treatment, functional recovery is seen in 25–75% after the first 1–2yrs, falling to 10–30% after 5yrs. Long-term, around 50% will experience only mild symptoms.

• Poor responses associated with: very severe initial symptoms, marked agoraphobia, low socio-economic status, less education, long duration of untreated symptoms, restricted social networks (including loss of a parent, divorce, remaining unmarried), and presence of personality disorder.



Anxiety and panic symptoms associated with places or situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing (e.g. crowds, public

places, travelling alone or away from home), leading to avoidance.7

• In DSM-5, agoraphobia is diagnosed irrespective of panic disorder.

If both criteria are met, then both diagnoses should be applied.

• In ICD-10, the presence or absence of panic disorder when in the agoraphobic situation may be specified, i.e. agoraphobia with(out) panic disorder. If panic disorder occurs in other situations, then both diagnoses should be applied. (Proposals for ICD-11 are


Whether or not agoraphobia differs from panic disorder

neurobiologically or simply represents a more severe form of panic disorder remains controversial. The similarities of epidemiology, genetics, environmental precipitants, and effective treatments are hard to ignore. NCS-R data (2006) suggest that pure agoraphobia does occur, but it is rarer than earlier epidemiological studies would suggest (e.g. the ECS), with a lifetime prevalence of 1.3% and ♂:♀ = 2:3.


Prevalence (6mths) 2.8–5.8% (ECA); ♂ : ♀ =1:3; as for panic disorder, there is a bimodal distribution, with the first being somewhat broader (15–35yrs). In later life, agoraphobic symptoms may develop secondary to physical frailty, with an associated fear of exacerbating medical problems or having an accident.


• Genetic: both genetic and environmental factors appear to play a role. The predisposition towards overly interpreting situations as dangerous may be genetic, and some commentators suggest an ethological factor involving an evolutionarily determined vulnerability to an unfamiliar territory. First-degree relatives also have an prevalence of other anxiety and related disorders (e.g. panic disorder, social phobia), alcohol misuse, and depressive disorders.

• Psychoanalytical: unconscious conflicts are repressed and may be transformed by displacement into phobic symptoms.

• Learning theory: conditioned fear responses lead to learned avoidance.


Panic disorder, depressive disorder, other anxiety and related disorders (e.g. 55% also have social phobia), alcohol and substance misuse.

Differential diagnosis

Other anxiety and related disorders (especially GAD, social phobia, OCD), depressive disorders, secondary avoidance due to delusional ideas in psychotic disorders.


• Pharmacological Antidepressants: as for panic disorder. In the UK, citalopram, escitalopram, and paroxetine are licensed for the symptoms of panic disorder, with or without agoraphobia. Unlicensed: some evidence for clomipramine (high dose). BDZs: Short-term use only (may reinforce avoidance)—most evidence for alprazolam/clonazepam/diazepam.

• Psychological Behavioural methods: exposure techniques (focused on particular situations or places), relaxation training, and anxiety management. Cognitive methods: teaching about bodily responses associated with anxiety/education about panic attacks, modification of thinking errors.

Simple or specific phobias


Recurring, excessive, and unreasonable psychological or autonomic symptoms of anxiety, in the (anticipated) presence of a specific feared object or situation (see Box 8.4 for glossary) leading, whenever possible, to avoidance. DSM-5 distinguishes the subtypes: animals, natural environment, blood, injection, injury, situational, and ‘other’.


Prevalence: (NCS-R) lifetime 12.5%, 12mths 8.7%, 6mths (ECA) 4.5–11.9%; ♂:♀ (all) = 1:3; animal/situational phobias may be more common in ♀; mean age of occurrence is 15yrs: onset for animal phobias ~7yrs, blood/injection/injury ~8yrs, situational phobias ~20yrs.

Box 8.4 Specific phobias—the top 20

1. Arachnophobia—The fear of spiders

2. Ophidiophobia—The fear of snakes.

3. Acrophobia—The fear of heights.

4. Agoraphobia—The fear of open or crowded spaces. 5. Cynophobia—The fear of dogs.

6. Astraphobia—The fear of thunder/lightning

7. Claustrophobia—The fear of enclosed spaces. 8. Mysophobia—The fear of germs.

9. Aerophobia—The fear of flying.

10. Trypophobia—The fear of holes.

11. Carcinophobia—The fear of cancer.

12. Thanatophobia—The fear of death.

13. Glossophobia—The fear of public speaking. 14. Monophobia—The fear of being alone.

15. Atychiphobia—The fear of failure.

16. Ornithophobia—The fear of birds.

17. Alektorophobia—The fear of chickens.

18. Enochlophobia—The fear of crowds.

19. Aphenphosmphobia—The fear of intimacy. 20. Trypanophobia—The fear of needles.


• Genetic: both genetic and environmental factors play a role.

MZ:DZ = 25.9%:11.0%8 for animal phobia, situational phobia

roughly equal suggesting a stronger role for the environment.

• Psychoanalytical: manifest fear is the symbolic representation of an unconscious conflict, which has been repressed and displaced

into phobic symptoms.

• Learning theory: conditioned fear response related to a traumatic

situation, with learned avoidance (trigger to the conditioned response may be a reminder of the original situation). Observational and informational learning also appear to be

important, and the ‘preparedness’ theory (Marks)9 suggests that fear of certain objects may be evolutionarily adaptive (related to survival of the individual or species), selectively acquired, and difficult to extinguish.


The lifetime risk for patients with specific phobias experiencing at least one other lifetime psychiatric disorder is reportedly over 80% (NCS), particularly other anxiety disorders (panic, social phobia) and mood disorders (mania, depression, dysthymia). However, rates of substance misuse are considerably less than in other anxiety disorders.

Differential diagnosis

Panic disorder (fear of having a further panic attack), agoraphobia, social phobia, hypochondriasis (fear of having a specific serious illness), OCD (avoidance/fear of an object or situation due to obsessional thoughts, ideas, or ruminations), psychosis (avoidance due to a delusional idea of threat—fears tend to be overly excessive).



Source: data from http://www.fearof.net [accessed: 20 June 2018].

• Behavioural therapy: exposure is the treatment of choice— methods aim to reduce the fear response, e.g. Wolpe’s systematic

desensitization10 with relaxation and graded exposure (either imaginary or in vivo—best evidence for in vivo techniques). Recent studies have utilized virtual environments [virtual reality exposure (VRE)].

• Other techniques: reciprocal inhibition, flooding (not better than graded exposure), and modelling.

• Cognitive methods: education/anxiety management, coping skills/strategies, and cognitive restructuring—may enhance long- term outcomes.

• Pharmacological: generally not used, except in severe cases to reduce fear/avoidance (with BDZs, e.g. diazepam) and allow the patient to engage in exposure. May reduce the efficacy of behaviour therapy by inhibiting anxiety during exposure. β-blockers may be helpful but reduce sympathetic arousal, not subjective fear. There is limited evidence for SSRIs (e.g. escitalopram, paroxetine), but clear secondary depression may require antidepressant treatment.


Without treatment, tends to run a chronic, recurrent course. However, individuals may not present unless life changes force them to confront the feared object or situation.

Social phobia (ICD-10)/social anxiety disorder (DSM- 5)


Symptoms of incapacitating anxiety (psychological and/or autonomic), not secondary to delusional or obsessive thoughts and restricted to particular social situations, e.g. having a conversation, meeting strangers, eating or drinking in public, or public speaking, leading to a desire for escape or avoidance (which may reinforce the strongly held belief of social inadequacy).


Lifetime rates vary: 2.4% (ECA), 12.1% (NCS-R), 12-mth prevalence 6.8% (NCS-R); ♂ : ♀ for those seeking treatment (however, community surveys suggest ♂ > ♀ ); bimodal distribution with peaks at 5yrs and 11–15yrs (ECA)—often patients do not present until they are in their 30s.


Both genetic and environmental factors play a role. MZ:DZ = 24%:15%. The predisposition towards overly interpreting situations as dangerous may be genetic, whereas individual interpretations of social cues may be environmentally determined (i.e. the particular trigger for the conditioned fear response depends on the social situation in which the first episode of anxiety was experienced). Responses may be learnt from observing parents. Imaging studies show activity in individuals with social anxiety in fear networks (prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus) during anxiety-provoking tasks. Response to antidepressants suggests there may be dysregulation of 5-HT, NA, or DA systems.


