Long-Term Management Strategies to Achieve Optimal Function in Patients With Bipolar Disorder

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Functional impairment is a problem for people with bipolar disorder. Predictors of poor functional outcome are psychiatric and medical comorbidity, interepisode subsyndromal symptoms, psychosis during a manic or mixed episode, and low premorbid functioning. Cognitive dysfunction may also be a contributory factor in functional impairment. Several psychosocial interventions designed for people with bipolar disorder have demonstrated success in improving syndromal outcomes, but the effects of psychosocial interventions on functioning and cognition have not been examined. Among pharmacologic interventions available for long-term treatment of bipolar disorder, there is a strong clinical trend away from monotherapy and toward combination therapy. Lithium, lamotrigine, olanzapine, and aripiprazole have all shown substantial improvements in relapse rates compared with placebo. Although some of these medications show superior results compared with the others in preventing the recurrence of either depressive or manic episodes, only anecdotal evidence exists regarding their effect on cognition. Combination therapy with antipsychotics or antidepressants has also been shown to produce better syndromal outcomes in people with bipolar disorder, but inadequate evidence is available on cognitive outcomes. Substantial information is needed regarding the prevalence and causes of cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder, the effects of existing treatments on cognition, and long-term treatments to improve cognition and functioning.

J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67(suppl 9):19-24