Cognitive-Behavioral Management of Patients With Bipolar Disorder Who Relapsed While on Lithium Prophylaxis

Background: The application of cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) to patients with bipolar disorder who had an affective episode while on lithium prophylaxis has received little research attention. The aim of this preliminary study was to test whether reduction of residual symptomatology by cognitive-behavioral methods could yield long-term beneficial effects in patients with bipolar disorder, as was found to be the case in recurrent unipolar depression.

Method: Fifteen patients with RDC bipolar disorder, type I, who relapsed while on lithium prophylaxis despite initial response and adequate compliance were treated by cognitive-behavioral methods in an open trial. A 2- to 9-year follow-up was performed.

Results: Five of the 15 patients had a new affective episode during follow-up. CBT was associated with a significant reduction of residual symptomatology.

Conclusion: These preliminary results suggest that a trial of CBT may enhance lithium prophylaxis and improve long-term outcome of bipolar disorder.

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62(7):556-559