Somatic symptoms include blushing, trembling, dry mouth, and perspiration when exposed to the feared situation, with excessive fear (which is recognized as such by the patient) of humiliation, embarrassment, or others noticing how anxious they are. Individuals are often characteristically self-critical and perfectionistic. Avoidance of situations may lead to difficulty in maintaining social/sexual relationships, educational problems (difficulties in interactions with other students/oral presentations), or vocational problems (work in less demanding jobs, well below their abilities). Thoughts of suicide are relatively common.


There is a high level of psychiatric comorbidity with the most common disorders, including simple phobia, agoraphobia, panic disorder, GAD, PTSD, depression/dysthymia, and substance misuse.

Differential diagnosis

Other anxiety and related disorders (especially GAD, agoraphobia, OCD), poor social skills, anxious/avoidant personality traits,

depressive disorders, secondary avoidance due to delusional ideas in psychotic disorders, and substance misuse.


• Psychological: CBT, in either an individual or a group setting, should be considered as a first-line therapy (with SSRIs/MAOIs) and may be better at preventing relapse. Components of this approach include relaxation training/anxiety management (for autonomic arousal), social skills training, integrated exposure methods (modelling and graded exposure), and cognitive restructuring. NICE guidelines recommend either the Clark and Wells model or the Heimberg model of individual CBT weekly over 4mths. Alternatively, supported use of a CBT-based self-help book either face-to-face or by telephone.

• Pharmacological: β-blockers (e.g. atenolol) may reduce autonomic arousal, particularly for ‘specific social phobia’ (e.g. performance anxiety). For more generalized social anxiety, SSRIs [e.g. escitalopram (licensed: 10mg/day initially; range 5–20mg/day), fluoxetine (unlicensed), fluvoxamine (unlicensed), paroxetine (unlicensed), sertraline (licensed: 25mg/day, to 50mg/day after 1wk; max 200mg/day)], SNRIs [e.g. venlafaxine (licensed: 75mg/day)], and MAOIs [e.g. phenelzine (unlicensed)] are significantly more effective. Other treatment possibilities include RIMAs [e.g. moclobemide (licensed: 300mg/day for 3 days, then 600mg/day in two divided doses)] or the addition of a BDZ (e.g. clonazepam, alprazolam) or olanzapine. There is limited evidence for anticonvulsants [e.g. gabapentin, pregabalin, levetiracetam, valproate (all unlicensed)], and buspirone appears clinically ineffective for generalized social phobia. NICE recommends first line: trial of SSRI; second line: alternative SSRI or venlafaxine;

third line: phenelzine or moclobemide.11,12

• Psychotherapy: if the patient declines CBT and pharmacological

interventions or they have proved ineffectual, short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy may be offered over 6–8mths, with a focus on education, establishing a secure positive therapeutic alliance to modify insecure attachments, core conflictual relationships, shame, exposure to feared social situations outside

therapy sessions, establishing a self-affirming inner dialogue, and improving social skills.


• Without treatment, social phobia may be a chronic, lifelong condition.

• Course does not appear to be related to gender, age of onset, duration of illness, level of premorbid functioning, lifetime history of anxiety, or depressive disorders.

• Extreme childhood shyness and behavioural inhibition may be early manifestations of social phobia.

• With treatment, response rates may be up to 90%, especially with combined approaches.

• Medication best regarded as long-term, as relapse rates are high on discontinuation.

Generalized anxiety disorder 1—clinical features and aetiology


‘Excessive worry’ (generalized, free-floating, persistent anxiety) and feelings of apprehension about everyday events/problems, with symptoms of muscle and psychic tension, causing significant distress/functional impairment.


(See Box 8.5.) Epidemiology

Prevalence: 6mths (ECA) 2.5–6.4%, 12mths (NCS-R) 3.1%, lifetime (NCS-R) 5.7%; lowest in 18–29yrs (4.1%) and 60+ yrs (3.7%); highest 45–59yrs (7.7%); ♀ > ♂, especially early onset (associated with childhood fears and marital/sexual disturbance); later onset often after a stressful event; single (~30% never marry); unemployed.

Aetiology (triple vulnerability model)13

• Generalized biological vulnerability:

• Genetic—modest role, shared heritability with depression.

• Neurobiological—human studies limited. Animal work implicates the NA system: diminished autonomic nervous system responsiveness (? down-regulation of α2 receptors); HPA axis:

loss of regulatory control of cortisol [~1/3 of GAD patients show reduced cortisol suppression using the dexamethasone suppression test (DMST)]; amygdala and stria terminalis— possible sustained or repeated activation by corticotropin- releasing factor (CRF) due to stress; septohippocampal (‘behavioural inhibition’) system: sustained activation moderated by ascending 5-HT and NA systems; BDZ-GABA system: reduced expression of peripheral BDZ receptors due to high cortisol levels; other neurotransmitter systems: dysregulation of 5-HT systems, cholecystokinin (CCK-4 and CCK-8S).

• Generalized psychological vulnerability:

• Diminished sense of control—trauma or insecure attachment to

primary caregivers, leading to intolerance of uncertainty.

• Parenting—overprotective or lacking warmth, leading to low

perceived control over events.

• Specific psychological vulnerability: stressful life events—trauma

(e.g. early parental death, rape, war) and dysfunctional marital/family relationships.


Other anxiety disorders (simple phobias, social phobia, panic disorder), depression/dysthymia, alcohol and drug problems, other ‘physical’ conditions (e.g. IBS, HVS, atypical chest pain).

Box 8.5 Symptoms of GAD (present most days)

• At least 6 months’ history of excessive anxiety and worry, with marked tension and apprehension about everyday events and problems (e.g. work or school performance).

• DSM-5: at least three (or one in children) out of: • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge. • Easy fatiguability.

• Concentration difficulties or ‘mind going blank’. • Irritability.

• Muscle tension.

Generalized anxiety disorder 2—differential diagnosis and management

Differential diagnosis

‘Normal worries’, depression, mixed anxiety/depression, other anxiety disorders (the anxiety is more focused), drug and alcohol problems, medical conditions (see Box 8.6), side effects of prescribed medications (see Box 8.7).


• Psychological: generally less effective than in the other anxiety

disorders (lack of situational triggers); some evidence for CBT14 combining behavioural methods (treat avoidance by exposure, use of relaxation, and control of hyperventilation) and cognitive methods (teaching about bodily responses related to

• Sleep disturbance.

• ICD-10: at least four (with at least one from ‘autonomic arousal’)

out of:

• Symptoms of autonomic arousal—palpitations/tachycardia;

sweating; trembling/shaking; dry mouth.

• ‘Physical’ symptoms—breathing difficulties; choking sensation;

chest pain/discomfort; nausea/abdominal distress.

• Mental state symptoms—feeling dizzy, unsteady, faint or light- headed; derealization/depersonalization; fear of losing control,

‘going crazy’, passing out, dying.

• General symptoms—hot flushes/cold chills; numbness or


• Symptoms of tension—muscle tension/aches and pains;

restlessness/inability to relax; feeling keyed up, on edge, or mentally tense; a sensation of a lump in the throat or difficulty swallowing.

• Other—exaggerated responses to minor surprises/being startled.

• Concentration difficulties/’mind going blank’—due to worry or anxiety; persistent irritability; difficulty getting to sleep due to worrying.

anxiety/education about panic attacks, modification of thinking


• Pharmacological: directed towards predominant anxiety symptoms:

• Somatic symptoms—BDZs14 (e.g. lorazepam, diazepam, alprazolam).

• Psychic symptoms—buspirone15 (beneficial effects may take 2– 4wks).

• Depressive symptoms— SSRIs14 (licensed—escitalopram 10– 20mg/day, paroxetine 20–50mg/day), SNRIs (licensed— duloxetine 60–120mg/day, venlafaxine 75–225mg/day), TCAs (unlicensed—imipramine, clomipramine), trazodone (licensed 75–300mg/day), mirtazapine (unlicensed—30mg/day).

• Cardiovascular symptoms or autonomic symptoms—β-blockers (e.g. atenolol).

• Other treatments—pregabalin (licensed—start 150mg/day; max 600mg/day; in divided doses—alone or as an adjunct to SSRI/SNRI), agomelatine (unlicensed—25–50mg/day),

quetiapine16 (unlicensed—150mg/day—alone or as an adjunct to

SSRI/SNRI), trifluoperazine (unlicensed—2–6mg/day).

• Physical: psychosurgery (very rare)—for severe/intractable anxiety.


