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Clin Psychol Rev. 2005 Dec;25(8):1008-27. Epub 2005 Aug 29.

Life events in bipolar disorder: towards more specific models.

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  • 1University of Miami, USA.


This article reviews the evidence concerning life events as a predictor of symptoms within bipolar disorder. First, key methodological issues in this area are described, and criteria used for including studies in this review are defined. Then findings that negative life events predict worse outcomes within bipolar disorder are reviewed. Beyond general studies on relapse, it is important to differentiate predictors of depression from predictors of mania. When severe negative life events occur, they appear to trigger increases in bipolar depression. Nonetheless, many depressions are unrelated to negative life events and appear to be triggered by other variables. The strongest evidence suggests that negative life events do not trigger mania, except perhaps in certain contexts. Retrospective findings for schedule-disrupting life events as a trigger for manic symptoms await further assessment within a longitudinal study. Life events involving goal attainment do appear to trigger manic symptoms. Overall, it is time to differentiate among specific types of life events, as these different forms of events point towards mechanisms linking stressors with symptom expression. These mechanisms provide clues into ways to integrate the social environment with biological vulnerability (see [Monroe, S.M., & Johnson, S.L. (1990)). the dimensions of life stress and the specificity of disorder. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20, 167-1694; Harris, T.O. (1991). Life stress and illness: the question of specificity. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 13, 211-219]).

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