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September 19, 2005

Early Treatment Prevents Chronic Bipolar Disorder

Those who develop bipolar disorder at a younger age tend to have a more difficult form of the illness. But adolescents and young adults do not necessarily develop chronic bipolar disorder. Their risk of developing a chronic case lowers if they receive an early diagnosis and treatment. Researchers noted that it was significantly easier to treat those who had less than three episodes prior to beginning treatment. The more episodes that one has had before treatment, the more difficult it is to treat.

The participants in the study were 42 people with bipolar disorder who were taking part in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder. They all had developed bipolar disorder while adolescents (at an average age of 16), they were presently at an average age of just under 22.

"Following almost 2 years of treatment, the patients showed improvements in their overall psychological, social, and occupational functioning. Moreover, episodes of depression or mood elevation fell from 48% before therapy to 12% afterwards. The patients were taking, on average, 2.4 medications, which Ketter noted is fewer than the average four for adults with bipolar disorder"(PsychiatryMatters.MD).

Anxiety disorders and hospitalizations in the past were common. Substance abuse was also common: 43% history of heavy marijuana use, 37% abused alcohol, 26% attempted suicide. Researchers noted that the group was easy to treat and had a good prognosis. The only participants who did not were those with a first-degree relative with bipolar disorder (13 participants). The illness was more severe for the 13 who had a close relative with bipolar disorder.

SOURCE: PsychiatryMatters.MD. Early treatment helps prevent chronic bipolar disorder.

This research study was announced at the 15th annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association: New York, USA; 1-6 May 2004

You can check out more about the early treatment of bipolar disorder at

You can look at other articles on the early treatment of bipolar disorder on our website, by clicking here.


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