Between a half and two-thirds of patients with bipolar disorder develop the condition before the age of 18. Early onset of illness is associated with an unremitting course of illness, frequent switches of polarity, a high risk of suicide and poor functioning or quality of life. A study of 58 adolescents by researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, looked into the effectiveness of family therapy and pharmacotherapy compared to pharmacotherapy and usual care. The researchers found no difference between the two groups in rates of recovery or in the amount of time that elapsed before a subsequent mood episode. However, patients in the family-therapy group recovered from depressive symptoms more quickly, spent fewer weeks in depressive episodes over the two-year period and had an overall more favourable trajectory of depressive symptoms.
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