Monday, May 19, 2014

Adverse Life Experiences May Be Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder, Study Suggests

Both childhood traumas and ones that occur later in life appear to contribute to the initial onset of bipolar disorder as well as to recurrent episodes of the illness, a new study published in Molecular Psychiatry has found.

For example, subjects who had incurred physical abuse, sexual abuse, or economic deprivation during childhood were two to three times more likely to develop bipolar disorder than subjects who had not experienced such adversities. And among the some 1,200 subjects who had entered the study with bipolar disorder, such negative childhood experiences were also strong predictors of bipolar episodes recurring. Moreover, past-year traumatic events were associated with a significantly higher risk for both the onset of bipolar disorder and recurrent bipolar episodes.

The researchers concluded that their findings "demonstrate a role of social experiences in the initial onset of bipolar disorder, as well as in its prospective course, and are consistent with etiologic models of bipolar disorder that implicate deficits in developmentally established stress-response pathways."

The study was headed by Stephen Gilman, Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health and Roy Perlis, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and medical director of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

These findings also have clinical implications, Perlis told Psychiatric News. "We should redouble our efforts to do psychotherapy with people with bipolar disorder" in order to help them deal with negative life experiences that may be contributing to their illness.

More information about bipolar disorder and psychotherapy can be found in the Psychiatric News article, "Bipolar Treatment Study Assesses Psychotherapy Efficacy." Additional information is included in American Psychiatric Publishing's "Clinical Guide to Depression and Bipolar Disorder."

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