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Bipolar Does Not Increase Risk of Violent Crime

A new Swedish study suggests that a person with bipolar disorder is not at increased risk of aggression. However, substance abuse associated with bipolar does increase the chance of violent crime.

The public debate on violent crime usually assumes that violence in the mentally ill is a direct result of the perpetrator’s illness.

Previous research has also suggested that patients with bipolar disorder — also known as manic-depressive disorder — are more likely to behave violently.

However, it has been unclear if the violence is due to the bipolar disorder per se, or caused by other aspects of the individual’s personality or lifestyle.

The new study, carried out by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Oxford University, is presented in the scientific journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

Researchers compared the rate of violent crime in over 3,700 patients with bipolar disorder cared for in Swedish hospitals between 1973 and 2004 with that of 37,000 control individuals from the general public.

Twenty-one percent of patients with bipolar disorder and a concurrent diagnosis of severe substance abuse (alcohol or illegal drugs) were convicted of violent crimes, compared to five percent of those with bipolar disorder but without substance abuse, and three percent among general public control individuals.

The differences remained when accounting for age, gender, immigrant background, socioeconomic status, and whether the most recent presentation of the bipolar disorder was manic or depressed.

“Interestingly, this concurs with our group’s previous findings in schizophrenia, another serious psychiatric disorder, which found that individuals with schizophrenia are not more violent than members of the general public, provided there is no substance abuse,” says professor Niklas Långström, head of the Centre for Violence Prevention at Karolinska Institutet.

According to the researchers, the findings support the need for initiatives to prevent, identify and treat substance abuse when fighting violent crime. Additionally, Långström hopes that the results will help challenge overly simplistic explanations of the causes of violent crime.

“Unwarranted fear and stigmatization of mental illness increases the alienation of people with psychiatric disorder and makes them less inclined to seek the care they need,” Långström comments.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

Bipolar Does Not Increase Risk of Violent Crime

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Bipolar Does Not Increase Risk of Violent Crime. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/09/08/bipolar-does-not-increase-risk-of-violent-crime/17819.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.