Affective disorders represent psychopathological entities lying on a continuum, characterized by high prevalence and functional impairment. A delay in treatment initiation might increase the burden associated with affective spectrum disorders. The present study was aimed at analyzing the correlates of a long duration of untreated illness (DUI) in these conditions. We recruited subjects diagnosed with affective disorders, both in- and outpatients, and collected information concerning socio-demographic, clinical, and psychopathological characteristics. Long DUI was defined according to previous research criteria as >2 years for Bipolar Disorders or >1 year for Depressive Disorders. Bivariate analyses were performed to compare subjects with a long and short DUI (p<0.05). A logistic regression was operated to evaluate the correlates of long DUI. In the present sample (n=135), 34.1% (n=46) subjects showed a long DUI. This subgroup presented with more physical comorbidities (p=0.003), higher body mass index (BMI) (p<0.001), more frequent anxiety onset (p=0.018), younger onset age (p=0.042), and more severe depressive symptoms (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale item 1-depressed mood (p=0.032) and item 2-guilt feelings (p=0.018)). At the logistic regression, higher severity of depressed mood (OR 1.568), higher BMI (OR 1.264), and younger age at onset (OR 0.935) were associated with long DUI. The present study confirmed a possible role of DUI as a construct underpinning higher clinical severity in affective spectrum disorders, possibly linked to worse illness course and unfavorable outcomes. Intervention strategies targeting physical comorbidities and depressive symptoms severity may decrease disease burden in subjects with a long DUI.
Keywords: Affective disorders; Affective spectrum; Bipolar disorders; Depressive disorders; Duration of untreated illness; Treatment delay.
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