Rebecca Stadlen Amir
April 25, 2018

More than 60 million people worldwide are affected by bipolar disorder, a condition involving chronic mood swings that alternate between “manic” episodes and depression, which can take a suicidal turn.

A new study published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, finds that antidepressant therapy minimizes the incidence of re-hospitalization from bipolar depression. Though antidepressants are widely used to manage bipolar depression, there has been little evidence to support their effectiveness until now.

“This study provides hope for bipolar disorder patients by supporting the efficacy and safety of antidepressant therapy use for bipolar depression, which has always been considered a ‘treatment-resistant’ disabling state,” says Dr. Eldar Hochman of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, who led the research.

During the study, researchers reviewed medical records to compare six-month and one-year re-hospitalization rates in 98 patients with bipolar disorder. The patients had all been previously hospitalized a depressive episode.

“They were treated at discharge with mood stabilizers and/or atypical antipsychotics with or without antidepressants,” said Hochman. “We wanted to track their treatment at discharge — with or without antidepressants — and used multivariable survival models adjusted for variations known to influence re-hospitalization.”

Within one year following discharge, 81.7 percent of the patients treated with antidepressants in addition to mood stabilizers avoided re-hospitalization, as compared to 57.6% of the patients who did not receive the same combination.

“Our results are immediately relevant to clinical practice and should encourage clinicians to prescribe antidepressant therapy to bipolar disorder depression in patients with adequate mood stabilization,” said Hochman.

“Antidepressant treatment pursued alone, without an additional mood stabilizing therapy, should be avoided in bipolar depression due to an increased risk for manic episodes,” he added.

The researchers are currently studying the socio-demographic and clinical prognostic factors affecting bipolar disorder course outcomes. “We hope that our data will help to develop a disease staging system that will allow individuals to reclaim control of their lives,” Hochman concluded.

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