Bipolar Patients Need Family-Focused Treatment: May Improve Recovery, Relapse Rate

By Lane, Laura | Clinical Psychiatry News, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Bipolar Patients Need Family-Focused Treatment: May Improve Recovery, Relapse Rate


Lane, Laura, Clinical Psychiatry News


SAN FRANCISCO -- Effectively treating pediatric bipolar disorder involves more than just prescribing medications, Dr. Kiki D. Chang said at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

"Because of the extreme debilitating nature of this disorder, it cries out for integrative treatment," said Dr. Chang of Stanford (Calif.) University.

Prescribing the right combination of medications to treat the mania, depression, and other comorbidities associated with bipolar is important, but so is addressing the many factors that go hand in hand with the disorder.

"Pediatric bipolar is a very complex, heterogeneous disorder," he said. "This can make treatment very confusing because of treatment resistance and comorbid conditions."

Dr. Chang emphasized that physicians should treat pediatric bipolar with the aim of heading off a life full of disability and relapses.

"We have a lot of responsibility to really stamp out as many symptomatic problems as we can to induce remission," he said.

One way to do this may be to institute a family-focused approach, he said. Studies have shown that young patients did better and had higher levels of compliance when their parents and other family members were involved in therapy sessions and had been educated about the disease and how to manage behavior. Parents are also better equipped to handle their children's condition by learning coping and communication skills, Dr. Chang said.

Cognitive-behavioral approaches can also be effective. Pediatric bipolar patients can benefit from learning how to improve their problem-solving skills and their nonverbal and/or verbal communication tactics and how to manage their emotions.

At Stanford, adolescent patients can enroll in a program designed to provide support and education. Six to eight patients meet once a week for 10 weeks. Every other week, mental health care workers teach the patients about the disease and the importance of adhering to medication and therapy. The patients are also encouraged to keep a mood chart to help them identify the triggers of their mood swings. …

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