Study: Routine Eases Bipolar Disorder
(Associated Press) - Patients suffering from bipolar
disorder who underwent therapy to help them maintain a regular daily routine and
cope with stress were able to avoid relapses over a two-year period, a study has
The study, published in September's Archives of General
Psychiatry, examined a therapy developed by researchers at the University of
Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Using what researchers dubbed interpersonal and social rhythm
therapy, patients were taught how to keep to normal sleeping, eating and other
daily routines. They also were shown how to anticipate and cope with stress just
as a diabetic who would be taught, for example, how to cook and eat differently.
"This is really a disorder characterized by massive
disturbances in the body's clock and in all the things the body's clock
controls," said Dr. Ellen Frank, lead author of the study. "Their clocks need to
be very carefully protected and we need to do everything we can to shore up and
protect that fragile clock."
Bipolar disorder, also commonly referred to as manic
depression, is a brain disorder in which sufferers experience cycles of mania,
depression or mixed states. Treatment for the disorder varies by patient, but
often involves some type of medication combined with therapy.
Frank, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute
and Clinic, said doctors for years have counseled bipolar sufferers about
managing their lives but no one had ever systematically put that information
together. She said social rhythm therapy does that, and also teaches patients to
identify the triggers in their relationships with other people that can cause
In the study, 175 patients suffering from the most severe
form of bipolar disorder were divided into several groups. All the patients were
given medication for the disorder, but only some received interpersonal and
social rhythm therapy.
The researchers found those who received the therapy were
more likely to not have relapses of their illness during a two-year maintenance
Dr. Gail Edelsohn, an associate professor of psychiatry at
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, said sleep, especially,
has a huge effect on those with mood disorders.
"This is a very important study because what's happened is
that since we have a variety of medications which are extremely useful, I think
the psychosocial interventions were prematurely cast aside," Edelsohn said.
Dr. Suzanne Vogel-Scibilia, president of the National
Alliance on Mental Illness, said it's most important that bipolar sufferers have
access to care, something that doesn't always happen because of the high costs
of health care.
By JENNIFER C. YATES, Associated Press Writer
Sep 8, 2005
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