Although rapid-cycling bipolar disorder has been linked to the use of antidepressants, these treatments may still have a role in the management of patients with bipolar depression, said Stephen V. Sobel, MD, clinical instructor at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, in a presentation at the U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress is Las Vegas. Patients with bipolar disorder spend most of their time in depression, and antidepressants can alleviate these symptoms, said Sobel. “That’s why it’s so tempting to treat these patients with an antidepressant. But it’s important to be familiar with recent studies on the development of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder and to weigh the risks and benefits,” he said.
The use of antidepressants may increase a patient’s risk of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. The Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD) included 1742 patients treated with a variety of approved medications for bipolar I and bipolar II disorder, and 32% reported having rapid-cycling at baseline. After 2 years of treatment, 5% still had rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Those who were treated with an antidepressant were 3.8 times more likely to have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.1
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