Violent Mood Swings?

Swedish study dispels misconception of bipolar patients as violent and aggressive

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Bipolar disorder does not increase the risk of committing violent crime in affected individuals, according to a new study from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet.

Prior research had indicated a link between bipolar disorder -- also known as manic depression, which is characterized by extreme mood swings that range from "manic" highs to debilitating lows -- and violent behavior. However it remained unclear as to whether violent outbursts were caused by the disorder or other aspects of patients' personalities or lifestyles.

The new study, carried out in collaboration with Oxford University, found no correlation between the illness and violent behavior. Researchers compared violent crime incidents in more than 3,700 bipolar disorder patients in Swedish hospitals between 1973 and 2004 with 37,000 individuals without the disorder in a control group. About 21 percent of bipolar patients with a history of severe substance abuse were convicted of violent criminal behavior, whereas only 3 percent and 5 percent of individuals with no diagnosis of bipolar disorder or a diagnosis of bipolar disorder without severe substance abuse were convicted of such crimes, respectively.

Niklas Långström, head of the Centre for Violence Prevention at Karolinska Institutet, said the finding is similar to what researchers have found among other serious psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.

Långström said this kind of unwarranted mischaracterization and stigmatization contributes to the alienation many mentally ill people feel.

Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million Americans.

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Review Date: 
January 13, 2011
Last Updated:
January 13, 2011