Bipolar Disorder Patients in Primary Care Show Signs of Depression and Anxiety

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A US study of patients being treated for bipolar disorder in primary care found high rates of depressive and anxiety symptoms among the patients, however only a quarter of the participants were referred to specialist mental health treatment.

“Successful treatment of bipolar disorder in primary care may require additional clinical interventions aimed at either further improving the care delivered to patients in primary care or through more effective referrals to community mental health centers”, said Joseph Cerimele from the University of Washington, Seattle and co-workers in Psychiatric Services.

The researchers evaluated the characteristics of 740 primary care patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder who were receiving care via the Washington State Mental Health Integration Program.

The patients showed a mean score of 18.1 on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, indicating moderately severe depression , and 58% of patients reported endorsing suicidal ideation, according to the report. Also, the patients’ results on the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale. This indicates that 88% of the patients met the criteria for one of four anxiety disorders including panic disorder and social phobia.

The researchers also screened 442 of the patients for Post Traumatic Disorder (PTSD). The results showed 91% scored over 45 on the PTSD Checklist, indicating a high chance of meeting the diagnostic criteria for the disorder.

“Although this result was from a subsample, it supports our finding that many of the patients had moderate to severe comorbid anxiety symptoms, such as symptoms that can occur with PTSD”, note the researchers.

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