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07-05-2012 | Psychology | Article

Aggression levels increased in bipolar disorder patients


Free abstract

MedWire News: Patients with bipolar disorder (BD) have higher levels of aggression than patients with other psychopathologies and mentally healthy individuals, research confirms.

Writing in Bipolar Disorders, Javier Ballester (University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania, USA) and team explain that a number of previous studies have suggested that adults with BD display increased levels of aggression.

"However, there are few studies regarding the prevalence of violent or aggressive behaviors in individuals with BD, and most of the existing studies include inpatient or penitentiary populations, thus limiting the generalizability of the results," they say.

To investigate further, the team studied 225 outpatients with BD, 85 outpatients with other mental health disorders, such as depression, substance use disorder, and anxiety, and 84 mentally healthy individuals. The groups were similar in terms of mean age and gender distribution.

All of the participants were assessed for aggression using the Aggression Questionnaire (AQ), with higher total and subscale (physical, verbal, anger, hostility, and indirect) scores equating to increased aggression levels.

Analysis revealed that patients with BD had a significantly higher mean total AQ score than those with other psychopathologies and mentally healthy controls, at 87.93 versus 65.92 and 54.15, respectively.

Patients with BD also had significantly higher scores for all AQ subscales compared with the other two groups.

Among the BD patients, those experiencing a mood episode (n=174) at the time of assessment had a higher mean total AQ score than those who were not (n=81), at 93.8 versus 75.5, as well as higher scores for all AQ subscales.

However, even BD patients who were not in a current episode showed significantly higher mean AQ total and subscale scores than patients with other psychopathologies and mentally healthy controls.

The researchers note that AQ scores were particularly high among BD patients experiencing psychosis at the time of assessment.

Ballester and team summarize: "Subjects with BD… particularly when acutely ill and psychotic, have more verbal and physical aggression, hostility, and anger than subjects with non-BP psychopathology and healthy controls."

"However, it is important to emphasize that the above results do not mean that subjects with BD are more prone to severe violent behaviors," the researchers add.

They conclude that "early identification and treatment of subjects with BD are important to help subjects with BD to manage their aggressiveness and prevent substance abuse and perhaps other comorbid disorders, and avoid the development of more severe aggressive behaviors."

By Mark Cowen

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