The biggest challenge professionals face in treating bipolar disorder is medical adherence, according to Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a co-director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center. At the Johns Hopkins 21st Annual Mood Disorders/Education Symposium, she discussed the problem of bipolar patients not taking their meds.
“I’d like to make the obvious point that I don’t think is made often enough, which is that it doesn’t do any good to have effective medications for an illness if people don’t take them.”
Approximately 40 to 45 percent of bipolar patients do not take their medications as prescribed. The principal predictors of non-adherence are living alone and substance abuse. Bipolar patients are also afraid of losing the positive aspects of mild manic states. For example, what’s not to like about swimming an easy 6,000 yards followed by a curt 10-mile jog, all the while recording ideas for the three articles you crank out once you’re home.
“The major clinical problem in treating bipolar illness,” said Jamison, “is not that we lack effective medications. It is that bipolar patients do not take these medications.”
Dr. Jamison believes that psychotherapy can be an intervention to the problem of medical adherence. For instance, of 24 controlled trials of psychotherapy, all but one showed an improvement to medical adherence.
Published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.