To assess the prevalence and correlates of childhood and adolescence sexual and/or physical abuse (SPA) in bipolar I disorder (BD) patients treated for a first episode of psychotic mania.
The Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC) admitted 786 first episode psychosis (FEP) patients between 1998 and 2000. Data were collected from patients’ files using a standardized questionnaire. 704 files were available, 43 were excluded because of a non-psychotic diagnosis at endpoint and 3 due to missing data regarding past stressful events. Among 658 patients with available data, 118 received a final diagnosis of BD and were entered in this study.
80% of patients had been exposed to stressful life events during childhood and adolescence and 24.9% to SPA: in particular, 29.8% of female patients had been exposed to sexual abuse. Patients who were exposed to SPA had poorer pre-morbid functioning, higher rates of forensic history, were less likely to live with family during treatment period and were more likely to disengage from treatment
Sexual and/or physical abuse is highly prevalent in BD patients presenting with a first episode of psychotic mania; exposed patients have lower pre-morbid functional levels and poorer engagement with treatment. The context in which such traumas occur must be explored in order to define if early intervention strategies may contribute to diminish their prevalence. Specific psychological interventions must also be developed.