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May 1990

Rapid Cycling Bipolar Affective Disorder: I. Association With Grade I Hypothyroidism

Author Affiliations

From the Affective Disorders Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1990;47(5):427-432. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1990.01810170027005

• Thirty patients with rapid cycling bipolar affective disorder were studied prospectively to assess presence and severity of thyroid hypofunction. Seven (23%) were classified as having grade I hypothyroidism, while 8 (27%) had grade II and 3 (10%) had grade III abnormalities. This prevalence of grade I hypothyroidism is significantly greater than that reported in studies of unselected bipolar patients during long-term treatment with lithium carbonate, although only 63% of this sample of rapid cycling patients was taking lithium carbonate or carbamazepine. The association of rapid cycling with grade I hypothyroidism cannot be accounted for by lithium carbonate use or by the preponderance of women among rapid cycling patients. These findings (1) indicate that hypothyroidism during bipolar illness is a risk factor for the development of rapid cycling, and (2) leads to the hypothesis that a relative central thyroid hormone deficit occurring in bipolar patients predisposes to a rapid cycling course.

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