Lifting the lid on bipolar disorder

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A serious condition for those affected by it, bipolar disorder and the symptoms that accompany it affect an astounding one in every one hundred people. A psychiatric diagnosis that affects both men and women equally, bipolar disorder usually appears in individuals between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, and refers to a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels and mood accompanied by depressive episodes as well. Although there are no clear causes, life changes such as moving or childbirth, medications such as antidepressants or steroids, sleeplessness and recreational drug use are all thought to be triggers for those vulnerable to the illness.

Arguably one of the main side affects of bipolar disorder is anxiety, and with a 93%  lifetime prevalence of anxiety within the disorder, it often leads a poorer quality of life, quicker relapses and in extreme circumstances higher suicide rates. In spite of these important consequences, research has found that people’s experiences with the disorder suggest that the psychiatrists who tend only to focus on their bipolar often sideline anxiety. However after being awarded the first ever bipolar programme grant from the National Institute of Health Research, part of the NHS, researchers at the Spectrum Centre in the University are hoping to change this.

The Spectrum Centre, have been undertaking a wide variety of research into bipolar disorder, and researcher Elly McGrath is one of those working on a new study that has developed a therapy for those who suffer with both the disorder and anxiety. The aim of this study is ultimately to evaluate the feasibility of delivering a time limited anxiety intervention to individuals with the disorder, whilst at the same time exploring if individuals are interested in receiving a treatment for it. This research is unique and the researchers at the Centre are in need of people to receive their therapy in order to gain feedback on how successful and acceptable participants find it.

Up to a total of 72 participants from the Manchester, Lancaster and Cumbria area are needed for the study, which is specifically aimed at those who are over eighteen, have experience with the disorder and who have current experience with anxiety. Of those who chose to seek help through the therapy condition; 50% will receive a maximum of 10 one-to-one sessions with an experienced psychological therapist either at home or in another place in which they feel comfortable, whilst the remaining half will continue with their normal treatment. Follow up appointments will occur every four months afterwards for all those involved however participants are free to withdraw at anytime during the study. Organised by a team of academics and health professionals, researchers leading this study are hoping to enhance recovery of and reduce associated problems of those suffering with bipolar disorder, with the overall aim of improving the quality of life for those who have been suffering from it.

For many on campus the advent of such a study will provide students who suffer from the disorder with a chance to improve their quality of life and hopefully therefore their overall experience of university life. The continual looming deadlines and amount of work students are expected to deal with can cause the majority of us to panic at the best of times, therefore those suffering with an illness such as bipolar disorder in which anxiety can play a key role would understandably find it even more difficult to cope. Many other institutions appear to have sections on their university websites dedicated to dealing with issues such as mental health and other such problems with advice on how to deal with them available. Perhaps then the launch of a study such as this will just be the beginning for Lancaster University in terms making help available for those who really need it.

For further information, Elly McGrath can be contacted on: [email] e.mcgrath@lancaster.ac.uk[/email].

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