Transdiagnostic treatment of bipolar disorder and comorbid anxiety using the Unified Protocol for Emotional Disorders: A pilot feasibility and acceptability trial
Ellard, Kristen K.
Bernstein, Emily E.
Baek, Ji Hyun
Sylvia, Louisa G.
Nierenberg, Andrew A.
Barlow, David H.
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Citation (published version)Kristen K Ellard, Emily E Bernstein, Casey Hearing, Ji Hyun Baek, Louisa G Sylvia, Andrew A Nierenberg, David H Barlow, Thilo Deckersbach. 2017. "Transdiagnostic treatment of bipolar disorder and comorbid anxiety using the Unified Protocol for Emotional Disorders: A pilot feasibility and acceptability trial." Journal Of Affective Disorders, Volume 219, pp. 209 - 221. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2017.05.011
BACKGROUND Comorbid anxiety in bipolar disorder (BD) is associated with greater illness severity, reduced treatment response, and greater impairment. Treating anxiety in the context of BD is crucial for improving illness course and outcomes. The current study examined the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary efficacy of the Unified Protocol (UP), a transdiagnostic cognitive behavioral therapy, as an adjunctive treatment to pharmacotherapy for BD and comorbid anxiety disorders. METHODS Twenty-nine patients with BD and at least one comorbid anxiety disorder were randomized to pharmacotherapy treatment-as-usual (TAU) or TAU with 18 sessions of the UP (UP+TAU). All patients completed assessments every four weeks to track symptoms, functioning, emotion regulation and temperament. Linear mixed-model regressions were conducted to track symptom changes over time and to examine the relationship between emotion-related variables and treatment response. RESULTS Satisfaction ratings were equivalent for both treatment groups. Patients in the UP+TAU group evidenced significantly greater reductions over time in anxiety and depression symptoms (Cohen's d's>0.80). Baseline levels of neuroticism, perceived affective control, and emotion regulation ability predicted magnitude of symptom change for the UP+TAU group only. Greater change in perceived control of emotions and emotion regulation skills predicted greater change in anxiety related symptoms. LIMITATIONS This was a pilot feasibility and acceptability trial; results should be interpreted with caution. CONCLUSIONS Treatment with the UP+TAU was rated high in patient satisfaction, and resulted in significantly greater improvement on indices of anxiety and depression relative to TAU. This suggests that the UP may be a feasible treatment approach for BD with comorbid anxiety.
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