Group support for bipolar disorder

A reader sent in the question, "Is there any evidence that support groups help people with bipolar disorder?"

Good question! The short answer: yes.

There are only a handful of controlled studies on this issue, the best one being a study done in Spain by Francesc Colom and his colleagues at the University of Barcelona.  They found that people with bipolar disorder who participated in educationally-oriented groups run by therapists- in which every session involved tasks such as learning to identify early warning signs of relapse - did much better over 5 years than people who attended a support group that did not involve education about bipolar disorder.

In other words, it may matter what kind of group you participate in.  Most people with the disorder feel supported by groups but it may be that the most helpful kind involve instruction on lifestyle management techniques such as sleep/wake cycle monitoring, identifying early warning signs, or determining how to cope with stress.  If you plan to attend a group, try to determine early whether you feel comfortable with the people in it, the therapist or leader, and the content. Although a truism, what is helpful to one person with the disorder will not necessarily be helpful to someone else.