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September 13, 2005

Complicated Grief in Bipolar Patients

Those with bipolar disorder commonly suffer from complicated or traumatic grief which only puts more of a burden upon them. "Although complicated grief is not yet a formal psychiatric diagnosis, there is growing consensus about its core elements, which include unrelenting grief persisting for 6 months or more after loss, with symptoms of separation distress, traumatic distress, and difficulty adapting to the loss" (PsychiatryMatters.MD).

The participants in the study were 120 individuals with bipolar disorder that were taking part in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement for Bipolar Disorder study. They found that 103 of them (86%) reported having a lifetime history of significant loss. 24.3% of them had complicated grief, their average score on the Inventory of Complicated Grief was 33.7 points.

Having complicated grief was linked to higher levels of panic disorder as well as alcohol abuse, both of which was evident in 16% of those with complicated grief. Bipolar patients without complicated grief suffered from panic disorder and alcohol abuse at a rate of 3%. Panic symptoms and phobic avoidance were also linked to complicated grief.

Suicide attempts were more likely in those with complicated grief, 58.3% had attempted suicide at least once during their life. Of those without complicated grief 33.8% had made a suicide attempt in their lifetimes. Those with complicated grief also suffered from more functional impairment and less social support than those without complicated grief. The researchers in this study noted that clinicians should take extra care with those suffering from the loss someone close to them and the potential consequences.

Original Source: Complicated grief needs consideration in bipolar disorder patients. PsychiatrySource.com. September 13, 2005.

This research article was published in J Clin Psychiatry 2005; 66: 1105–1110

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