New Study Examines Various Treatments for Bipolar

Bipolar disorder (BD) is a unique condition that manifests differently in every individual. People with BD I have different symptoms and symptom severity than those with BD II. Additionally, the rates of relapse and suicide deaths in clients with BD are heavily influenced by age of onset, prior episodes, and other symptoms. Because BD varies so much from person to person, the treatment for BD also varies, but the most commonly used approach is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in conjunction with medication. Studies that have examined the effectiveness of CBT for BD have suggested that it is more beneficial than treatment as usual or no treatment at all. However, few studies have examined how CBT compares to supportive therapy (ST) when delivered equally. To address this question, Thomas D. Meyer of the Department of Clinical and Developmental Psychology at the Institute of Psychology at Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen in Germany recently led a study that measured the relapse rates, cognitive control, and symptom severity in individuals receiving CBT compared to those receiving ST.

Meyer evaluated 76 individuals with BD after they completed 9 months of either ST or CBT. The participants were monitored at posttreatment and for 2 years after. Meyer found that when compared to an equal number of ST treatments, CBT did not provide more positive results. Specifically, the individuals in both groups realized similar decreases in symptoms and similar posttreatment gains. The results also indicated that CBT did not provide superior relapse protection, as demonstrated by the 64% of participants who did experience a relapse during the study period. However, Meyer points out that relapse rates and survival rates were significantly influenced by the history of episodes, onset age, and type of BD, not by the type of treatment alone. In sum, Meyer believes that these findings show that CBT is a viable treatment option when there is no other method available but should not be used as a one-size-fits-all approach. He added, “Given that there are several psychological approaches for BD, future research should focus on the question of matching patients to treatments.”

Meyer, T. D., Hautzinger, M. (2012). Cognitive behaviour therapy and supportive therapy for bipolar disorders: Relapse rates for treatment period and 2-year follow-up. Psychological Medicine, 42.7, 1429-1439.

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  • Jeff D

    Jeff D

    June 6th, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    The good thing that I see is that there are now more opportunities for treatment for bipolar individuals than there has been in the past.
    The bad thing that I know is true is that for too long bipolar patients were more than likely offered only a one size fits all approach to their treatment.
    Itdoesn’t sound like there has been too much thinking outside the box when it comes to the treatment of most bipolar patients. Bot this has gone on even though even the least educated of us realize that this is not the best case scenario.
    But to give props, at least some progress is being made now, which will hopefully lead to more encouragement for every bipolar patient to seek help and return to some sense of mormalcy and stability.

  • Lawson


    June 7th, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    Let’s be careful not to assume that simply because many patients who are undergoing CBT experience a relapse that this means that there is something about continuing CBT that is not very effective for patients.

    I think that we must realize that most patients with mental illness, no matter how moderate or severe their symptoms are, and really no matter how heavily involved in their treatment they are, are more than likely going to experience a period pf relapse.

    It’s not that they aren’t trying, or that the method of treatment that they are undergoing isn’t effective, it is simply that this is the nature of the best.

    Although not impossible, most of us have to fight everyday to keep going through our steps and making progress. Nobody should ever say that there will not be slips. because inevitably there will be.



    June 8th, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    Just knowing that there are different options for treating BD has to be uplifting and encouraging for someone who has trued for a long time to manage the disease but has never seemed to get it under control

  • nic


    June 10th, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    Isn’t BD II what Catherine Zeta Jones was diagnosed with?

  • bipolarbear


    June 15th, 2012 at 5:19 AM

    what about newer treatments like Dialectal Behavioral therapy. CBT is old school these days. Things like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and DBT are the current therapies here.

  • Christy


    June 17th, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    I recently started taking Effexor XR as an experiment of sorts. My doc and I suspect I may have bipolar II. I have not had crying spells or bouts of depression, and my mood seems to be leveling out. I also take Wellbutrn XL for anxiety. I have learned to recognize when a hypomanic episode is about to begin, so I get to a quiet place, take my Wellbutrin and chill out. I have not “lost it” bigtime in a while now, even when my neighbor backed into my brand new car. With the help and understanding of my life partner, I am improving and spending more days being happy!

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on