Chronic and disabling, prognosis generally poor, remission rates low (~30% after 3yrs, with treatment); 6-yr outcome—68% mild residual symptoms, 9% severe persistent impairment. Often comorbidity becomes more significant (esp. alcohol misuse), and this worsens the prognosis.

Box 8.6 Medical conditions associated with anxiety-like symptoms

• Cardiovascular system (CVS): arrhythmias, ischaemic heart disease (IHD), mitral valve disease, cardiac failure.

• Respiratory: asthma, COPD, HVS, PE, hypoxia.

• Neurological: TLE, vestibular nerve disease.

• Endocrine: hyperthyroidism, hypoparathyroidism,

hypoglycaemia, phaeochromocytoma.

Box 8.7 Prescribed medications causing anxiety-like symptoms

• CVS: antihypertensives, anti-arrhythmics.

• Respiratory: bronchodilators, α1/β-adrenergic agonists.

• CNS: anaesthetics (pre-med and post-general anaesthetic

syndrome), anticholinergics, anticonvulsants, anti-Parkinsonian agents, antidepressants, antipsychotics (akathisia), disulfiram reactions, withdrawal from BDZs and other sedatives and hypnotics.

• Miscellaneous: levothyroxine, NSAIDs, antibiotics, chemotherapy.

Obsessive–compulsive disorder 1—clinical features


A common, chronic condition, often associated with marked anxiety and depression, characterized by ‘obsessions’ ( Dictionary of

psychiatric symptoms, p. 115) and ‘compulsions’ ( Dictionary of psychiatric symptoms, p. 104). Obsessions/compulsions (see Box 8.8) must cause distress or interfere with the person’s social or individual functioning (usually by wasting time) and should not be the result of another psychiatric disorder. At some point in the disorder, the person recognizes the symptoms to be excessive or unreasonable.

In DSM-5, OCD is now within a separate category ‘Obsessive– compulsive and related disorders’, which includes body dysmorphic disorder ( Body dysmorphic disorder, p. 872), hoarding disorder (

Hoarding disorder (DSM-5), p. 389), trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) ( Trichotillomania (ICD-10/11; DSM-5), p. 425), excoriation (skin-picking) disorder ( Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder (DSM-5; ICD-11), p. 425), substance/medication-induced

• Miscellaneous: anaemia, porphyria, SLE, carcinoid tumour, pellagra.

obsessive–compulsive and related disorder, and obsessive– compulsive and related disorder due to another medical condition.

ICD-11 is likely to take a similar view with the proposed ‘Obsessive–compulsive and related disorders’, including OCD, body dysmorphic disorder, olfactory reference disorder ( Olfactory reference disorder (ORD), p. 388), hypochondriasis, hoarding disorder, body-focused repetitive behaviour disorders (trichotillomania, excoriation disorder), and other specified obsessive–compulsive and related disorder.

Box 8.8 Common obsessions and compulsions


• Contamination.

• Order or symmetry.

• Safety.

• Doubt (of memory for events or perceptions).

• Unwanted, intrusive sexual or aggressive thoughts.

• Scrupulosity (the need to do the right thing or fear of committing

an error, breaking the law, or religious transgression).


• Checking (e.g. doors, windows, electric sockets, appliances, safety of children).

• Cleaning or washing excessively.

• Counting or repeating actions a specific number of times.

• Arranging objects in a specific way.

• Touching or tapping objects.

• Hoarding ( Hoarding disorder (DSM-5), p. 389).

• Confessing or constantly seeking reassurance.

• Continual list-making.


Mean age: 20yrs, 70% onset before age 25yrs, 15% after age 35yrs, ♂ = ♀, prevalence: 0.5–3% of general population.


• Neurochemical: dysregulation of the 5-HT system (possibly involving 5-HT1B or 5-HT/DA interaction).

• Immunological: cell-mediated autoimmune factors may be associated, e.g. against basal ganglia peptides—as in Sydenham’s chorea.

• Imaging: CT and MRI: bilateral reduction in caudate size. PET/SPECT: hypermetabolism in orbitofrontal gyrus, basal ganglia (caudate nuclei), and cingulum that ‘normalizes’, following successful treatment (either pharmacological or psychological).

• Genetic: suggested by family and twin studies (3–7% of first- degree relatives affected; MZ: 50–80%, DZ: 25%), no candidate genes as yet identified, but polymorphisms of 5-HT1B have been


• Psychological: defective arousal system and/or inability to control

unpleasant internal states. Obsessions are conditioned (neutral) stimuli, associated with an anxiety-provoking event. Compulsions are learnt (and reinforced), as they are a form of anxiety-reducing avoidance.

• Psychoanalytical: Freud coined the term ‘obsessional neurosis’, thought to be the result of regression from oedipal stage to pre- genital anal–erotic stage of development as a defence against aggressive or sexual (unconscious) impulses. Associated defences: isolation, undoing, and reaction formation. Symptoms occur when these defences fail to contain the anxiety.


Avoidant, dependent, histrionic traits (~40% of cases), anankastic/obsessive–compulsive traits (5–15%) prior to disorder. In schizophrenia, 5–45% of patients may present with symptoms of OCD (schizo-obsessives—poorer prognosis). Sydenham’s chorea (up to 70% of cases) and other basal ganglia disorders (e.g. Tourette’s syndrome, post-encephalitic Parkinsonism).


Depressive disorder (50–70%), alcohol- and drug-related disorders, social phobia, specific phobia, panic disorder, somatoform disorders, eating disorders, impulse-control disorders (trichotillomania,

kleptomania), PTSD, tic disorder (~40% in juvenile OCD), Tourette’s syndrome, suicidal thoughts or behaviours.

Differential diagnosis

‘Normal’ (but recurrent) thoughts, worries, or habits (do not cause distress or functional impairment); anankastic personality disorder/OCD; schizophrenia; phobias; depressive disorder; hypochondriasis; body dysmorphic disorder; trichotillomania.

Obsessive–compulsive disorder 2—management


• Psychological:

• CBT—recommended by NICE,17,18 but essentially takes a behavioural approach, including exposure and response prevention (ERP).

• Behavioural therapy—response prevention useful in ritualistic behaviour; thought stopping may help in ruminations; exposure techniques for obsessions.

• Cognitive therapy—so far not proven effective.

• Psychotherapy—supportive: valuable (including family members,

use of groups); psychoanalytical: no unequivocal evidence of effectiveness (insight-orientated psychotherapy may be useful in some patients).

• Pharmacological:

• Antidepressants SSRIs (licensed): escitalopram (10–20mg/day),

fluoxetine (20–60mg/day), fluvoxamine (100–300mg/day), sertraline (150mg/day), or paroxetine (40–60mg/day) should be considered first line (no clear superiority of any one agent, high doses usually needed, at least 12wks for treatment response, long-term therapy). Clomipramine (e.g. 250–300mg) has specific anti-obsessional action (NICE second-line choice). Other (unlicensed) agents include citalopram (20–60mg/day; NICE recommended alone or in combination with clomipramine), venlafaxine (225–300mg).

• Augmentative strategies: antipsychotic (risperidone, haloperidol, pimozide)—esp. if psychotic features, tics, or schizotypal traits (less evidence for olanzapine, quetiapine, aripiprazole,

paliperidone); buspirone/short-term clonazepam (not NICE recommended)—if marked anxiety; other possible adjunctive agents include mirtazapine (15–30mg), lamotrigine (100mg/day), topiramate (100–200mg/day), memantine (20mg/day), celecoxib (400mg/day), and dexamfetamine (30mg/day) or caffeine

(300mg/day).19 • Physical:

• ECT—consider if patient suicidal or severely incapacitated.

• Psychosurgery—may be considered for severe, incapacitating, intractable cases (i.e. treatment-resistant: two antidepressants, three combination treatments, ECT, and behavioural therapy) where the patient can give informed consent, e.g. stereotactic cingulotomy (reported up to 65% success). In theory, disrupts the neuronal loop between the orbitofrontal cortex and basal ganglia. • DBS—efficacy remains to be established (severe refractory



Often sudden onset (after stressful event, e.g. loss, pregnancy, sexual problem); presentation may be delayed by 5–10yrs due to secrecy; symptom intensity may fluctuate (contact-related/phasic) or be chronic.


Twenty to 30% significantly improve; 40–50% show moderate improvement, but 20–40% have chronic or worsening symptoms. Relapse rates are high after stopping medication. Suicide rates i, esp. if there is secondary depression.

