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Anger Attacks in Bipolar Depression: Predictors and Response to Citalopram Added to Mood Stabilizers

J Clin Psychiatry 2004;65(5):627-633

Background: Of the 2 reports in the literature on anger attacks in bipolar depression, one found them to be uncommon (12%) compared with the rate in bipolar mixed states and unipolar depression (40%-60%), whereas the other found them to be common (62%). We examined anger attacks among participants in an 8-week trial of open-label citalopram added to mood stabilizer for the treatment of bipolar depression. We also examined trait anger, hypomanic symptoms, and depressive symptoms as predictors of anger attacks. We hypothesized that if anger attacks were related to hypomanic symptoms they would respond unfavorably to citalopram, whereas if they were related to trait anger or depressive symptoms they would respond favorably.

Method: In 45 participants with a DSM-IV diagnosis of bipolar I or II depression, anger attacks, hypomanic symptoms, and depressive symptoms were assessed using a modified Anger Attacks Questionnaire, Young Mania Rating Scale, and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, respectively. Trait anger was measured using the State-Trait Anger Inventory. Posttreatment data were collected at the end of 8 weeks of treatment with citalopram or at dropout from the trial. The first participant study visit was in November 1998, and the final participant study visit was in December 2000.

Results: Before treatment with citalopram, 17 (38.6%) of 44 participants reported anger attacks (data on anger attacks were missing for 1 participant before treatment and 4 after treatment). Significantly fewer participants reported anger attacks after treatment (6 of 41, 14.6%; McNemar test, p < .05, 2-tailed). At pretreatment and posttreatment, trait anger was the only significant predictor of anger attacks (p < .05).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that in bipolar depression anger attacks are common, may respond favorably to acute treatment with citalopram added to mood stabilizer, and are better predicted by trait anger than hypomanic or depressive symptoms. Further studies are needed to clarify the diagnostic and treatment implications of anger attacks in bipolar depression.