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There is a long tradition of excellence in research and clinical expertise in psychiatry across Britain. The BJPsych aims to reflect this wealth of mental science and practical experience alongside the very best of research and clinical practice from around the world using a variety of different kinds of articles.
Stepping down after a decade of service as editor of this journal, this brief testimonial recognises the pivotal contributions made by Professor David Skuse and highlights his stellar career achievements as an academic.
All changes have both good and bad consequences. However, on occasion, some of the ramifications can also be ‘ugly’. In a similar vein to Sergio Leone’s classic , ICD-11 has finally, after 30 years, revised its description of mood disorders. The good things are that they have dispensed with the term ‘affective’, introduced the concept of clusters of mood symptoms, and combined depression and bipolar disorder into a unified spectrum of mood disorders. The bad things are a missed opportunity to fully embrace mixed states and extend some of the innovations that have been applied to depression to its counterparts namely, mania and mixed mood states. However, it is the ugly that is most disturbing, as they have blindly embraced the erroneous concept of subtyping bipolar disorder – a venture that has been a categorical disaster. Queue Ennio Morricone.
After thanking his predecessors, the newly appointed College Editor and Editor-in-Chief of The British Journal of Psychiatry, Professor Gin Malhi, outlines both the historical and personal significance of the journal in this proemial editorial.
The long-awaited 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) makes important advances but simultaneously compromises on some aspects, which may have a negative impact on clinical practice. This editorial illustrates the double-edged nature of some of the changes in ICD-11, focusing on mood disorders and specifically the subtyping of bipolar disorder.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems rapidly embraced technology as a means of providing care while adhering to social distancing protocols. In this brief article, we report on a new telehealth initiative recently implemented in an out-patient psychiatric setting and outline the novel role telehealth may serve in facilitating psychiatric care globally. The uptake of telehealth represents a new and exciting opportunity to increase both access to, and quality of, care for people with mental illness.
Comparing the recommendations of two recently published national clinical practice guidelines for depression, this editorial highlights the concordance of advice concerning the selection and sequencing of therapies. Lifestyle and psychological interventions feature prominently and there is broad agreement regarding medication choice and optimisation strategies. The guidelines are therefore a useful resource.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists clinical practice guidelines for mood disorders (MDcpg2015 and MDcpg2020) provide evidence-based and consensus-based recommendations for managing mood disorders.
We examined Australian real-world prescribing habits to determine whether management in clinical practice aligned with MDcpg2015 recommendations.
A retrospective analysis of a cohort of patients ≥16 years old who had been dispensed a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)-listed antidepressant between July 2013 and June 2019 was conducted using Australian Commonwealth Department of Human Services PBS 10% sample data.
Between July 2013 and June 2019, 239 944 patients in Australia commenced antidepressant treatment. Of these, 22% (52 694 patients) received a second treatment (a new class of treatment after a period of discontinuation or additional antipsychotic therapy) and 6% (15 741 patients) received a third treatment. Patients were initially prescribed primarily selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; 52% of prescriptions) or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs; 25%), even though TCAs are not recommended for first-line treatment. Fewer than one-quarter of patients were prescribed serotonin–noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (13%) or other agents (10%). General practitioners (GPs) were more likely to initiate TCAs than psychiatrists (22% v. 7%).
Once initiated, the overall median time patients remained on treatment was 4.5 months; this was highest with SSRIs (5.8 months) and lowest with TCAs (0.9 months).
First-line prescribing broadly follows guidelines. GP and psychiatrist prescribing patterns differ, perhaps reflecting different patient groups and the need to tailor treatment to individuals. Future guidelines should aim to capture the different presentations and complexity of depression.
Poor research integrity is increasingly recognised as a serious problem in science. We outline some evidence for this claim and introduce the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) journals’ Research Integrity Group, which has been created to address this problem.
Distinguishing the symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal from those of relapse is a complex issue that has an impact on a significant number of clinicians and patients. This commentary expands on several important points made by Horowitz & Taylor in their examination of this critically under-researched area and illustrates the relationships between symptoms, and how their onset may provide insights into their aetiology.
