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People with epilepsy "more prone" to bipolar disorder

15 September, 2005

A study looking
at the levels of bipolar disorder (manic depression) has identified
that people with epilepsy are more likely to have bipolar symptoms than
people with other medical conditions.

The researchers, writing in the journal Neurology,
sent the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (a standard checklist used in
diagnosing bipolar disorder) to a representative sample of over 127,000
people. Of the 85,000 usable surveys returned, people who identified
themselves as having epilepsy were compared to those with migraine,
asthma, diabetes mellitus and a healthy comparison group.

Symptoms
of bipolar disorder were identified in 12 per cent of people with
epilepsy, around twice the rate of bipolar symptoms amongst people with
migraine, asthma, or diabetes mellitus. People with epilepsy were six
times more likely that the general population to show symptoms of
bipolar disorder.

Around
half of those with epilepsy who were identified as having symptoms of
bipolar disorder had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a doctor.
Of the other half, 25 per cent had been diagnosed with unipolar
depression but 25 per cent had not been diagnosed with either bipolar
or unipolar.

Lead researcher Dr Alan Ettinger, of Long Island Jewish Medical Center, told Reuters Health:

"Our
findings suggest that bipolar symptoms and perhaps formal bipolar
disorder may be significantly under-recognised in patients with
epilepsy and patients with other chronic disorders.

He
commented that one reason bipolar symptoms may be missed in people with
epilepsy is because some of the commonly used anti-epileptic agents may
be treating the bipolar symptoms as well.