The Mood Disorder Questionnaire

Man talking with therapist in therapy
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The Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) is a screening tool to help doctors better distinguish between depression and bipolar disorder. It was developed by a team of psychiatrists, researchers and consumer advocates led by Robert M.A. Hirschfeld of the University of Texas, Medical Branch.

What Does the MDQ Involve?

The questionnaire is self-administered and comprised of 5 questions. It asks:

  1. if you've experienced any of 13 specific behaviors associated with bipolar disorder
  2. if the symptoms you checked in question one occurred at the same time
  3. about the severity of your symptoms
  4. about your family's history of mental illness
  5. if you've previously been diagnosed with a mental illness

You can view the full questionnaire on the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance website.

As per the scoring guidelines, if you answer "yes" to seven or more of the items in question one, and "yes" to questions two and three, the screening is considered positive.

Is the MDQ Accurate?

Early research found the MDQ to have both good sensitivity and specificity. In a 2002 publication, Dr. Hirschfeld reported that the MDQ correctly identified 7 of 10 patients with bipolar disorder, and correctly screened out 9 of 10 patients without bipolar disorder.

However, a more recent research report published by Mark Zimmerman et. al. indicates that the results of this questionnaire are more limited than the initial research found.

Does This Mean I Have Bipolar Disorder?

You shouldn't accept a diagnosis of bipolar disorder based on a brief questionnaire. If your doctor or a therapist uses the MDQ or another similar screening tool, you should simply consider this a starting point towards an accurate diagnosis. Your physician should proceed with a full clinical evaluation for bipolar disorder. 

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  • Hirschfeld, R.M.A. (2002). The mood disorder questionnaire: A simple, patient-rated screening instrument for bipolar disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 4, 9-11.
  • Zimmerman, M., Galione, J.N., Ruggero, C.J., Chelminski, I., McGlinchey, J.B., Dalrymple, K. and Young, D. (2009). Performance of the mood disorders questionnaire in a psychiatric outpatient setting. Bipolar Disorder, 11, 759-765.

By Marcia Purse
Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing.