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New Tool Offers Rapid, Accurate Screening for Bipolar I Disorder

January 08, 2021

The 6-item Rapid Mood Screener outperformed the Mood Disorder Questionnaire in differentiating bipolar I disorder from major depressive disorder (MDD) in a study involving 139 patients, according to a study published online in Current Medical Research and Opinion.

“[T]he Rapid Mood Screener has less than half the number of items than the Mood Disorder Questionnaire, it screens for both bipolar I disorder features and manic symptoms, it uses a simpler scoring algorithm, and it is estimated to take less time to complete than the commonly cited 5-minute completion time for the Mood Disorder Questionnaire,” researchers wrote.

Misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder is common, researchers explained, with an estimated 1 in 4 patients treated for MDD actually having bipolar disorder. To improve the timeliness and accuracy of diagnosis of people with bipolar I disorder, researchers created a patient-reported tool that uses succinct, easy-to-understand wording to screen for manic symptoms and bipolar depression risk factors in less than 2 minutes.

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A literature search identified concepts believed to differentiate bipolar I from MDD, which researchers used to draft screening items. After testing the items in cognitive debriefing interviews with 12 patients with self-reported bipolar I or MDD, the items were refined.

Next, 67 adults with confirmed bipolar I and 72 adults with confirmed MDD participated in an observational study. Participants completed a 10-item draft Rapid Mood Screener, as well as other screening questionnaires. Based on item-level analysis, researchers subsequently trimmed the 10 screening tool items to 6.

“When 4 or more items of the Rapid Mood Screener were endorsed (“yes”), sensitivity was 0.88 and specificity was 0.80; positive and negative predictive values were 0.80 and 0.88, respectively,” researchers reported. “These properties were an improvement over the Mood Disorder Questionnaire in the same analysis sample while using 60% fewer items.”

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When the Mood Disorder Questionnaire screened positive for bipolar disorder in the study sample, the sensitivity was 0.86 and specificity was 0.78, according to the study.

“To the authors’ knowledge, no prior study evaluating a bipolar disorder screening tool has yielded better collective specificity and sensitivity than the values estimated for the Rapid Mood Screener in this study,” researchers wrote. “Screening with the Rapid Mood Screener is a practical and efficient new way to help address the all-too-common problem of misdiagnosing bipolar I disorder as major depressive disorder in patients with depressive symptoms.”

The Rapid Mood Screener is available for download here under the “Supplemental material” section.

—Jolynn Tumolo


McIntyre RS, Patel MD, Masand PS, et al. The Rapid Mood Screener (RMS): a novel and pragmatic screener for bipolar I disorder. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2021:1-17.

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