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Correlates of Suicidal Behavior and Lithium Treatment in Bipolar Disorder

David L. Dunner, MD

Published: June 1, 2004

Article Abstract

Individuals with bipolar and major depressive disorders have considerably higher suicide ratesthan the general population. However, estimating the risk of suicide is complicated, and there exists ageneral lack of consensus among researchers regarding whether suicide rates are higher in patientswith unipolar, bipolar I, or bipolar II depressive disorders. Isolating the specific factors that contributeto the high risk of suicide in patients with affective disorders can be challenging as well; substanceand alcohol abuse, family history of suicide, differences in allele distributions, comorbid anxiety, depressionrecurrence, seasonal effects, rapid cycling, and a history of hospitalizations for depression allappear to contribute to the likelihood that these patients will engage in suicidal behavior. Researchdoes tend to agree that lithium is efficacious in decreasing suicidal behavior in patients with affectivedisorders.

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