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Arch Hellen Med, 34(1), January-February 2017, 32-41


Patients with bipolar disorder and their families:
The contribution of psychoeducation to the management of bipolar disorder

M. Economou,1,2 M. Charitsi2,3
1First Department of Psychiatry, "Eginition" Hospital, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of Medicine, Athens,
2University Mental Health Research Institute (UMHRI), Athens,
3Day Center for Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Association of Families for Mental Health (SOPSI), Athens, Greece

Bipolar disorder (BD) is a serious, debilitating mental illness with frequent relapses and often challenging symptoms. The nature of its clinical manifestations, including severe mood swings, can be a significant stressor for caregivers. The patient's relatives may experience severe distress, which impinges on the overall family functioning and may even lead to family disruption. In turn, it is well established that family functioning may have a marked impact on the course and outcome of chronic mental illness. Relevant studies led to the development of psychosocial interventions as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy, initially addressing the families of patients with schizophrenia. Currently such forms of psychosocial interventions, of which the psychoeducational approach is the most usual, are widely implemented with families of patients with BD and can achieve a satisfactory outcome in its life-long management. Psychoeducation provides the patient's family with essential knowledge about the illness and its treatment, along with training in communication and problem solving skills. Psychoeducational interventions support the caregivers in coping effectively with the problematic behavior of the patient with BD and the challenges of care. Improvement in the family atmosphere, development of effective coping strategies and alleviation of the burden on the caregivers all constitute crucial determinants of the overall therapeutic outcome. Accumulative evidence documents the effectiveness of psychoeducational intervention for BD in decreasing relapses, prolonging the periods of euthymic state, and reducing the number and duration of hospitalizations.

Key words: Bipolar disorder, Burden, Family, Psychoeducation, Psychosocial intervention.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine