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What Patients Look for In Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Approximately 60% of people with disorder do not take their medications as prescribed. This is problematic considering consequences such as less effective treatment, increased chance of relapse, higher morbidity rates and increased likelihood of hospitalization. It also leads to increased spending on healthcare and poorer quality of life. Because of this, it’s important to find out what would help patients better adhere to their medication. One new study surveyed participants to find out what most concerned them about their treatment.

There are many reasons that people do not adhere to their treatment plans. Some of those reasons include not recognizing that treatment is necessary, negative attitudes toward medication, concurrent substance abuse, and high monetary cost for treatment. One of the main reasons people do not take their medication as prescribed is due to side effects like weight gain, tremors, digestive disturbances, sedation, and cognitive impairment.

The idea behind the study by Daisy Ng-Mak and her research team is to find out what patients’ concerns and preferences are regarding medication for treatment of bipolar depression. They were able to survey 185 people with bipolar disorder. They asked participants to complete surveys regarding depressive symptoms and overall quality of life in addition to the survey regarding importance of treatment attributes.

Approximately 88.6% of people surveyed were being treated for bipolar depression. Of those, 75% were being treated with atypical antipsychotics. From the survey regarding depressive symptoms, they found an average of a moderate level of depression as well as poor well-being. The general physical and mental health scores were also lower than those of the general population.

From their survey on the importance of treatment attributes they found that the following items were the major concerns for people seeking treatment for bipolar disorder.

1 Weight gain
Weight gain was the most important factor for participants with half of participants saying it was a concern. There was a noted preference for medications with less weight gain than those that tended to cause more weight gain.

2 Sedation
Many medications used to treat bipolar disorder are intended to induce calm. In that process, they can make people feel groggy, dragged down or have brain fog. In this study, 20.2% stated concern for sedation as a side effect of medication.

3 Risk of becoming manic
Some medications used to treat bipolar depression can cause the patient to swing directly from depression to mania. The most common atypical antipsychotic to do this is risperidone (Risperdal). While this is a concern, most of the time this can be treated with use of another antipsychotic.

There were other concerns listed like increased blood glucose or cholesterol. Several atypical antipsychotics can cause these and with patients who already deal with these issues it can cause further problems.

One other concern that patients had was time to improvement. Some medications used to treat bipolar disorder can take up to weeks to show improvement. That can seem an incredibly long time to someone suffering from depression. Knowing how long it will take to see improvement helps people know what to expect.

Research like this is important in order to know what patients concerns are regarding their medication. The more mental health professionals know about a patient’s concerns, the better they can tailor treatment to the individual. This can provide more effective treatment and hopefully help people to keep taking their medication.



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What Patients Look for In Bipolar Disorder Treatment

LaRae LaBouff

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APA Reference
LaBouff, L. (2018). What Patients Look for In Bipolar Disorder Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Jan 2018
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