Prognostic factors

• Poor prognosis: giving in to compulsions, longer duration, early onset, ♂ , presence of tics, bizarre compulsions, hoarding, symmetry, comorbid depression, delusional beliefs or over-valued ideas, personality disorder (esp. schizotypal).

• Better prognosis: good premorbid social and occupational adjustment, a precipitating event, episodic symptoms, less avoidance.

Olfactory reference disorder


Also known as olfactory reference syndrome (ORS), characterized by the erroneous belief that one emits a foul or unpleasant body odour, resulting in significant distress and impairment, including

avoidance of social situations.20 Often accompanied by referential thinking and repetitive behaviours (showering, use of excessive deodorants or perfumes). Level of insight varies, and concerns may amount to having a delusional quality.

Differential diagnosis

General medical conditions—with verifiable body odour [e.g. hyperhidrosis, halitosis, dental (abscess), trimethylaminuria, rectal abscess/fistulae], (rare) causes of olfactory hallucinations [head injury, migraine, substance use, or seizure disorders—TLE associated with medial temporal lobe tumours and mesial temporal sclerosis (smells: ‘rotting’, ‘bad’, ‘burning rubber’, ‘rotting food’)]. Psychiatric conditions—social anxiety disorder, OCD, body dysmorphic disorder, delusional disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, avoidant personality disorder, depression, culture-bound variants [e.g. ‘jikoshu-kyofu’ (Japan); Culture-bound syndromes?, p. 988].


Depression (usually secondary and may be severe), social anxiety, OCD, body dysmorphic disorder.


Prevalence 0.5–2% (estimated) but may be higher as under- reported.


Onset usually mid-20s but can present earlier at puberty/adolescence, and runs a chronic course. Up to two-thirds may respond to treatments.


Combined approach best. Actively treat any comorbidity.

• Pharmacological—no RCTs; case reports support use of SSRIs (fluoxetine, paroxetine, citalopram, sertraline) or antipsychotics (sulpiride, amisulpride, risperidone, aripiprazole, olanzapine), alone or combined.

• Psychological—no RCTs; sparse evidence supports: CBT focusing on compulsive behaviours, low mood, and social avoidance; eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) aimed at processing the life events theorized to have been causal in either triggering or maintaining the pathology.

Hoarding disorder (DSM-5)


Persistent difficulties discarding or parting with possessions (including pets), regardless of their actual value, which leads to distress associated with discarding them and results in the

accumulation of possessions that clutter active living areas.21 There is significant impairment of social, occupational, and other areas of functioning. Associated with or without excessive acquisition and varying degrees of insight.

Differential diagnosis

OCD (obsessions), depressive disorder (poor motivation), psychosis (delusions), autism (restricted interests), cognitive deficits (dementia, brain injury, cerebrovascular disease, Prader–Willi syndrome).


~5% comorbid mood or anxiety disorder (50% depression, 20% OCD, social phobia, and GAD).


Prevalence 2–6% in the USA and Europe. More ♂ than ♀ in general population, vice versa in clinical populations. Almost three times more prevalent in older adults (aged 55–94yrs) than younger adults (aged 34–44yrs). Risk factors include: indecisiveness in individuals with the disorder and first-degree relatives; stressful or traumatic life events. Genetic studies suggest ~50% of the variability in hoarding disorder is heritable.


Symptoms may first emerge around ages of 11–15yrs, start interfering with everyday functioning by mid-20s, and cause clinically significant impairment by mid-30s. Usually runs a chronic course.


CBT has some utility, including relaxation, and helps with decision- making and coping skills. Individual, group, or family approaches have been used. Psychotherapy may be augmented with a trial of an SSRI. Actively treat any comorbidity.

Exceptional stressors and traumatic events

ICD-10 definition

‘Common sense’ approach: ‘a stressful event or situation . . . of an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature, which is likely to cause pervasive distress in almost anyone’. Includes traumatic events (e.g. rape, bombing, criminal assault, natural catastrophe) and unusual sudden changes in the social position and/or network of the individual (e.g. domestic fire, multiple bereavement).

DSM-5 definition

Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one (or more) of the following ways: directly experienced, witnessed in person, learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family member or close friend, or repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s) (e.g. first responders collecting human remains, police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse).

Types I and II trauma

(See Box 8.9.)

• Type I trauma: single, dangerous, and overwhelming events,

comprising isolated (often rare) traumatic experiences of a sudden, surprising, devastating nature, with limited duration (i.e. ICD- 10/DSM-5 definitions).

• Type II trauma: due to sustained and repeated ordeal stressors (series of traumatic events or exposure to prolonged trauma); may

be variable, multiple, chronic, repeated, and anticipated, usually of intentional human design (e.g. ongoing physical or sexual abuse, combat). May lead to ‘complex PTSD’ or ‘complex trauma’. Symptoms include: somatization, dissociation, detachment from others, restricted range or dysregulation of affect, emotional lability (poor impulse-control, self-destructive behaviour, pathological patterns of relationships), and emotional numbing. ICD-10 acknowledges this type of reaction with the diagnosis ‘enduring personality changes after catastrophic experience’, whereas DSM- 5 allows for coding under ‘other specified trauma- and stressor- related disorder’ or ‘other specified personality disorder’.

How common are these events?

Community studies have found that up to 80% of men and 75% of

women22 experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime (but see cautionary notes in Box 8.10). Common events include sudden death of a loved one, accidents, fire, flood, natural disasters, or being a witness to severe injury (or murder).

Box 8.9 Continued debate

• Both of the ICD-10 and DSM-5 definitions fail to address ‘low- magnitude stressors’ (e.g. divorce, job loss, failing exams), even though 0.4% of the population may develop ‘PTSD-like’


• Equally, ‘common’ events (e.g. RTAs, sexual assault) quite often

lead to PTSD-like symptoms.

• Even perpetrators (albeit ‘unwilling’) of traumatic events (e.g.

war-related crimes, torture) may experience PTSD-like

symptoms (associated with feelings of shame or guilt).

• Emphasis on life-threatening events/threats to physical integrity may also be too restrictive. The perception of threat to, or loss of, autonomy and mental defeat may actually be more significant than physical assault—seen in studies of victims of

sexual/physical assault and political prisoners.

• Whether diagnosis should be made on the basis of symptom

clusters, rather than any definition of what constitutes a ‘valid’

Box 8.10 Recovered and false memories

• Survivors of traumatic events, esp. child abuse, sometimes claim to have recovered memories after a long period of time.

• Organizations such as the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (USA) and the False Memory Society (UK) suggest that many, if not all, of these recovered memories are the product of inappropriate therapeutic suggestion.

• The possibility of false accusations of supposed perpetrators, disruption of families, and accusations of malpractice against therapists have meant that debate is polarized, and subsequently, the literature is very difficult to interpret.

• Few would disagree with Lindsay and Read’s summary (1995):1 ‘In our reading, the scientific evidence has clear implications … memories recovered via suggestive memory work by people who initially denied any such history should be viewed with skepticism, but there are few grounds to doubt spontaneously recovered memories of common forms of child sexual abuse or recovered memories of details of never-forgotten abuse. Between these extremes lies a grey area within which the implications of existing scientific evidence are less clear and experts are likely to disagree.’

1 Lindsay DS, Read JD (1995) ‘Memory work’ and recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse: scientific evidence and public, professional and personal issues. Psychol Publ Policy Law 1:846–908.

Acute stress reaction (ICD-10)


A transient disorder (lasting hours or days) that may occur in an individual as an immediate (within 1hr) response to exceptional

traumatic event, becomes academic when a patient presents with clinically significant problems (although it may generate much heat when issues of compensation are involved).

1 McNally RJ (2000) Post traumatic stress disorder. In: Millon T, Blaney PH, David RD (eds). Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology, pp. 144–65. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

stress (e.g. natural catastrophe, major accident, serious assault, warfare, rape, multiple bereavement, fire). The stressor usually involves severe threat to the security or physical integrity of the individual or of a loved person(s).


Symptoms tend to be mixed/changeable, with an initial state of daze, followed by depression, anxiety (as for GAD; Generalized anxiety

disorder 1—clinical features and aetiology, p. 380), anger, or despair. Presence of social withdrawal, narrowed attention, disorientation, aggression, hopelessness, over-activity, or excessive grief defines mild (none of these symptoms present), moderate (two present), or severe (four present, or dissociative stupor) forms.


