New Study Examines Predictors for Bipolar Progression in People with Spectrum Symptoms

Current research has revealed that approximately 20 percent of children and 6 percent of adults with bipolar II will develop bipolar I in their lifetime. Researchers from Temple University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University, conducted a longitudinal study to determine if these findings were accurate and to identify which risk factors increased the likelihood of bipolar II progressing to bipolar I.

The researchers followed 201 college students who were part of the Longitudinal Investigation of Bipolar Spectrum (LIBS) project for four and half years. They were evaluated every four months using the Behavioral Approach System (BAS) and the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS). The study revealed 57 participants who were originally diagnosed with bipolar disorder not otherwise specified or cyclothymia. Of these, 42.1 percent developed bipolar II and 10.5 percent developed bipolar I. Of the participants who were originally diagnosed with bipolar II, 17.4 percent developed bipolar I during the study. Criteria for diagnosis of bipolar II included the presence of a major depressive episode or a hypomanic episode and an MDE. Criteria for diagnosis of bipolar I was presence of a manic or mixed episode. Of all 201 participants, 21.9 percent had a first degree family relative with a history of some symptom on the bipolar spectrum and the average age of onset of symptoms was 13.

“We found that even among our participants with childhood or adolescent onset of bipolar spectrum disorders, an earlier age of onset was a significant predictor of higher rates of conversion to bipolar I (but not bipolar II) disorder (onset of a manic or mixed episode) in our sample, controlling for length of follow-up, baseline depressive and hypomanic symptoms, and treatment-seeking,” said the researchers. “Perhaps,” they added, “early age of onset reflects a more severe underlying bipolar psychopathology, which leads both to earlier initial appearance of bipolar symptoms and greater likelihood of progressing to full-blown bipolar I.”

Alloy, L. B., Urošević, S., Abramson, L. Y., Jager-Hyman, S., Nusslock, R., Whitehouse, W. G., & Hogan, M. (2011, June 13). Progression Along the Bipolar Spectrum: A Longitudinal Study of Predictors of Conversion From Bipolar Spectrum Conditions to Bipolar I and II Disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0023973

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • jake


    August 12th, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    being exposed to a disorder always carries the risk of being affected by another..this is to be kept in mind not only for bipolar but for any disorder.proper advice should be taken from your doctor to ensure no other disorder gets you.

  • Katheryn


    August 12th, 2011 at 4:39 AM

    Being able to learn about and know these predictors ahead of time in all likelihood can go very far toward helping those who need help with bipolar disorder get the help that they deserve.

  • KEN


    August 12th, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    Its interesting how these things are found out so commonly these days.Its sure to save many people from the disorder.But I think hat’s more important is the rate at which such things are being studied and found out.

    Budgets for such studies should never be cut because our health and therefore our lives depend on them.

  • andy


    August 12th, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    why is it that these medications for type II Bipolar do not cut the risk of type I Bipolar?are they lacking in any way?after all,it is a variant of the same disorder,if it’s cuing one then it should also be immune against the other!

  • Rhett


    August 13th, 2011 at 7:00 AM

    I have witnessed a couple of family members in my life go through living with bipolar? Is there anything that can tell me if that is a fate that awaits me too?

  • LacziTag


    August 13th, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Although there is a component of family history in Bi-Polar, It is NOT automatically your fate. I have a Bi-Polar Son, & my first Husband was bi-polar. I have learned through regular Bi-Polar meetings, that to take your medication is most important; and to get your loved ones to come to a few meetings to get to know about how to live with Bi-Polar. Many Bi-Polar are quite successful especially if they recognize their limits and take their meds.

  • Bess


    August 14th, 2011 at 4:42 AM

    I am wondering just how early these predictors can be effective? It would be great to recognize some of these symptoms early and catch cases early so that for some people it would not have to progress from one to the other.

    But I guess it stands to reason that this is not something that is going to shiw up very well until early adulthood at the soonest.

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