Category : Research

Statistics on Mood Disorders in the U.S.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) article, The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America:

  • “Approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a mood disorder.
  • The median age of onset for mood disorders is 30 years.
  • Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders and substance abuse.
  • Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
  • The median age of onset for bipolar disorders is 25 years.”

According to the Mental Illness Policy Organization, on average, people with bipolar disorder go to 3 or more doctors and endure 8  years of treatement prior to being correctly diagnosed.


Research on Staying Well with Bipolar Disorder

butterflyI found an interesting study conducted by researchers Sarah J. Russell and Jan L. Browne. Results of the study were published in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2005; 39:187–193. The research was funded by the Beyond Blue Victorian Centre of Excellence in Depression and Related Disorders Grants Program. The title of the research report is Staying Well with Bipolar Disorder.

The authors state: “Participants found that their wellness depended on a number of things that were within their control. However the data indicated that there was not a simple ‘one fix fixes all’ approach. In the “Stay Well” study, most participants:

  • recognized the importance of taking their illness seriously
  • demonstrated that staying well was within their control
  • made changes in their lives to stay well
  • learned to get on with their lives while remaining mindful of their illness.”

Some people with Bipolar Disorder have developed effective strategies to stay well and avoid relapses of mania and depression. These strategies enable people with bipolar disorder to identify early symptoms of relapse and take action to prevent an episode from becoming full blown. This study called upon the expertise of people who have successfully found strategies that work to help them stay well.

The goal of the research was to investigate and document how people with bipolar disorder avoid episodes of the illness and how they manage their bipolar disorder.  The researchers also looked at the importance that personal, social and environmental factors played in helping people with bipolar disorder stay well.

To be included in the study, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder must have remained episode free for the past 2 years. The only concern I have with the participant’s being episode free and exhibiting wellness is the possibility that the people in the study may have very mild cases of bipolar disorder and that the techniques they use to stay well may not be effective for people with severe bipolar disorder. I’d like to know more about the participants’ previous episodes and the designation and severity their bipolar disorder.

The definition of the concept of “staying well” included the following: the  acceptance of diagnosis, mindfulness, education, identify triggers, recognize warning signals, manage sleep and stress, make lifestyle changes, treatment, access support, and stay well plans.

According to the article, 100 people were included in the study. There were 63 women and 37 men. Ages ranged from 18 to 83 years, with 86% over the age of 30. Duration of time since last episode of illness ranged from 2 years to > 50 years. In the sample, 76% of participants were in paid employment. In addition, 36% of participants were parents.

The results showed that “Participants actively managed bipolar disorder by developing a range of strategies to stay well. These strategies were based on participants’ individual needs and social contexts. The strategies included acceptance of the diagnosis, education about bipolar disorder, identifying both triggers and warning signals, adequate amounts of sleep, managing stress, medication and support networks.”

One of the keys to staying well was the ability to be mindful of their illness. By being mindful, participants were more fully able to develop individual stay-well plans, including intervention strategies to prevent episodes of  the illness.