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The Effect of Traumatic Events on the Longitudinal Course and Outcomes of Youth with Bipolar Disorder



Exposure to severe Traumatic Events (TEs) has been associated with poor course and outcomes among individuals with Bipolar Disorder (BD). However, there is limited research on TEs among youth with BD, and few studies are longitudinal. This study prospectively followed a large sample of BD youth, examining the associations of lifetime TEs with their mood and functioning.


BD participants (n=375; mean age=17; range 8-25y) were assessed, on average, every 7 months for a median 8.7 years. Psychopathology and lifetime trauma history were prospectively evaluated using the Longitudinal Interval Follow-Up Evaluation, and a traumatic events screening.


Accounting for covariates, participants with one or more lifetime TEs (84%) showed earlier BD onset, poorer psychosocial functioning, worse mood symptoms, and more suicidal ideation, comorbidities, and family psychopathology than those without TEs. TEs during recovery periods increased recurrence risk (p<0.02). More TEs were associated with poorer mood course, particularly among victims of violence/abuse (p<0.02). Abused participants (34% physical; 17% sexual) showed earlier onset of substance use disorders, more suicidality and comorbidities compared to those without abuse. Comparisons of mood course before and after abuse occurred, and with participants without abuse, showed worsening mood symptoms after, specifically hypo/mania (p<0.03).


Prospective data was gathered longitudinally but assessed retrospectively at every follow-up; given approximate dates causality cannot be inferred; TEs severity was not assessed.


Severe TEs, particularly abuse, were associated with poorer course and outcomes among BD youth. Prompt screening of trauma and early intervention may be warranted to minimize TEs impact.

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