Incidence variable across studies, but estimated around 15–20% of individuals, following exceptional stress.


No specific theories, as it is a transient disorder.

Risk factors

Physical exhaustion, presence of other organic factors, elderly.

Differential diagnosis

PTSD (‘exceptional trauma’, delayed or persistent symptoms, re- experiencing of the traumatic event), adjustment disorder (not necessarily exceptional stressor, wider range of symptoms), concussion/mild brain injury (neuropsychological testing cannot always distinguish), brief psychotic disorder, dissociative disorders (no clear stressor), substance misuse.


By definition, no specific treatment needed. Ensure other needs are addressed, i.e. safety, security, practical assistance, social supports.


• Once the stressor is removed, symptoms resolve (usually) within a few hours.

• If the stress continues, the symptoms tend to diminish after 24– 48hrs and are minimal within about 3 days.

Acute stress disorder (DSM-5)


Clear overlap with ‘acute stress reaction’ (symptoms of dissociation, anxiety, hyperarousal), but greater emphasis on dissociative symptoms; onset within 4wks, lasting 3 days to 4wks (after which diagnosis changes to PTSD).


Similar to PTSD with symptoms in the categories of: re-experiencing of events (intrusion), avoidance, negative mood, and hyperarousal (but lasting no more than 4wks). Also it must be specified whether qualifying traumatic events were experienced directly, witnessed, or indirectly.


Incidence depends on trauma, e.g. 13–14% in road traffic accident (RTA) survivors, 19% in victims of assault, 33% in victims of mass shooting.


Similar to PTSD.

• Psychological: ‘re-experiencing symptoms’. Fear response to

harmless situations associated with original trauma, perhaps due to emotional memories (i.e. having personal significance). Remodelling underlying schemas requires holding trauma experiences in ‘active’ memory until the process is complete (working through). Dissociation—a mechanism of avoiding overwhelming emotion (i.e. ‘thinking without feeling’), which, if persistent, delays the process of integration.

• Biological: neurophysiological changes leading to permanent neuronal changes as a result of the effects of chronic stress or persistent re-experiencing of the stressful event. Neurotransmitters implicated—cathecholamines, 5-HT, GABA, opioids, and glucocorticoids.

Risk factors

Previous history of psychiatric disorder, previous traumatic event(s), premorbid depression, or dissociative symptoms.


Similar to PTSD (i.e. depression, substance misuse).

Differential diagnosis

(See Box 8.11.)

Box 8.11 DSM-5 ‘Trauma- and stressor-related disorders’ and ICD-11 ‘Disorders specifically associated with stress’

This new chapter in DSM-5 (and ICD-11 proposals) attempts to accommodate childhood and adult-onset trauma- and stressor- related disorders together. This means that ‘reactive attachment disorder’ and ‘disinhibited social engagement’ are included. While these disorders may share aetiological pathways (the result of social neglect), the lack of attachments seen in reactive attachment disorder is not necessarily found in disinhibited social engagement, which may present very much like ADHD ( Attachment, p. 658).

The other disorders included in this category are ‘Acute stress disorder’, ‘Adjustment disorders’, ‘PTSD’, and ‘Other/unspecified trauma- and stressor-related disorders’. Like acute stress disorder, PTSD has four symptom clusters: avoidance, persistent negative alterations in cognitions and mood, re-experiencing, and alterations in arousal and reactivity (which includes irritable or aggressive behaviour and reckless or self-destructive behaviour). Diagnostic thresholds are lowered to allow the diagnosis in children and adolescents, with separate criteria for children aged 6 or younger.

ICD-11 proposes a narrowing of PTSD to three core symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, and heightened threat perception. Complex PTSD is added—characterized by severe and pervasive problems in affect regulation; persistent beliefs about oneself as diminished, defeated, or worthless, accompanied by deep and pervasive feelings of shame, guilt, or failure related to the

PTSD (time frame >4wks’ duration), adjustment disorder (does not meet criteria for ‘traumatic’ event; Exceptional stressors and traumatic events, p. 390; wider range of symptoms), concussion/mild brain injury (neuropsychological testing cannot always distinguish), brief psychotic disorder, dissociative disorders (no clear stressor), substance misuse.


• Simple practical measures: e.g. support, advice regarding police procedures, insurance claims, dealing with the media, course and prognosis, may be all that is required.

• Psychological:

• Debriefing—may be useful for certain individuals (needing

supportive therapy), but reviews suggest there is little positive benefit of single session debriefing alone and may worsen

outcome!23 (See also Box 8.12.)

• CBT—brief interventions (education, relaxation, graded in vivo

exposure, and cognitive restructuring) may reduce the development of chronic problems/PTSD (not immediate, but ∼2wks after the event appears best).

• Pharmacological: TCAs, SSRIs, and BDZs may be useful for clinically significant symptoms (evidence lacking).


By definition, either self-limiting or continues into PTSD.

traumatic event; and persistent difficulties in sustaining relationships and in feeling close to others (with a clear relationship with emotionally unstable personality disorder; Table 12.1, p. 523). A new category of prolonged grief disorder, with symptoms lasting for at least 6mths, clearly exceeding social, cultural, or religious norms for the individual.

Box 8.12 Debriefing—more harm than good?

Surely it is better to get your emotions out than leave them bottled up? Debriefing, a technique that evolved from military psychiatry,

Adjustment disorders

where groups discussed their shared experiences, was used with first responders, and then to help victims of trauma. The idea was to prevent PTSD and other psychological problems with an efficient and affordable intervention that often comprised a cathartic retelling of events. In the 1980s and 1990s, counsellors were often among the first to arrive at the scene of a crisis.

This vogue for debriefing was challenged when a number of trials of single-session debriefing appeared to show a negative effect. In 1997, Bisson and colleagues conducted a study on burn victims and found that those who received debriefing were more likely to score highly for symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression 13mths later. Similarly, in 2000, a study by Hobbs and colleagues showed that vehicle accident survivors who received debriefing, when compared to those who were simply assessed, had worse PTSD symptoms at 4mths and when followed up 3yrs later.

In 2002, a Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis concluded: ‘There is no evidence that single session individual psychological debriefing is a useful treatment for the prevention of post traumatic stress disorder after traumatic incidents. Compulsory debriefing of victims of trauma should cease.’

The controversy that ensued is well summarized in a debate

article in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 20031 and highlighted the problems with reliance on evidence-based medicine—that ‘by satisfying the rigorous methodological criteria demanded of level I evidence, many RCTs lose validity and become so divorced from clinical reality that their findings are clinically meaningless.’ ( Trust me, I’m an epidemiologist, p. 30). However, rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, it is now generally agreed that debriefing should be part of a comprehensive, pragmatic ‘screen and treat’ package that appropriately assesses psychological and practical support needs, allowing early detection and prompt treatment of stress- or trauma-related disorders.

1 Wessley S, Deahl M (2003) Psychological debriefing is a waste of time. Br J Psychiatry 183:12–14.

Adjustment disorders sit uneasily between what are regarded as normal or just ‘problematic’ difficulties and the major psychiatric diagnoses. They must occur within 1 (ICD-10) or 3mths (DSM-5) of a particular psychosocial stressor and should not persist for longer than 6mths after the stressor (or its consequences) is removed (except in the case of ‘prolonged depressive reaction’ in ICD-10). Symptoms are ‘clinically significant’ due to marked distress or impairment of normal functioning, and may be ‘subthreshold’ (due to symptom or duration criteria) manifestations of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, stress-related disorders, somatoform disorders, or conduct disorders.


• ICD-10: brief depressive reaction (>1mth), prolonged depressive reaction (>6mths, but <2yrs), mixed anxiety and depressive reaction, predominant disturbance of other emotions, predominant disturbance of conduct, mixed disturbance of emotion and conduct, and other specified predominant symptoms. Allows inclusion of bereavement/grief reactions.

• DSM-5: specifiers: with depressed mood, anxiety, mixed anxiety and depressed mood, disturbance of conduct, mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct, and unspecified. Specifically excludes bereavement reactions ( Normal and abnormal grief, p. 400). ‘Acute’ disorders <6mths; ‘chronic’ disorders >6mths.


Prevalence in inpatient/outpatient psychiatric populations is conservatively estimated at around 5%. In general hospital settings, it may be as high as 20% (physical illness being the primary stressor for up to 70% of these cases).


