• activities of daily living;
  • age at onset;
  • automobile driving;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • demography;
  • employment;
  • polypharmacy;
  • psychopharmacology;
  • suicide

Introduction: The present study explores the relationships among psychotropic medications, illness-related parameters, patient demography, suicidality, and levels of functioning in a voluntary bipolar case registry. Methods: Four hundred and fifty-seven subjects with bipolar I disorder were selected from a voluntary registry for subjects with bipolar illness. Demographic characteristics, psychotropic medications, age at onset of illness, duration of illness, number of hospitalizations, the ability to live independently, employment and driving status as well as the history of suicidal attempts were obtained through a structured phone interview. Results: Subjects treated with antidepressants had a shorter duration of illness, while patients treated with antipsychotic drugs had an earlier onset of illness. The number of hospitalizations for mania was fewer among patients taking a combination of lithium and carbamazepine as compared to patients not receiving them, while subjects taking neuroleptics had more hospitalizations as compared to subjects not receiving them. The number of psychotropic agents prescribed correlated positively with the number of hospitalizations for depressive episodes. Curiously, no correlations were found between the types of psychotropic agents prescribed and the levels of functioning or a history of suicidal attempts. Interestingly, our results suggest that more than half of the subjects were unable to live independently or to work due to their illness. Also, more than 50% of the subjects had at least one suicidal attempt, the majority occurred during depressive episodes. Conclusions: Our results suggest that subjects with bipolar I disorder have high rate of suicidal attempts and may have serious functional impairments.