Patients with Bipolar Disorder May Outgrow the Disease by Late 20s

October 5, 2009

Bipolar disorder may be a condition that afflicted patients eventually outgrow, according to a new study from the University of Missouri.

Bipolar disorder may be a condition that afflicted patients eventually outgrow, according to a new study from the University of Missouri.

The researchers from the Department of Psychological Sciences found that, among patients surveyed, the symptoms of half of the individuals diagnosed between ages18 and 24 years had resolved “substantially” during the latter half of the third decade of life (ages 25-29), according to study results published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychiatry. The prevalence of bipolar disorder was about 5.5-6.2% in individuals age 18-24 years, compared with 3.1-3.4% of patients age 25-29 years.

According to David Cicero, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychological Sciences and lead author of the paper, the research team examined the results of two large national surveys, which revealed an “age gradient” among patients with bipolar disorder. Cicero added that the finding that patients seem to have a decrease in symptoms as they reach the 25-29 age group suggests that patients “have a greater chance of recovery” as time passes.

“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 Kenneth J. Sher, Curators’ Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences and co-author of the study. “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 researchers also believe that the disorder may be impacted by brain development, especially the prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in perception, senses, personality and intelligence, as well as reactions to social situations.

“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.”