The Stanley Foundation Bipolar Network (SFBN) is an international, multisite network investigating the characteristics and course of bipolar disorder. Methods (history, ratings and longitudinal follow-up) are standardized and equally applied in all 7 centres. This article describes demographics and illness characteristics of the first 152 German patients enrolled in the SFBN as well as the results of 2.5 years of follow-up. Patients in Germany were usually enrolled after hospitalisation. More than 72% of the study population suffered from bipolar I disorder and 25% from bipolar II disorder. The mean ± SD age of the study participants was 42.08 ± 13.5 years, and the mean ± SD age of onset 24.44 ± 10.9 years. More than 40% of the sample reported a rapid-cycling course in history, and even more a cycle acceleration over time. 37% attempted suicide at least once. 36% had an additional Axis I disorder, with alcohol abuse being the most common one, followed by anxiety disorders. During the follow-up period, only 27% remained stable, 56% had a recurrence, 12.8% perceived subsyndromal symptoms despite treatment and regular visits. 27% suffered from a rapid-cycling course during the follow-up period. Recurrences were significantly associated with bipolar I disorder, an additional comorbid Axis I disorder, rapid cycling in history, a higher number of mood stabilizers and the long-term use of typical antipsychotics. Rapid cycling during follow-up was only associated with a rapid-cycling course in history, a higher number of mood stabilizers and at least one suicide attempt in history.

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