The UK is currently considering making assisted dying available to patients who are terminally ill. We discuss ethical and practical aspects of this complex issue and outline the potential role of psychiatry. We set out the challenges of implementation of legislation, and potential unintended consequences including the impact on health inequalities.
This study aimed to explore effects of adjunctive minocycline treatment on inflammatory and neurogenesis markers in major depressive disorder (MDD). Serum samples were collected from a randomised, placebo-controlled 12-week clinical trial of minocycline (200 mg/day, added to treatment as usual) for adults (n = 71) experiencing MDD to determine changes in interleukin-6 (IL-6), lipopolysaccharide binding protein (LBP) and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). General Estimate Equation modelling explored moderation effects of baseline markers and exploratory analyses investigated associations between markers and clinical outcomes. There was no difference between adjunctive minocycline or placebo groups at baseline or week 12 in the levels of IL-6 (week 12; placebo 2.06 ± 1.35 pg/ml; minocycline 1.77 ± 0.79 pg/ml; p = 0.317), LBP (week 12; placebo 3.74 ± 0.95 µg/ml; minocycline 3.93 ± 1.33 µg/ml; p = 0.525) or BDNF (week 12; placebo 24.28 ± 6.69 ng/ml; minocycline 26.56 ± 5.45 ng/ml; p = 0.161). Higher IL-6 levels at baseline were a predictor of greater clinical improvement. Exploratory analyses suggested that the change in IL-6 levels were significantly associated with anxiety symptoms (HAMA; p = 0.021) and quality of life (Q-LES-Q-SF; p = 0.023) scale scores. No other clinical outcomes were shown to have this mediation effect, nor did the other markers (LBP or BDNF) moderate clinical outcomes. There were no overall changes in IL-6, LBP or BDNF following adjunctive minocycline treatment. Exploratory analyses suggest a potential role of IL-6 on mediating anxiety symptoms with MDD. Future trials may consider enrichment of recruitment by identifying several markers or a panel of factors to better represent an inflammatory phenotype in MDD with larger sample size.
The relationship between irritability as a subjective experience and the behavioural indicators typically used to measure the construct are not known. Its links to mood, and contextual relationships, vary with age and are yet to be thoroughly examined.
First, to interrogate the relationship between the subjective experience of irritability and mood, and that with its behavioural indicators. Second, to determine how these relationships vary with age and over time.
This study examined data from a previous clinical trial of adolescents and young adults (N = 82) with bipolar disorder, who received a psychological intervention over 18 months. Participants completed a battery of questionnaires, which included assessments of irritability. Analyses of covariance were conducted to examine the interaction between mood symptoms, subjective measures of irritability, behavioural measures of irritability and age over time.
Subjective irritability scores differed significantly over time when controlling for manic, but not depressive, symptom scores. Further, subjective irritability significantly differed when controlling for behavioural measures of irritability (temper outbursts and argumentativeness). There were significant interactions between scores of depressive symptoms, temper outbursts and subjective irritability with age, wherein younger participants showed no correlation between depressive symptoms and temper outbursts. In addition, younger participants showed lower correlations between subjective irritability and both depressive and temper outburst scores, than older participants.
Subjective irritability is linked to mood morbidity and behavioural outbursts, and these relationships are contingent on age. Our novel findings suggest that subjective irritability should be assessed in greater detail in patients with mood disorders.
Irritability is a transdiagnostic phenomenon that, despite its ubiquity and significant impact, is poorly conceptualised, defined and measured. As it lacks specificity, efforts to examine irritability in adults by using a diagnostic category perspective have been hamstrung. Therefore, using a Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) approach to examine irritability in adults, which spans many constructs and domains, may have a better chance of yielding underlying mechanisms that can then be mapped onto various diagnostic categories. Recently, a model has been proposed for irritability in children and adolescents that uses the RDoC framework; however, this model, which accounts for chronic, persistent irritability, may not necessarily transpose to adults. Therefore, use of the RDoC framework to examine irritability in adults is urgently needed, as it may shed light on this currently amorphous phenomenon and the many disorders within which it operates.
