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Recognizing Comorbidities Associated with Bipolar Disorder

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Allan Young


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The lifetime prevalence of bipolar spectrum disorder is 3% to 6% and seems to be increasing in adolescents and young adults. Because most bipolar disorder patients spend most of their time in a depressed state rather than a manic one, the disorder is often misdiagnosed as unipolar depression. Such inaccurate diagnoses and resultant treatment with antidepressants often trigger manic episodes. Consequences of bipolar disorder include increased risk of death, particularly from cardiovascular disease, suicide, and cancer; financial dependence; and frequent comorbid conditions. While anxiety and substance abuse are most commonly associated with the disorder at 90% and 75%, respectively, clinical data has also indicated possible comorbidity with eating disorders, paraphilia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, impulse-control disorders, conduct disorder, autism, Tourette's syndrome, migraines, diabetes, and obesity. Presence of comorbid conditions poses complications in the management of patients with bipolar disorder. While one medication may be effective in some patients, oftentimes combination therapy is required for optimal treatment.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Young AH; McElroy S

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Primary Psychiatry

Year: 2003

Volume: 10

Issue: 5

Pages: 1-10

ISSN (print): 1082-6319

ISSN (electronic):