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Original Research

Interpersonal Trauma and Depression Severity Among Individuals With Bipolar Disorder: Findings From the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder

Anna L. Wrobel, PhDa,b; Samantha E. Russell, BHealth&MedSc(Hons)a; Anuradhi Jayasinghe, MAb,c; Mojtaba Lotfaliany, PhDa; Alyna Turner, PhDa,d,*; Olivia M. Dean, PhDa,e; Sue M. Cotton, PhDb,f; Claudia Diaz-Byrd, MSg; Anastasia K. Yocum, PhDg; Elizabeth R. Duval, PhDg; Tobin J. Ehrlich, PhDg; David F. Marshall, PhDg; Michael Berk, MDa,b,e,f,h; and Melvin G. McInnis, MDg

Published: April 10, 2023


Background: Experiences of interpersonal trauma, both in childhood and in adulthood, can affect the trajectory of bipolar disorder (BD). However, the degree to which childhood and/or adult trauma impacts the longitudinal trajectory of depression severity among individuals with BD actively receiving treatment remains unclear.

Methods: The effects of childhood trauma (Childhood Trauma Questionnaire) and adult trauma (Life Events Checklist) on depression severity (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale) were investigated in a treatment-receiving subsample with BD (DSM-IV) of the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder (2005–present). A mixed-effects linear regression model was used to assess the trajectory of depression severity over 4 years.

Results: Depression severity was evaluated in 360 participants, of whom 267 (74.8%) reported a history of interpersonal trauma. A history of childhood trauma alone (n = 110) and childhood and adult trauma combined (n = 108)—but not adult trauma alone (n = 49) —were associated with greater depression severity at the 2-year and 6-year follow-up assessments. However, the trajectory of depression severity (ie, change over time) was similar between participants with a history of childhood trauma, those with a history of adult trauma, and those with no history of interpersonal trauma. Interestingly, participants with a history of both types of trauma showed more improvement in depression severity (ie, from year 2 to year 4: β = 1.67, P = .019).

Conclusions: Despite actively receiving treatment for BD, participants with a history of interpersonal trauma—particularly childhood trauma—presented with more severe depressive symptoms at several follow-up assessments. Hence, interpersonal trauma may represent an essential treatment target.

Volume: 84

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