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Brief Report   |    
Age at Onset, Childhood Psychopathology, and 2-Year Outcome in Psychotic Bipolar Disorder
Gabrielle A. Carlson, M.D.; Evelyn J. Bromet, Ph.D.; Corine Driessens, M.A.; Ramin Mojtabai, M.D., Ph.D.; Joseph E. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2002;159:307-309. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.159.2.307

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The relationships of age at onset and childhood psychopathology to 2-year clinical and functional outcomes in first-admission patients with bipolar I disorder were examined. METHOD: Patients with bipolar I disorder (N=123) presenting with psychotic symptoms were followed over a 2-year period. Age at onset was stratified into <19 and ≥19 years. Childhood psychopathology was categorized as behavior problems, other psychopathology, and none. Functional and clinical outcomes were rated with standard measures. RESULTS: Childhood psychopathology and age at onset were independently related to poorer functional and clinical outcome. In the multivariate models that included psychopathology, age at onset, sex, and education, early age at onset was related to incomplete remission, and childhood psychopathology was related to functional outcome. CONCLUSIONS: Childhood psychopathology and age at onset contribute independently to outcomes of bipolar disorder. Childhood psychopathology is a much stronger predictor of functioning than age at onset.

Abstract Teaser
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Early age at onset and/or poor premorbid functioning may be associated with poor course and outcome in bipolar disorder (1). Our previous research demonstrated that an earlier age at onset in bipolar disorder is associated with prior child psychopathology (2). We hypothesized that childhood psychopathology may, in fact, explain the association between young age at onset and poor outcome. In this report we address this issue by examining the independent and combined contributions of age at onset and childhood psychopathology to functional outcome and clinical course over 2 years of follow-up in a representative group of first-admission subjects with psychotic bipolar disorder.

The Suffolk County Mental Health Project, described extensively elsewhere (3, 4), focuses on illness course in a countywide group of first admissions, aged 15–60, presenting with psychotic symptoms. The baseline interview, administered by master’s-level mental health professionals, usually occurred 1–3 weeks after admission. Written informed consent for the interview and use of records was obtained. Home follow-up interviews were conducted 6 and 24 months later. At 24 months, consensus DSM-IV diagnoses of the index episode were made by project psychiatrists using all sources of information, including the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R (SCID) (5). Of the 695 patients interviewed at baseline (72% of those targeted), 537 were assessed at 24 months, of whom 123 (22.9%) received a diagnosis of definite DSM-IV bipolar I disorder.

Age at onset and childhood psychopathology were determined from SCID histories, school and medical records, and interviews with significant others. Early-onset bipolar disorder was defined as a first affective episode before age 19. As described previously (2), three child psychopathology categories were formed: behavior disorder (persistent, impairing disorders of hyperactivity/impulsivity warranting referral, three or more conduct symptoms, or substance/alcohol abuse before age 16); other diagnostically ambiguous symptoms (fewer than three conduct symptoms, significant anxiety, suicide gesture without evidence of major depression, or emotional response to physical or sexual abuse); and no childhood psychopathology (kappa=0.88 for categorization of child psychopathology versus no psychopathology for 40 subjects).

Four outcome variables are presented: the interviewer-rated Global Assessment of Functioning for the best level of functioning achieved during the follow-up, dichotomized into poor (score<70, N=44) and good (score≥70, N=64) (not rated, N=15); an independently rated 4-point index of overall functioning modeled after Beiser et al. (6) (intraclass correlation=0.86) and stratified into fair/poor (score=1–2, N=53) and good (score=3–4, N=70); rehospitalization between the 6- and 24-month follow-ups (N=28 rehospitalized) (rapid rehospitalizations were usually due to misdiagnosis and mismanagement); and the World Health Organization’s classification of illness course (7), categorized into partial or no remission (N=23) versus complete remission regardless of the number of episodes (N=94) (not rated, N=6).

Logistic regression was used to assess the association of age at onset and childhood psychopathology to each outcome. Two indicator (dummy) variables were created to distinguish the three childhood psychopathology groups. Unadjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals and odds ratios adjusting for the two predictors as well as for sex and education (≤high school or >high school) are presented.

Of the 123 subjects, 21.1% (N=26) had a behavior disorder in childhood, 48.0% (N=59) had other comorbidity, and 30.9% (N=38) had no childhood psychopathology. Both the behavior disorder and other symptoms groups had significantly poorer course and outcome compared to those with no psychopathology (t1).

Twenty-seven subjects (22.0%) had an early age at onset, and 96 (78.0%) had a later age at onset. The patients with an early age at onset had significantly poorer results on measures of course and outcome, except for the Global Assessment of Functioning rating. For example, 63.0% of the early-onset group (N=17) versus 37.5% of the later-onset group (N=36) were rated as fair/poor on the Beiser index.

In the multivariate model (t1>, adjusted odds ratio), behavior disorder and other symptoms were associated with a significantly poorer functional outcome, compared with no childhood psychopathology. Subjects with behavior disorder had a higher likelihood of rehospitalization than subjects with no childhood psychopathology. Patients with an early age at onset were less likely to achieve full remission, but the odds ratios for the Beiser index and the likelihood of rehospitalization were no longer significant.

Our data extend and clarify those of other studies on the relationship of age at onset to poorer functional outcome and episode relapse or recurrence in bipolar I disorder (1, 8, 9). Both early age at onset and childhood psychopathology were related to outcome. However, in the multivariate model, age at onset and childhood psychopathology had somewhat different effects, with childhood psychopathology (especially behavior disorders prior to the onset of mood disorder) related to poor functional outcome at 2 years and to rehospitalization, and early age at onset related to continued symptoms.

