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Divalproex Sodium for Impulsive Aggressive Behavior in Patients With Personality Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59(12):676-680

Objective: Divalproex sodium, an anticonvulsant and antimanic agent, has recently been studied for its antiaggressive effects in patients with brain injuries, dementia, and borderline personality disorder. Since patients with other personality disorders also exhibit impulsive aggressive behavior, we conducted a preliminary open-label trial of divalproex sodium as a treatment for irritability and aggression in patients with a variety of personality disorders.

Method: Ten patients meeting DSM-IV criteria for at least one personality disorder were treated with divalproex sodium in an 8-week open clinical trial. All patients had failed a trial of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Divalproex sodium was increased as tolerated using a flexible dosing schedule. Clinician ratings for impulsive aggressive behavior and irritability were made every 2 weeks using the modified Overt Aggression Scale (OAS-M).

Results: Six of 8 completers reported significant decreases in irritability (p = .003) and impulsive aggressive behavior (p = .019). For the entire sample, improvement on OAS-M irritability and overt aggression scores was noted by the end of 4 weeks and continued to occur through week 8.

Conclusion: This study suggests that divalproex sodium is an effective treatment for impulsive aggressive behavior in some patients with personality disorder who fail to respond to other antiaggressive agents (i.e., SSRIs). Controlled studies are needed to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from divalproex sodium and to evaluate the differential effectiveness of various agents in reducing impulsive aggressive behavior.