Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Reduces Suicide Attempts in Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder, According to New Study

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Reduces Suicide Attempts in Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder, According to New Study

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Researchers recently made an important discovery in the treatment of bipolar spectrum disorder in teens, long associated with increased suicide risk. Their study showed that a type of psychotherapy called dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) substantially decreased suicide attempts in adolescents with this condition.

The study involved adolescents aged 12 to 18, diagnosed with bipolar spectrum disorder, who were recruited from a specialty outpatient psychiatric clinic. It employed a rigorous randomised clinical trial methodology, comparing DBT with standard of care (SOC) psychotherapy. All participants were concurrently receiving medication management, isolating the impact of the psychotherapeutic intervention.

The findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Results demonstrated that, over a year, adolescents receiving DBT exhibited a significantly lower rate of suicide attempts compared to those undergoing standard psychotherapy. The reduction was particularly notable in participants with a history of suicide attempts, highlighting DBT’s effectiveness in the most at-risk individuals.

DBT, initially developed for adults with borderline personality disorder, has been adapted for adolescents. Its focus on skills for coping, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness makes it suitable for those with bipolar disorder, who often struggle with emotional dysregulation.

Both the DBT and SOC groups showed significant improvements in mood symptoms, with no marked difference between the two in this aspect. This underscores that while both therapies effectively address the mood symptoms of bipolar disorder, DBT has a distinct advantage in mitigating suicidal behaviour.

The study’s comprehensive methodology, involving close follow-up with participants and their parents, ensured a thorough understanding of each participant’s progress. This rigorous approach adds to the credibility and relevance of the findings.

These results represent a major advancement in treating adolescents with bipolar spectrum disorder. By demonstrating the effectiveness of DBT in reducing suicide attempts, it offers new hope for clinicians and patients managing this challenging condition. With the high stakes involved in treating early-onset bipolar disorder, the importance of these findings cannot be overstated.

DBT stands out as the first psychosocial intervention to show a direct impact on suicidal behaviour in this demographic. It provides a practical and effective tool for clinicians and a vital lifeline for adolescents and their families.

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