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Course of Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Syndromes Co-Occurring With Bipolar Disorder After a First Psychiatric Hospitalization

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59:465-471

Background: Patients with bipolar disorder frequently meet criteria for other psychiatric and substance abuse diagnoses. To clarify relationships among these disorders, the authors examined the course of syndromes co-occurring with bipolar disorder for 12 months after a first hospitalization.

Method: Seventy-seven patients were recruited from consecutive inpatient admissions who met DSM-III-R criteria for bipolar disorder, manic or mixed with psychosis. The 12-month syndromal course of co-occurring DSM-III-R alcohol and drug abuse disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other anxiety disorders were longitudinally recorded.

Results: The rates of all syndromes, except other anxiety disorders, were elevated. OCD demonstrated an interval course that frequently mirrored the course of the bipolar disorder. The courses of PTSD and substance abuse syndromes were separate from that of the bipolar disorder in many of those with both syndromes. Alcohol and drug abuse syndromes were strongly correlated.

Conclusion: The obsessive-compulsive syndrome may represent an alternative expression of bipolar disorder in some patients. In contrast, PTSD appears to represent a truly separate disorder, which is possibly more prevalent in bipolar patients due to a shared risk factor. Substance abuse does not appear to simply result from attempts at self-medication or from the impulsivity of mania. These results suggest that future studies examining the course of syndromes co-occurring with bipolar disorder are warranted.