Improving Treatment Adherence in Bipolar Disorder Through Psychoeducation

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The chronicity and cyclical nature of bipolar disorder combined with the irrationality typical during bipolar mood episodes often encourage pharmacologic treatment nonadherence, which heightens the severity of the illness. Although clinicians acknowledge treatment nonadherence to be a major issue among bipolar patients, assessing nonadherence is difficult, and improving treatment adherence is a complicated and delicate matter. Treatment adherence can be improved among patients with bipolar disorder through psychoeducation about the nature of their disorder and the vital importance of treatment adherence. Founded on a biopsychosocial, medical model of mental disorders, psychoeducation empowers the patient by providing a practical and theoretical approach to understanding and dealing with the symptoms and consequences of bipolar disorder. Psychoeducation identifies bipolar disorder as a biological abnormality that requires regular pharmacologic treatment and teaches patients to cope with symptoms and maintain regularity in daily social and occupational functioning. Psychoeducated patients show improvements in treatment adherence and in other clinical outcomes, including reduced number of mood episodes and hospitalizations and increased time between episodes. As an adjunct to pharmacotherapy of bipolar disorder, psychoeducation is a promising management component that increases treatment adherence and quality of life for patients.

J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66(suppl 1):24-29