This study will compare the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy versus supportive
psychotherapy in decreasing depression in people with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar I disorder (BP-I) is a chronic debilitating disorder with recurrent depressive
and/or manic mood episodes. Although episodes of mania are often considered the most
distinguishing feature of bipolar disorder, recurrent episodes of depression make up the
most functionally debilitating aspect for many individuals with BP-I. Symptoms of depressive
episodes include depressed mood, lack of interest, decreased energy, low self-esteem,
trouble sleeping, and change in appetite. Mood stabilizers are usually the first line of
treatment for patients with bipolar disorder who are in a depressive episode, but previous
research has shown that these treatments fail to bring most patients to sustained remission.
As an adjunct to medication, a psychosocial treatment known as cognitive behavioral therapy
(CBT) may be a promising treatment for improving depressive symptoms and for long-term
stabilization in individuals with BP-I. This study will compare the effectiveness of CBT
versus supportive psychotherapy in decreasing depression in people with BP-I. Using magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI), this study will also assess the impact of episodic memory
impairment in people with BP-I on the success of CBT treatment.
Participation in this single-blind study will last about 9 months and will include 22 study
visits. There will be four pretreatment visits, during which participants will undergo a
variety of tests and procedures, including interviews and questionnaires about depression
and anxiety; tests on memory, attention, reaction time, and reading; and an MRI scan.
Following completion of the initial assessments, participants will be randomly assigned to
receive CBT or supportive psychotherapy. Participants in both groups will attend eighteen
1-hour treatment sessions over 5 months. Participants attending CBT sessions will learn
specific thought processing and behavioral exercises to help reduce depressive symptoms.
Participants attending psychosocial therapy sessions will learn about signs and symptoms
related to depression and will be provided support in coping with their depression.
All participants will be asked to complete Mood and Memory Questionnaires before and after
the first seven treatment sessions. Psychological evaluations will occur after Visits 8 and
18 of treatment and will involve the completion of questionnaires. Participants in both
groups will attend a follow-up visit to evaluate tic symptoms, anxiety, and mood 4 months
after the final treatment session.
- Normal or corrected-to-normal vision (tested by vision charts)
- Diagnosis of bipolar I disorder by the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview
- HAM-D score of 17 or higher
- Meets criteria for DSM-IV bipolar I disorder subtype rapid cycling
- Meets criteria for DSM-IV mixed episode
- Serious medical illness
- Neurologic disorder and/or head trauma
- Current or past history of selected DSM-IV Axis I disorders other than bipolar
disorder, including organic mental disorder, schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and
psychotic disorders not otherwise specified
- Substance abuse or dependence within the 12 months prior to study entry and/or
history of substance abuse for more than 12 months
- IQ of less than 80 on the Wechsler Adult Reading Test
- Previous treatment with CBT for depression
- Contraindications to MRI (e.g., metallic implants, claustrophobia)