30 September 2009
Young adults can outgrow bipolar disorder
by Kate Melville
Bipolar disorder, or manic-depression, causes severe and unusual shifts in mood and energy, affecting a person's ability to perform everyday tasks. It has traditionally been thought of as a lifelong disorder but University of Missouri (MU) researchers have found evidence that nearly half of those diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 25 may outgrow the disorder by the time they reach 30.
"Using two large nationally representative studies, we found that there was a strikingly high peak prevalence of bipolar disorders in emerging adulthood," said David Cicero, the lead author of the paper. "During the third decade of life, the prevalence of the disorder appears to resolve substantially, suggesting patients become less symptomatic and may have a greater chance of recovery."
The MU researchers found an "age gradient" in the prevalence of bipolar disorder, with part of the population appearing to outgrow the disorder. In the survey results, 5.5 to 6.2 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 suffer from bipolar disorder, but only about 3 percent of people older than 29 suffer from bipolar disorder.
"Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are going through significant life changes and social strain, which could influence both the onset and course of the disorder," said study co-author Kenneth J. Sher. "During this period of life, young adults are exploring new roles and relationships and begin to leave their parents' homes for school or work. By the mid 20s, adults have begun to adjust to these changes and begin to settle down and form committed relationships."
The study, published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, suggests that the prevalence of bipolar disorder could also be affected by brain development, particularly in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is believed to control perception, senses, personality and intelligence. "The maturing of the prefrontal cortex of the brain around 25 years of age could biologically explain the developmentally limited aspect of bipolar disorder," Cicero said. "Other researchers have found a similar pattern in young adults with alcohol or substance abuse disorders."
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Source: University of Missouri