Early Detection, Family Focused Treatment Lessens Bipolar Disorder Effects

teenage boy depressed holding his head in a classroomLike most issues that are caught before they become full-blown problems, bipolar disorder in teens that is treated early can reduce the impact that disorder has on them later in life.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by abnormal mood swings that can destroy relationships and a person’s career. In some cases, it can even lead to suicide. It’s estimated that about 4 percent of the population in the U.S. is suffering from bipolar disorder. Globally, it’s estimated that around 2.5 percent have it.

A recent study at the UCLA School of Medicine shows that youths who were showing at-risk symptoms of developing bipolar disorder were greatly helped through family focused, psycho-educational treatment.

Family members learned to manage the mood swings of the affected individuals (most children have a parent or first-degree relative with bipolar disorder). They also learned communication skills, problem-solving and were educated on various medications.

In the study, 40 subjects with an average age of 12 were diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or cyclothymic disorder. Some also showed signs of mania or hypomania that didn’t quite fit into the before-mentioned disorders.

Half of the subjects were treated over four months in 12-part family oriented treatment sessions, while the other half was treated with one or two family informational sessions. The study revealed that the more extensive treatment significantly reduced the depressive symptoms within nine weeks compared to 21 weeks for the other group.

One caveat to the study is that it cannot fully determine the long-term effects of the treatment by looking at just a one-year period.

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