Our findings are limited to subjects with psychotic bipolar disorder first hospitalized at age 15 or older. Although some attrition occurred, there were no significant differences in the background characteristics of the completers and the subjects who refused or were lost to follow-up. Data on most child psychopathology features were based on parents’ and subjects’ recall. School records independently substantiated early behavior and academic problems.

Although several factors contribute to outcome, we conclude that it is important to separate the constructs of age at onset and psychopathology before onset of bipolar disorder, especially when considering clinical and functional outcome.

 

Received Feb. 8, 2001; revision received May 30, 2001; accepted Aug. 8, 2001. From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, State University of New York at Stony Brook; and the Department of Psychiatry and the School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York. Address reprint requests to Dr. Carlson, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, SUNY-Stony Brook, Putnam Hall-South Campus, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8790; gcarlson@mail.psychiatry.sunysb.edu (e-mail). Supported by NIMH grant MH-44801. The authors thank Janet Lavelle, the project psychiatrists, the interviewers and data team, the mental health professionals in Suffolk County, and the study participants for their assistance.

Tohen M, Hennen J, Zarate CM Jr, Baldessarini RJ, Strakowski SM, Stoll AL, Faedda GL, Suppes T, Gebre-Medhin P, Cohen BM: Two-year syndromal and functional recovery in 219 cases of first-episode major affective disorder with psychotic features. Am J Psychiatry  2000; 157:220-228
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Carlson GA, Bromet EJ, Sievers S: Phenomenology and outcome of subjects with early- and adult-onset psychotic mania. Am J Psychiatry  2000; 157:213-219
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Bromet EJ, Schwartz JE, Fennig S, Geller L, Jandorf L, Kovasznay B, Lavelle J, Miller A, Pato C, Ram R, Rich C: The epidemiology of psychoses: the Suffolk County Mental Health Project. Schizophr Bull  1992; 18:243-255
[PubMed]
 
Schwartz JE, Fennig S, Tanenberg-Karant M, Carlson G, Craig T, Galambos N, Lavelle J, Bromet EJ: Congruence of diagnoses 2 years after a first-admission diagnosis of psychosis. Arch Gen Psychiatry  2000; 57:593-600
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Spitzer RL, Williams JBW, Gibbon M, First MB: The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R (SCID), I: history, rationale, and description. Arch Gen Psychiatry  1992; 49:624-629
[PubMed]
 
Beiser M, Iacono WG, Erickson D: Temporal stability in the major mental disorders, in The Validity of Psychiatric Diagnosis. Edited by Robins LN, Barrett JE. New York, Raven Press, 1989, pp 77-97
 
Sartorius N, Jablensky A, Korten G, Ernberg G, Anker M, Cooper JE, Day R: Early manifestations and first-contact incidence of schizophrenia in different cultures: a preliminary report on the initial evaluation phase of the WHO Collaborative Study on determinants of outcome of severe mental disorders. Psychol Med  1986; 16:909-928
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
McClellan J, McCurry C, Snell J, DuBose A: Early-onset psychotic disorders: course and outcome over a 2-year period. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry  1999; 38:1380-1388
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Strakowski SM, Keck PE Jr, McElroy SL, West SA, Sax KW, Hawkins JM, Kmetz GF, Upadhyaya VH, Tugrul KC, Bourne ML: Twelve-month outcome after a first hospitalization for affective psychosis. Arch Gen Psychiatry  1998; 55:49-55
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
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References

Tohen M, Hennen J, Zarate CM Jr, Baldessarini RJ, Strakowski SM, Stoll AL, Faedda GL, Suppes T, Gebre-Medhin P, Cohen BM: Two-year syndromal and functional recovery in 219 cases of first-episode major affective disorder with psychotic features. Am J Psychiatry  2000; 157:220-228
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Carlson GA, Bromet EJ, Sievers S: Phenomenology and outcome of subjects with early- and adult-onset psychotic mania. Am J Psychiatry  2000; 157:213-219
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Bromet EJ, Schwartz JE, Fennig S, Geller L, Jandorf L, Kovasznay B, Lavelle J, Miller A, Pato C, Ram R, Rich C: The epidemiology of psychoses: the Suffolk County Mental Health Project. Schizophr Bull  1992; 18:243-255
[PubMed]
 
Schwartz JE, Fennig S, Tanenberg-Karant M, Carlson G, Craig T, Galambos N, Lavelle J, Bromet EJ: Congruence of diagnoses 2 years after a first-admission diagnosis of psychosis. Arch Gen Psychiatry  2000; 57:593-600
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Spitzer RL, Williams JBW, Gibbon M, First MB: The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R (SCID), I: history, rationale, and description. Arch Gen Psychiatry  1992; 49:624-629
[PubMed]
 
Beiser M, Iacono WG, Erickson D: Temporal stability in the major mental disorders, in The Validity of Psychiatric Diagnosis. Edited by Robins LN, Barrett JE. New York, Raven Press, 1989, pp 77-97
 
Sartorius N, Jablensky A, Korten G, Ernberg G, Anker M, Cooper JE, Day R: Early manifestations and first-contact incidence of schizophrenia in different cultures: a preliminary report on the initial evaluation phase of the WHO Collaborative Study on determinants of outcome of severe mental disorders. Psychol Med  1986; 16:909-928
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
McClellan J, McCurry C, Snell J, DuBose A: Early-onset psychotic disorders: course and outcome over a 2-year period. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry  1999; 38:1380-1388
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Strakowski SM, Keck PE Jr, McElroy SL, West SA, Sax KW, Hawkins JM, Kmetz GF, Upadhyaya VH, Tugrul KC, Bourne ML: Twelve-month outcome after a first hospitalization for affective psychosis. Arch Gen Psychiatry  1998; 55:49-55
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
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