UK researchers have developed a new therapy approach to manage anxiety among individuals with bipolar disorder (BD).

Anxiety associated with bipolar disorder is linked to worse clinical outcomes including increased suicidality. Lancaster University investigators said that despite effective psychological treatments for anxiety, research for treatment of anxiety in bipolar disorder (AIBD) is not well-developed.

In the new study, Professors Steven Jones and Fiona Lobban offered adults with both bipolar disorder and clinically significant anxiety symptoms either treatment as usual or the novel intervention. The new AIBD intervention comprised 10 sessions of psychological therapy.

Sessions were supported by client workbooks including client therapy record and anxiety recovery plans, lived experience accounts of anxiety and BD, and information about additional resources and support.

AIBD therapy providers were flexible in terms of location and session duration.

“The individualized formulation-driven approach took into account level of engagement and motivation and explored links between anxiety and bipolar experiences, including issues around functioning, to elicit personally valued treatment goals,” Jones said.

A customized intervention plan was provided for each participant and included appropriate cognitive-behavioral strategies focused on addressing anxiety experiences and consequent behavior.

A cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approach typically includes learning more about the nature of an individual’s anxiety symptoms then developing coping strategies for dealing with them. CBT techniques such as relaxation and breathing techniques, cognitive restructuring, behavioral experiments, thought monitoring and challenging and adaptive problem-solving are utilized.

Participants indicated they valued the intervention in contrast with previous forms of support received. They identified the benefits of treating anxiety and BD together, in contrast with previous experiences of having these problems addressed separately.

Coping strategies were helpful in:

• overcoming anxiety-based social isolation and functional limitations;
• increasing confidence in dealing with BD.

Professor Jones said, “The trial was successful in demonstrating feasibility and acceptability of selection, recruitment and intervention procedures. Although AIBD was generally well received, some participants wanted more sessions.”

Source: Lancaster University