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14-01-2010 | Mental health | Article

Caregivers of bipolar patients suffer psychiatric symptoms


Free abstract

MedWire News: Caregivers of patients with bipolar disorder have psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as increased mental health service use, the results of a US study indicate.

It is known that the burden of caregivers of bipolar disorder patients is linked to increased psychiatric symptoms, as well poor patient outcomes, suggesting that the burden may be a source of distress for both caregivers and patients.

To assess the current knowledge of caregiver burden in this area, Annie Steele and colleagues from Beth Israel Medical Center in New York searched the Medline Pubmed, PsychINFO, and Google Scholar databases for relevant articles.

Of 24 papers that met the inclusion criteria, 13 reported the presence of general psychiatric distress among caregivers of bipolar disorder patients, while two reported anxiety symptoms, nine reported mood symptoms, and eight reported increased mental health service use.

Notably, up to 46.0% of caregivers reported depression, with a similar proportion reporting anxiety symptoms or disorders. Up to 32.4% of caregivers reported mental health service usage.

Furthermore, the team observes in the Journal of Affective Disorders that 21 papers reported that caregivers had psychiatric distress of clinical significance in at least one category. Interestingly, four studies suggested that caregivers who are non-biological relatives have greater psychiatric distress than biological relative caregivers, while biological relative caregivers appear to experience increased depressive symptoms.

It should be noted, however, that many of the studies were hampered by methodological problems, such as lack of control groups, small sample sizes, and non-standardized caregiver and patient criteria.

The team concludes: “Accumulating evidence suggests that caregivers are experiencing increased depression, anxiety, and need for mental health care.

“Most published interventions for caregivers in this population are psychoeducational and do not target psychiatric symptoms. Whether psychoeducation impacts depression and anxiety requires further exploration.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Liam Davenport

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