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Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2007 Aug;16(4):192-196.

The Role of the Family in the Course and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder.

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  • 1University of Colorado.

Abstract

Bipolar disorder is a highly recurrent and debilitating illness. Research has implicated the role of psychosocial stressors, including high expressed-emotion (EE) attitudes among family members, in the relapse-remission course of the disorder. This article explores the developmental pathways by which EE attitudes originate and predict relapses of bipolar disorder. Levels of EE are correlated with the illness attributions of caregivers and bidirectional patterns of interaction between caregivers and patients during the postepisode period. Although the primary treatments for bipolar disorder are pharmacological, adjunctive psychosocial interventions have additive effects in relapse prevention. Randomized controlled trials demonstrate that the combination of family-focused therapy (FFT) and pharmacotherapy delays relapses and reduces symptom severity among patients followed over the course of 1 to 2 years. The effectiveness of FFT in delaying recurrences among adolescents with bipolar disorder and in delaying the initial onset of the illness among at-risk children is currently being investigated.

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