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Disability and its treatment in bipolar disorder patients

Authors

  • Nancy Huxley,

    1. The International Consortium for Bipolar Disorder Research, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, McLean Division of Massachusetts General Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA
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  • Ross J Baldessarini

    1. The International Consortium for Bipolar Disorder Research, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, McLean Division of Massachusetts General Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA
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  • Drs Huxley and Baldessarini have no potential conflicts of interest with respect to material presented in this report, though Dr Baldessarini is a consultant to several pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that produce drugs for the treatment of bipolar disorders.

Nancy Huxley, PhD, Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders Program, North Belknap III, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478-9106, USA.
Fax: +1 617 855 3721;
e-mail: nancy_huxley@hms.harvard.edu

Abstract

Bipolar disorders (BPD) are major, life-long psychiatric illnesses found in 2–5% of the population. Prognosis for BPD was once considered relatively favorable, but contemporary findings suggest that disability and poor outcomes are prevalent, despite major therapeutic advances. Syndromal recovery from acute episodes of mania or bipolar major depression is achieved in as many as 90% of patients given modern treatments, but full symptomatic recovery is achieved slowly, and residual symptoms of fluctuating severity and functional impact are the rule. Depressive–dysthymic–dysphoric morbidity continues in more than 30% of weeks in follow-up from initial episodes as well as later in the illness-course. As few as 1/3 of BPD patients achieve full social and occupational functional recovery to their own premorbid levels. Pharmacotherapy, though the accepted first-line treatment for BPD patients, is insufficient by itself, encouraging development of adjunctive psychological treatments and rehabilitative efforts to further limit morbidity and disability. Interpersonal, cognitive–behavioral, and psychoeducational therapies all show promise for improving symptomatic and functional outcomes. Much less is known about how these and more specific rehabilitative interventions might improve vocational functioning in BPD patients.

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