By definition, the problems are caused by an identifiable stressor. Individual predisposition plays a greater role than in other conditions, but symptoms would not have arisen without the stressor.


Possibly higher incidence of alcohol-related problems than the general population, but no different from other psychiatric disorders.

Differential diagnosis

Diagnostic uncertainty may arise if debate surrounds whether the stressor is sufficiently severe to be labelled ‘exceptional’ or ‘traumatic’ (acute stress reaction/disorder or PTSD may be considered). Equally, it may be difficult to determine whether symptoms (e.g. low mood, anxiety, sleep disturbance, anorexia, lack of energy) are attributable to a medical disorder or are primarily psychiatric in nature. Use of alcohol and drugs (illicit and prescribed) may complicate the picture.


• Psychological: the mainstay of management is essentially supportive psychotherapy to enhance the capacity to cope with a stressor that cannot be reduced or removed, and to establish sufficient support (esp. practical help, e.g. provision of carers/childcare, financial support and benefits, OT assessment, contact with specific support groups) to maximize adaption. Ventilation/verbalization of feelings may be useful in preventing maladaptive behaviours (e.g. social isolation, destructive behaviours, suicidal acts), and understanding the ‘meaning’ of the stressor to the individual may help correct cognitive distortions.

• Pharmacological: the use of antidepressants or anxiolytics/hypnotics may be appropriate where symptoms are persistent and distressing (e.g. prolonged depression/dysphoria) or where psychological interventions have proved unsuccessful.


• 5-yr follow-up suggests recovery in ~70% (adolescents: ~40%), intervening problems in ~10% (adolescents: ~15%), and development of major psychiatric problems in ~20% (adolescents: ~45%).

• In adults, further psychiatric problems are usually depression/anxiety or alcohol-related problems.

There is a very real risk of suicide and self-harm (esp. in younger populations). Additional risk factors include poor psychosocial functioning, previous psychiatric problems, personality disorder, substance misuse, and mixed mood/behavioural symptoms. Do not ignore.

Normal and abnormal grief

Controversy surrounds how we should regard normal/abnormal grief, and whether they are distinct from depression or other stress-related

disorders.24 It is very common for those suffering bereavement to have depressive symptoms. However, it is less common for people

to experience a clear depressive episode that requires treatment.25 Normal grief is variable in its intensity and duration. Some commentators regard bereavement as just another stressor and argue that, depending on the phenomenology, grief may be regarded as an acute stress reaction/disorder, an adjustment disorder, or even a form of PTSD (‘traumatic grief’). Just as the former reactive/endogenous debate surrounding depression has led to recommendations that ‘clinical’ symptoms should be treated, a bereaved person should not be denied effective treatment on the basis of ‘understandability’, nor should arbitrary time frames [e.g. <4wks (ICD-10), <2mths (DSM-5)] become more important than assessment of clinical need.


• Bereavement: any loss event, usually the death of someone.

• Grief: feelings, thoughts, and behaviour associated with


• ‘Normal’—typical symptoms experienced after bereavement

include: disbelief, shock, numbness, and feelings of unreality; anger; feelings of guilt; sadness and tearfulness; preoccupation with the deceased; disturbed sleep and appetite and, occasionally, weight loss; and seeing or hearing the voice of the deceased. Usually these symptoms gradually reduce in intensity, with acceptance of the loss and readjustment. A typical ‘grief reaction’ lasts up to 12mths (mean 6mths), but cultural differences exist. Intensity of grief is usually greatest for the loss of a child, then spouse or partner, then parent.

• ‘Abnormal (pathological/morbid/complicated)’—grief reaction that is very intense, prolonged, or delayed (or absent), or where symptoms outside the normal range are seen, e.g. preoccupation with feelings of worthlessness, thoughts of death, excessive guilt, marked slowing of thoughts and movements, a

prolonged period of not being able to function normally, hallucinatory experiences (other than the image or voice of the deceased) (see Box 8.13).

Risk factors for depression after bereavement

History of depression, intense early grief/depressive symptoms, lack of social support, little experience of death, ‘traumatic’/unexpected death.


Generally ‘normal’ grief does not require specific treatment, although BDZs may be used to reduce severe autonomic arousal or treat problematic sleep disturbance in the short term. Where there are features of ‘abnormal’ grief, or where there are clinical symptoms of depression/anxiety, treatment with antidepressants ought to be considered, along with culturally appropriate supportive counselling (e.g. through organizations such as CRUSE).

‘Near the end of his life Sigmund Freud was consulted by a woman who had become depressed following the death of her husband. After listening to her, Freud quietly stated, “Madam, you do not have a neurosis, you have a misfortune”.’

Wahl CW (1970) Arch Found Thanatol 1: 137.

‘I know of only one functional psychiatric disorder, whose cause is known, whose features are distinctive, and whose course is usually predictable, and this is grief, the reaction to loss. Yet this condition has been so neglected by psychiatrists that until recently it was not even mentioned in the indexes of most of the best-known general textbooks of psychiatry.’

Parkes CM (1986) Bereavement studies of grief in adult life. 2nd edn. Tavistock Publications, London and New York.

Box 8.13 Prolonged grief disorder (PGD) [also known as persistent complex bereavement disorder (DSM-5), complicated grief disorder, and traumatic grief]

Prigerson et al.,1 a group of international researchers, have attempted to refine this syndrome for inclusion in DSM-5 (only made it into ‘Other specified trauma- and stressor-related

Post-traumatic stress disorder 1: diagnosis


Severe psychological disturbance following a traumatic event ( Excessive stressors and traumatic events, p. 390), characterized by involuntary re-experiencing of elements of the event, with symptoms of hyperarousal, avoidance, and emotional numbing.


Symptoms arise within 6mths (ICD-10) of the traumatic event (delayed onset in ~10% of cases) or are present for at least 1mth, with clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (DSM-5).

Both ICD-10 and DSM-5 include:

• Two or more ‘persistent symptoms of increased psychological

sensitivity and arousal’ (not present before exposure to the

disorder’—as a condition for future study) and ICD-11 proposals (successfully as ‘Prolonged grief disorder’), with criteria to identify bereaved persons at heightened risk for enduring distress and dysfunction. Criteria require reactions to a significant loss that involve the experience of yearning (e.g. physical or emotional suffering as a result of the desired, but unfulfilled, reunion with the deceased) and at least five of the following nine symptoms experienced at least daily or to a disabling degree:

• Feeling emotionally numb, stunned, or that life is meaningless. • Experiencing mistrust.

• Bitterness over the loss.

• Difficulty accepting the loss.

• Identity confusion.

• Avoidance of the reality of the loss. • Difficulty moving on with life.

Symptoms must be present at sufficiently high levels for at least 6mths from the death and be associated with functional impairment.

1 Prigerson HG, Horowitz MJ, Jacobs SC, et al. (2009) Prolonged grief disorder: psychometric validation of criteria proposed for DSM-V and ICD-11. PLoS Med 6:e1000121.

stressor): difficulty falling or staying asleep; irritability or outbursts of anger; reckless or self-destructive behaviour (DSM-5); difficulty in concentrating; hypervigilance; exaggerated startle response.

Other ICD-10 criteria

• Persistent remembering/‘reliving’ of the stressor in intrusive flashbacks, vivid memories, or recurring dreams; and distress when exposed to circumstances resembling or associated with the stressor.

• Actual/preferred avoidance of circumstances resembling/associated with the stressor (not present before exposure to the stressor).

• Inability to recall, either partially or completely, some important aspects or the period of exposure to the stressor.

Other DSM-5 criteria

(More specific; see Boxes 8.12 and 8.14.) Epidemiology

Risk of developing PTSD after a traumatic event: 8–13% for men, 20–30% for women. Lifetime prevalence: around 7.8% (♂:♀ = 1:2). Cultural differences exist. Some types of stressor are associated with higher rates (e.g. rape, torture, being a prisoner of war).


• Psychological/biological ( Acute stress disorder (DSM-5), p. 394).

• Neuroimaging: reduced hippocampal volume (may relate to appreciation of safe contexts and explicit memory deficits). Dysfunction of the amygdala, hippocampus, septum, and prefrontal cortex may lead to enhanced fear response. High arousal appears to be mediated by the anterior cingulate, medial prefrontal cortex, and thalamus; dissociation by the parietal, occipital, and temporal cortex.

