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Psychosocial Disability Fluctuates in Bipolar Disease

Depressive phase is just as debilitating as manic phase

THURSDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with bipolar disorder (BP) experience psychosocial disability that fluctuates over time and with changes in symptom severity, according to a study published in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. This disability can be just as prominent in the depressive phase as in the manic phase of the disease, the authors note.

Lewis L. Judd, M.D., of the University of California-San Diego, and colleagues examined data from the National Institute of Mental Health Collaborative Program on the Psychobiology of Depression - Clinical Studies. The investigators followed 158 bipolar I disorder (BP-I) and 133 bipolar II disorder (BP-II) patients for about 15 years.

They found that psychosocial disability increased with increasing symptoms of depression in both BP-I and BP-II patients, and with increasing manic symptoms in BP-I patients. In general, patients had good psychosocial functioning when they weren't experiencing symptoms, though not as good as healthy controls.

"These findings indicate that the depressive phase of bipolar illness is equal in importance to the manic or hypomanic phase, and they confirm the advantage of studying BP-I and BP-II separately," the authors conclude.

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