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QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

bipolar disorder

'Social rhythm' therapy seems to help stem recurrences.

· THE QUESTION The manic-depressive episodes of bipolar disorder are often treated with mood-stabilizing drugs. Might psychotherapy aimed at maintaining a regular routine and improving the quality of a person's relationships -- which some believe can spark bipolar episodes when disrupted -- be an effective treatment adjunct?

· THIS STUDY randomly assigned 175 adults with bipolar I disorder -- meaning they had recurrent episodes of mania and depression -- to receive so-called interpersonal and social rhythm therapy or standard psychotherapy immediately after an episode and then to be treated with one of the two therapy methods for the next two years. Standard treatment sessions focused on educating participants about the causes, symptoms and treatments of the disorder; social rhythm therapy helped participants stabilize daily activities, avert potential disruptions and resolve relationship problems. Both groups also were given medication, mainly lithium. People given social rhythm therapy after their first episode were more likely to be free of additional episodes for the next two years than were those treated first with standard therapy, no matter which follow-up treatment they received. The more regular their social routines became, the longer they went without a recurrence.

· WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? People with bipolar disorder, which can affect people of all ages and tends to run in families.

· CAVEATS Participants with other medical problems did better with standard therapy; those with better physical health had more success with the social rhythm therapy.

· FIND THIS STUDY September issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry; abstract available online at ,

· LEARN MORE ABOUT bipolar disorder at and .

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