• Genetic: higher concordance rates seen in MZ than DZ twins. Risk factors

• Vulnerability factors: low education, lower social class, Afro- Caribbean/Hispanic, ♀ gender, low self-esteem/neurotic traits,

previous (or family) history of psychiatric problems (esp. mood/anxiety disorders), previous traumatic events (including adverse childhood experiences and abuse).

• Peri-traumatic factors: trauma severity, perceived life threat, peri- traumatic emotions, peri-traumatic dissociation.

• Protective factors: high IQ, higher social class, Caucasian, ♂ gender, psychopathic traits, chance to view the body of a dead person.

Comorbidity (may be primary or secondary)

Depressive/mood disorders, other anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug misuse disorders, somatization disorders.

Differential diagnosis

Acute stress reaction/disorder, enduring personality change after a catastrophic event (duration at least 2yrs; Exceptional stressors

and traumatic events, p. 390), adjustment disorder (less severe stressor/different symptom pattern), other anxiety disorder, depressive/mood disorder, OCD, schizophrenia (or associated psychosis), substance-induced disorders.

Box 8.14 Other DSM-5 criteria

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways:

• Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event,

including images, thoughts, or perceptions (or repetitive play in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed in children).

• Recurrent distressing dreams of the event (or frightening dreams without recognizable content in children).

• Dissociative reactions (e.g. flashbacks)—acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (or re-enactment in play in children).

• Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

Post-traumatic stress disorder 2: management


Meta-analyses support the superior efficacy of trauma-focused

treatments,26,27 specifically trauma-focused CBT and EMDR. These are recommended as first-line treatments in all recent guidelines.

• CBT: includes elements of—education about PTSD, self-

monitoring of symptoms, anxiety management, breathing techniques, imaginal reliving, supported exposure to anxiety- producing stimuli, cognitive restructuring (esp. for complicated trauma), anger management.

• EMDR: novel treatment using voluntary multi-saccadic eye movements to reduce anxiety associated with disturbing thoughts and to help process the emotions associated with traumatic experiences (see Box 8.15).

• Other psychological treatments:

• Marked physiological reactions at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma (not present before the trauma), as evidenced by:

• Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or memories associated with

the trauma.

• Efforts to avoid external reminders (activities, places, or people)

that arouse recollections of the trauma.

Negative alterations in cognition and mood associated with the

traumatic event(s), as evidenced by two (or more) of:

• Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma.

• Persistent exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about

self, others, and the world.

• Persistent distorted cognitions.

• Persistent negative emotional state.

• Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant


• Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others.

• Persistent inability to experience positive emotions.

• Psychodynamic therapy—focus on resolving unconscious conflicts provoked by the stressful events, the goal being to understand the meaning of the event in the context of the individual.

• Stress management (stress inoculation)—teaching skills to help cope with stress such as relaxation, breathing, thought stopping, assertiveness, positive thinking.

• Hypnotherapy—use of focused attention to enhance control over hyperarousal and distress, enabling recollection of traumatic event. Concern over possible induction of dissociative states.

• Supportive therapy—non-directive, non-advisory method of exploring thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to reach clearer self-understanding.


Medication may be considered when there is severe ongoing threat, if the patient is too distressed or unstable to engage in psychological therapy or fails to respond to an initial psychological approach. Where there is a good treatment response, medication should be continued long term, with trial reduction after 12mths.

• SSRIs (e.g. paroxetine 20–40mg/day; sertraline 50–200mg/day) are licensed for PTSD, and their use is supported by a systematic

review.28 Other unlicensed possibilities include: venlafaxine, mirtazapine, fluoxetine, escitalopram, and fluvoxamine. Other antidepressants: although unlicensed, there is some evidence for TCAs (e.g. amitriptyline, imipramine); MAOIs (e.g. phenelzine) may also reduce anxiety (over-arousal) and intrusiveness, and improve sleep.

It may be helpful to target specific symptoms:

• Sleep disturbance (including nightmares): may be improved by

mirtazapine (45mg/day), levomepromazine, prazosin (mean dose

9.5mg/day), or specific hypnotics (e.g. zopiclone, zolpidem).

• Anxiety symptoms/hyperarousal: consider use of BDZs (e.g.

clonazepam 4–5mg/day), buspirone, antidepressants, propranolol.

• Intrusive thoughts/hostility/impulsiveness: some evidence for use

of carbamazepine, valproate, topiramate, or lithium.

• Psychotic symptoms/severe aggression or agitation: may warrant use of an antipsychotic (some evidence for olanzapine, risperidone, quetiapine, clozapine, aripiprazole).


• ~50% will recover within first year, ~30% will run a chronic course.

• Outcome depends on initial symptom severity. Recovery will be helped by: good social support; lack of negative responses from others; absence of ‘maladaptive’ coping mechanisms (e.g. avoidance, denial, ‘safety behaviours’, not talking about the experience, thought suppression, rumination); no further traumatic life events (secondary problems such as physical health, acquired disability, disfigurement, disrupted relationships, financial worries,

and litigation).

Box 8.15 EMDR controversy

In 1987, Francine Shapiro, a California psychologist in private practice, while walking in the woods, preoccupied with disturbing thoughts, discovered her anxiety improved during the walk. She realized that she had been moving her eyes back and forth, from one side of the path to the other, while walking. Shapiro tried out variants of this procedure with her clients and found that they felt better too. Her findings were published in 1989, and EMDR was born.

Initially developed to help clients with PTSD and other anxiety disorders, therapists have since extended EMDR to other conditions, including depression, sexual dysfunction, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and stress associated with illnesses such as cancer. Like other serendipitous discoveries, the claims for EMDR were treated with a healthy dose of scepticism, especially when its proponents tried to explain ‘how’ it worked, using erroneous theories of memory, right–left brain imbalance, and REM sleep-like processing. It became associated with alternative therapies, such as Roger Callahan’s thought field therapy and Gary Craig’s emotional freedom therapy. These therapies have all the hallmarks of pseudoscience ( Psychomythology, p. 24). Although the mechanism of action of

Depersonalization (derealization) syndrome


A rare disorder, characterized by persistent or recurrent episodes of a distressing feeling of unreality or detachment in relation to the outside world (derealization) or the person’s own body, thoughts, feelings, or behaviour (depersonalization). It is viewed as an anxiety-/stress-related disorder in ICD-10, and as one of the ‘dissociative disorders’ in DSM-5, along with dissociative amnesia, identity disorder, and fugue ( Dissociative (conversion) disorders,

p. 868).29 Clinical features

Patients may find it difficult to describe their experiences, often reporting feeling ‘as if’ they are a passive observer of what is going on around them or their own actions. This may be accompanied by an emotional numbness (inability to experience feelings) and a dream- or trance-like state. There may also be the experience of alterations in the perception of objects or people, appearing unfamiliar or different in respect to the usual colour, shape, distance, or size. Insight tends to be preserved (unlike ‘passivity phenomena’ in psychoses)—the patient recognizes the experiences as abnormal, unpleasant, distressing, and anxiety-provoking.


Up to 50% of ‘normal’ individuals may experience depersonalization in their lifetime (usually in the context of psychological distress), with 1–2% having more chronic symptoms. In psychiatric populations, it is a very common experience (lifetime prevalence ~80%), with persistent symptoms (and associated functional impairment) in

EMDR is not fully understood, it has been shown that the eye movements are not a necessary component of the therapy. In fact, well-established psychological principles of attention, imaginal exposure, and methods of relaxation are probably sufficient to explain the efficacy of the EMDR procedure.

Shapiro F (1995) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. New York, NY: Guildford Press.

~12%. In clinical populations: ♂:♀ = 1:2, whereas in the general population: ♂ = ♀. Age of onset usually adolescence/early adulthood (may go undetected in children).


• Psychoanalytical: ego defence against painful and conflicting memories, impulses, or affects; usually rooted in childhood


• Psychological: adaptive response to overwhelming stress, allowing

continued function by protecting against potentially overwhelming anxiety. Specific precipitant(s) may not be readily identifiable.

• Biological:31 altered function in systems central to integrated processing of information in the brain (with functional localization in the parietotemporal and limbic areas) where serotonergic mechanisms play a key role. Possible role for the effects of illicit drugs, as 10–20% of patients describe symptoms first occurring when using drugs (esp. cannabis).


Anxiety disorders (particularly phobias, panic disorder, OCD), depressive disorders, personality disorders [anankastic/obsessional, borderline personality disorder (BPD)].

