Navigate Up
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Manager
Telephone: 412-864-4151

Patients and medical professionals may call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762) for more information.

Pitt Researchers to Study Effects of Early Intervention for Children of Parents with Bipolar Disorder

PITTSBURGH, April 21, 2009 — Mood disorders tend to cluster in families and research shows that bipolar disorder is a particularly inheritable form of mood disorder. Since the strongest risk factor for developing bipolar disorder is having one or more family members with the illness, identifying and treating children of bipolar parents has become an important focus for prevention efforts.

A research team led by Ellen Frank, Ph.D., distinguished university professor of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director of the Depression and Manic Depression Prevention Program at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, and Tina Goldstein, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is conducting a study to determine whether a specific type of talk therapy called Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT), which was developed by Dr. Frank, will help to delay or even prevent the onset of bipolar disorder in children at risk for developing the illness due to a positive family history.  

“We know that the chance that a person with a family history of bipolar disorder will develop the illness themselves increases with the biological closeness of the relationship,” noted Dr. Frank. “The children of parents with bipolar disorder are therefore a very high-risk group that requires our attention.”

Research has shown that if a child has one parent with bipolar disorder, the likelihood that he or she will develop the illness is between 5 and 10 percent. The risk can increase to about 15 percent if other relatives, such as siblings, aunts or uncles, are also affected. A child whose parents both have bipolar disorder is at a 30 percent higher risk of having the illness. 

The IPSRT treatment approach is based on research showing that people with bipolar disorder, and those vulnerable to developing bipolar disorder, have especially sensitive circadian systems – meaning that disruptions in their sleep and social schedules, particularly during periods of stress, are associated with the onset of mood symptoms.

Normal shifts in sleep and social schedules occur during adolescence. Teens tend to want to stay up later at night and sleep in later in the morning. Yet, demanding school and social schedules often do not allow teens to get adequate sleep. The Pitt researchers believe that irregular schedules during adolescence, in combination with other risk factors, may increase the chances that an adolescent with a family history of bipolar disorder could develop mood symptoms. During treatment, a trained IPSRT therapist works together with the youth and family to improve stability in the teen’s daily schedules and sleep cycles and to help enhance his or her interpersonal relationships.

“The possibility that we may be able to prevent or delay this serious illness before its full expression is very exciting,” said Dr. Goldstein. “By intervening early, we hope to not only prevent the development of illness symptoms, but also decrease risk for other negative outcomes associated with bipolar disorder including academic, social and legal problems.”

Individuals with bipolar disorder who are the parents of a child between the ages of 12 and 18 who do not have bipolar disorder, may be eligible to participate in the study. Participation involves an initial assessment interview with parent and child and attendance at 10 to12 free weekly counseling sessions for up to three months. Interviews with parents and children also are conducted to evaluate mood symptoms. Families will be compensated for their participation.

For more information or to see if you qualify for this research study, please call Kelly Monk at 412-246-5796.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com