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Family History Biggest Clue to Bipolar Disorder Among Young Patients

Early intervention for adolescent and young adult patients with bipolar disorder (BPD) can be tricky because in its earliest stages BPD looks very much like depression. Recently researchers in Australia conducted a study in hopes of discovering clues for differentiating the two conditions even in early stages.

The Australian study suggests that the patient's personal family history yields the best clue as to whether they are struggling with unipolar depression or BPD.

The Australian study was outlined in a psychiatric article online just recently. The article described how the researchers interviewed over 300 young patients (12 to 30 years old) who showed symptoms of some form of BPD. The patients were assessed by mental health professionals for mania and hypomania in addition to the full neuropsychological examination.

As expected, patients with either depression or bipolar spectrum disorders shared many similarities. Depressed patients and those with BPD were of similar ages (19 to 20 years), first showed symptoms at similar ages (14 years) and exhibited comparable symptoms.

The biggest difference was that patients with BPD were two times more likely to have BPD in their family history. They were twice as likely to have psychoses in their history and more apt to have family members who abused substances (35 percent compared to 23 percent). On the other side of the diagnostic coin, patients who were depressed experienced greater levels of social anxiety when compared to patients with BPD.

So, while the two conditions share many commonalities, for the present, the younger patient's own family history appears to be the best guide for determining whether he/she is dealing with early BPD or simple depression.

Posted in Bipolar

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