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<jats:sec><jats:title>Background</jats:title><jats:p>Mood instability is a common reason for psychiatric referral. Very little is known about how patients with unstable mood experience assessment and diagnosis.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Aims</jats:title><jats:p>To investigate the experiences of assessment and diagnosis among patients with mood instability and to suggest improvements to this process.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Method</jats:title><jats:p>Qualitative study, gathering data through individual interviews with 28 people experiencing mood instability and receiving a psychiatric assessment in secondary care.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Results</jats:title><jats:p>Participants described the importance of receiving an explanation for their symptoms; the value of a good interpersonal relationship with their clinician(s); being listened to and acknowledged; and being involved in and informed about clinical decisions. These needs were not, however, consistently met. Receiving a psychiatric diagnosis, including a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, evoked both positive and negative responses among participants, relating to stigma, personal understanding and responsibility, prognosis and treatment.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Conclusions</jats:title><jats:p>Patients with mood instability seek explanation for their symptoms and difficulties, empathetic care and consistent support as much as cure. Clinicians may incorrectly assume what patients' attitudes towards diagnosis are, a mismatch which may hamper the development of a strong therapeutic relationship. Clear, patient-centred communication, which acknowledges the patient's experience, may result in greater patient engagement and satisfaction.</jats:p></jats:sec>

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Psychiatry


Royal College of Psychiatrists

Publication Date





234 - 239