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11 May 2016

Bipolar disorder more complex than previously believed

Researchers have found that manic episodes in bipolar disorder may be followed by states of anxiety as much as depression.

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While many may associate bipolar disorder with episodes of mania followed by periods of depression, a new study suggests that's often not the case. Researchers say states of anxiety are equally as likely as to follow manic episodes as depression.

The finding might have implications for better treatment, the research team said.

Read: Could you have Bipolar Disorder?

"For years, we may have missed opportunities to evaluate the effects of treatments for bipolar disorder on anxiety," said study lead author Dr Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York City. "The results of our study suggest that researchers should begin to ask whether, and to what extent, treatments for bipolar disorder relieve anxiety as well as mania and depression," he added in a university new release.

According to the study authors, about 5.7 million Americans have bipolar disorder, which causes cycles of mania (elevated or irritable mood) and depression.

Read: To tell or not

The new findings stem from an analysis of data from more than 34,000 American adults with bipolar disorder. "Although it has long been widely assumed that bipolar disorder represents repeated episodes of mania and depression as poles along a single continuum of mood, the clinical reality is often far more complex," Olfson said.

He said that, based on the new findings, "patients whose main symptom is anxiety should be carefully assessed for a history of mania before starting treatment".

The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Read more:

Real life story: "How I learned to love life with bipolar disorder"

The most common mental health disorders in South Africa

Bipolar disorder overdiagnosed

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