Child Abuse May Make Bipolar Disorder Symptoms More Severe

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New research published in Lancet Psychiatry indicates people with bipolar disorder who were abused or neglected as children are likely to experience more severe symptoms and a notably higher risk of suicide.

01690“Our findings have important implications for clinical practice, as they suggest that a history of childhood maltreatment could be used as an early indicator of high risk for poor outcomes among individuals with bipolar disorder,” said study author Jessica Agnew-Blais, a postdoctoral researcher at King’s College London in England.

“This information could be valuable for identifying patients with bipolar disorder who may benefit from greater support and treatment,” she said in a college news release.

For the recent report, the team of researchers reviewed 30 studies. From their evaluation, they were able to establish an association between neglect or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse as children and an increased likelihood to have more severe manic, depressive, and psychotic symptoms compared to those who were not abused.

The researchers also noted that individuals with bipolar disorder who were abused as children had a higher risk of anxiety disorder and substance or alcohol abuse disorders.

According to the report, those who were abused as children developed symptoms of bipolar disorder more than four years earlier than non-abused counterparts. They were also almost four times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and were twice as likely to attempt suicide.

“These findings lend support to the notion that maltreatment can affect neurobiological processes associated with progression of the disorder,” Agnew-Blais said.

The researchers say more research is needed to establish further how a history of childhood abuse or neglect could affect treatment of bipolar patients.

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