Although trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TF-CBT) is the frontline treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), one-third of patients are treatment non-responders. To identify neural markers of treatment response to TF-CBT when participants are reappraising aversive material.
This study assessed PTSD patients (n = 37) prior to TF-CBT during functional magnetic brain resonance imaging (fMRI) when they reappraised or watched traumatic images. Patients then underwent nine sessions of TF-CBT, and were then assessed for symptom severity on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale. FMRI responses for cognitive reappraisal and emotional reactivity contrasts of traumatic images were correlated with the reduction of PTSD severity from pretreatment to post-treatment.
Symptom improvement was associated with decreased activation of the left amygdala during reappraisal, but increased activation of bilateral amygdala and hippocampus during emotional reactivity prior to treatment. Lower connectivity of the left amygdala to the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, and right insula, and that between the left hippocampus and right amygdala were also associated with symptom improvement.
These findings provide evidence that optimal treatment response to TF-CBT involves the capacity to engage emotional networks during emotional processing, and also to reduce the engagement of these networks when down-regulating emotions.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is recommended in treatment guidelines as an efficacious therapy for treatment-resistant depression. However, it has been associated with loss of autobiographical memory and short-term reduction in new learning.
To provide clinically useful guidelines to aid clinicians in informing patients regarding the cognitive side-effects of ECT and in monitoring these during a course of ECT, using complex data.
A Committee of clinical and academic experts from Australia and New Zealand met to the discuss the key issues pertaining to ECT and cognitive side-effects. Evidence regarding cognitive side-effects was reviewed, as was the limited evidence regarding how to monitor them. Both issues were supplemented by the clinical experience of the authors.
Meta-analyses suggest that new learning is impaired immediately following ECT but that group mean scores return at least to baseline by 14 days after ECT. Other cognitive functions are generally unaffected. However, the finding of a mean score that is not reduced from baseline cannot be taken to indicate that impairment, particularly of new learning, cannot occur in individuals, particularly those who are at greater risk. Therefore, monitoring is still important. Evidence suggests that ECT does cause deficits in autobiographical memory. The evidence for schedules of testing to monitor cognitive side-effects is currently limited. We therefore make practical recommendations based on clinical experience.
Despite modern ECT techniques, cognitive side-effects remain an important issue, although their nature and degree remains to be clarified fully. In these circumstances it is useful for clinicians to have guidance regarding what to tell patients and how to monitor these side-effects clinically.
Adolescent subthreshold emotional symptoms arise from impaired self-referential information-processing and approach–avoidance behaviour network integration, which compromises goal evaluation and pursuit strategies.
We investigated whether impairment of negative emotion (goal) reappraisal strategies (self-focussing and self-distancing) generates emotional symptoms (emotional disorders precursors).
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and a triple-network model (default mode, executive control and salience), functional connectivity differences within and between networks, and their modulation by task and relationships with emotional symptoms were determined in healthy adolescent girls (N = 202) grouped by presence or absence of emotional symptoms.
The groups differed in spectral power distribution and in dorsal default mode network and right executive control network modulation when self-focussing and self-distancing, respectively. Girls without emotional symptoms had greater spectral power and less network modulation. Greater spectral power was associated with reduced emotional symptoms and less dorsal default mode network modulation when self-focussing.
The early phases of anxiety and depressive disorders in adolescence are marked by emotional symptoms that usually emerge in the context of negative life events. To contend with the negative effect of such events, a typical reappraisal strategy is to distance oneself and switch the focus of one's thinking. This brain-imaging study in adolescent girls prone to the development of emotional disorders has found functional changes in key neural networks that are involved in reappraisal and shown that this process is impaired. This is important because it provides an early indication of these common disorders and a potential target for psychological interventions.