Researchers led by Thomas D. Meyer, PhD, at Eberhard Karls Universität in Tübingen, Germany, wanted to investigate the effectiveness of currently available treatments for the disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness in which the sufferer experiences extreme and abnormal mood swings, from manic highs to potentially dangerous low depression. Over five million people in the United States suffer from bipolar — about 1.6 percent of the population. It is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide, and causes significant stress on families and relationships.
Earlier studies have proven that CBT is an effective treatment for the disorder, but these studies did not compare CBT to other types of treatments.
The randomized controlled trial included 76 patients with bipolar I or bipolar II. Patients were given either CBT or supportive therapy for 20 sessions over nine months. The participants were then followed for up to two years.
Both CBT and supportive therapy are psychoanalytic therapies that teach the patient to increase healthy thought processes and behaviors and decrease upsetting thoughts and behaviors.
CBT uses a systematic method to achieve this goal, whereas supportive therapy reinforces and supports the positive, healthy thoughts and behaviors.
The results show that the participants had equal amounts of symptom improvement regardless of the type of treatment. Relapse was also similar for patients in both therapy types.
During the 33 months of the study, 64.5 percent of the participants relapsed regardless of the type of therapy. Relapsing was associated with having bipolar II, the number of previous episodes, and the number of sessions attended before the relapse.
The researchers conclude that both therapies share some characteristics such as mood monitoring and educational components.
These factors might explain the overall benefits of these types of treatments and why they had equally positive effects.
This study was published in Psychological Medicine.
Source: Psychological Medicine