Differential diagnosis

Depersonalization may be experienced in the context of sleep or sensory deprivation, being in unfamiliar surroundings, or an acutely stressful/traumatic situation. May also be a symptom in schizophrenia/psychosis (usually accompanied by a delusional explanation, e.g. Cotard delusion), mood/anxiety disorders, acute intoxication/withdrawal from alcohol, illicit substances (particularly cannabis or hallucinogens), or medication, and in organic disorders (e.g. hyperventilation, hypoglycaemia, migraine, epilepsy—brief stereotyped episodes, other neurological conditions).


• Use of rating scales32 (e.g. the Cambridge Depersonalization Scale)33 may assist the assessment of treatment response.

• Exclude organic causes with appropriate investigations, which may sometimes include brain imaging (CT/MRI) and EEG.

• Comorbid psychiatric conditions should be identified and treated. Despite successful treatment, depersonalization may persist.

• Evidence for successful management of depersonalization syndrome is poor. No drugs are licensed for use in the UK.

• Some evidence supports a role for SSRIs (usually citalopram or escitalopram), alone or in combination with lamotrigine (up to 500mg/day).

• Where there is marked anxiety, clonazepam (0.5–4mg/day) may be useful; anecdotal evidence supports clomipramine (if obsessional symptoms are marked), naltrexone, and bupropion.

• CBT is the only psychological treatment shown to be beneficial in an open trial, particularly in tackling anxieties, ruminations, and avoidance behaviours relating to identifiable stressors.

• Other psychotherapeutic approaches: acceptance and understanding of symptoms; identification of ‘putative’ defence functions; identifying underlying psychopathology; integration of traumatic experiences.


• Onset is usually sudden, with symptoms persisting only for a brief period. Gradual onset does occur, and the course is very variable —both episodic and continuous. Occasionally, symptoms may persist for hours, days, weeks, months, or even years (rare).

• Resolution tends to be gradual. Recurrent episodes generally occur in the context of recurring (perceived) stressful situations or fatigue.

• Chronic fluctuating symptoms may be treatment-resistant.

1 Formerly known as Da Costa syndrome. Other archaic terms include: cardiac neurasthenia, cardiac neurosis, circulatory neurasthenia, disordered action of the heart (DAH), effort syndrome, hyperdynamic–adrenergic circulatory state, hyperkinetic heart syndrome, irritable heart, neurocirculatory asthenia, soldier’s heart, and vasoregulatory asthenia.

2 ‘Panic’ derives from the Greek god Pan, who was in the habit of frightening humans and animals ‘out of the blue’.

3 ICD-10 and DSM-5 specify that panic attacks in panic disorder are unexpected, and not situational. DSM-5 now includes ‘Panic attack specifier’ for the presence of panic symptoms associated with any other mental disorder (not just the anxiety disorders).

4 Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Jim R, et al. (2006) The epidemiology of panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia in the national comorbidity survey replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry 63:415–24.

5 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2011) Generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults: management. NICE guidance [CG113]. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg113 [accessed 20 June 2018].

6 Baldwin DS, Anderson IM, Nutt DJ, et al. (2014) Evidence-based pharmacological treatment of anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder: a revision of the 2005 guidelines from the British Association for Psychopharmacology. J Psychopharmacol 28:403–39.

7 Literally ‘fear of the marketplace’ (Greek).

8 Kendler KS, Neale MC, Kessler RC, et al. (1992) The genetic epidemiology of phobias in women. The interrelationship of agoraphobia, social phobia, situational phobia, and simple phobia. Arch Gen Psychiatry 49:273–81.

9 Marks IM (1969) Fears and Phobias. New York, NY: Academic Press.

10 Wolpe J (1973) The Practice of Behaviour Therapy, 2nd edn. New York, NY: Pergamon. 11 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2013) Social anxiety disorder: recognition, assessment and treatment. Clinical guideline [CG159]. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg159 [accessed 20 June 2018].

12 British Association for Psychopharmacology Guidelines (2014) Evidence-based pharmacological treatment of anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder: A revision of the 2005 guidelines from the British Association for Psychopharmacology. https://www.bap.org.uk/pdfs/BAP_Guidelines- Anxiety.pdf [accessed 20 June 2018].

13 Suarez L, Bennett SM, Goldstein CM, et al. (2008) Understanding anxiety disorders from a ‘triple vulnerability’ framework. In: Antony MM, Stein MB (eds). Handbook of Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders, pp. 153–72. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

14 NICE recommends SSRIs as first-line treatment (+ CBT) and does not recommend BDZs for >2–4wks. See: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2011) Generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults: management. Clinical guideline [CG113]. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg113 [accessed 20 June 2018].

15 Buspirone should be considered as an alternative to BDZs when sedative effects are unwanted (e.g. drivers of vehicles, pilots, machine operators), in patients with a personal/family history of drug misuse, or for those already taking other CNS depressants. 16 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2013) Generalised anxiety disorder: quetiapine. Evidence summary [ESUOM12]. https://www.nice.org.uk/advice/esuom12/chapter/Key-points-from-the-evidence [accessed 20 June 2018].

17 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2005) Obsessive-compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder: treatment. Clinical guideline [CG31]. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG31/chapter/1-Guidance [accessed 20 June 2018].

18 British Association for Psychopharmacology Guidelines (2014) https://www.bap.org.uk/pdfs/BAP_Guidelines-Anxiety.pdf [accessed 20 June 2018].

19 That is roughly the equivalent of five cups of instant coffee, three cups of freshly brewed coffee, six cups of tea, seven cans of Diet Coke, or six plain chocolate bars, i.e. some patients may already be augmenting themselves!

20 The first published descriptions of olfactory reference disorder (ORD) date back to the late 1800s. Also known as autodysomophobia and bromosis, the term ORD was first used in 1971 by Pryse-Phillips to describe the consistent phenomenology observed in a large patient case series of 137 patients (Acta Psychiatr Scand 47:484–509). The world literature has been comprehensively reviewed by Begum and McKenna in 2011 (Psychol Med 41:453–61). Not included in the DSM-5, ORD is being considered for inclusion in ICD-11 as an OCRD.

21 Also known as Diogenes syndrome ( Personality problems, p. 555)—coined by Clark et al. (1975) but first described by MacMillan and Shaw (1966), the name derives from Diogenes of Sinope, an ancient Greek philosopher, a Cynic who allegedly lived in a large jar in Athens. It is a misnomer as Diogenes was not a hoarder and was known to venture out each day to the Agora. Other suggested synonyms include ‘senile breakdown’, ‘Plyushkin’s syndrome’ (after a character from Gogol’s Dead Souls), ‘social breakdown’, and ‘senile squalor syndrome’.

22 Stein MB, Walker JR, Hazen AL, et al. (1997) Full and partial posttraumatic stress disorder: findings from a community survey. Am J Psychol 154:1114–19.

23 Rose SC, Bisson J, Churchill R, Wessely S (2002) Psychological debriefing for preventing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2:CD000560.

24 Stroebe MS, Hanson RO, Stroebe W, et al. (eds) (2007) Handbook of Bereavement Research and Practice: 21st Century Perspectives. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.

25 Results vary, e.g. in one study 16% of late-life widows had depression 13mths after bereavement. Zisook S, Paulus M, Shuchter SR, Judd LL (1997) The many faces of depression following spousal bereavement. J Affect Disord 45:85–95.

26 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2005) Post-traumatic stress disorder: management. Clinical guideline [CG26]. http://www.nice.org.uk/CG26 [accessed 20 June 2018].

27 Bisson J, Ehlers A, Matthews R, et al. (2007) Systematic review and meta-analysis of psychological treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. Br J Psychiatry 190:97–104.

28 Stein DJ, Ipser JC, Seedat S (2006) Pharmacotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cochrane Database Syst Rev 1:CD002795.

29 ICD-11 ‘dissociative disorders’ proposals include depersonalization–derealization disorder, dissociative neurological symptom disorder (conversion disorders), dissociative amnesia, trance disorder, possession trance disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and partial dissociative identity disorder.

30 Dangers of attributing present psychopathology to childhood events cannot be overstated, illustrated by high-profile cases of alleged ‘recovered memories’ (see Box.8.10). Unsubstantiated claims of childhood (or other) abuse should be regarded with caution, and the significance of childhood trauma, even in empirical studies, finds little support. See Pope HG (1997) Psychology Astray: Fallacies in Studies of ‘Repressed Memory’ and Childhood Trauma. Boca Raton, FL: Upton.

31 As early as 1935, Mayer-Gross thought psych