Older patients often have multiple health issues at once, and this includes emotional disorders. This article, the Diagnosis and Management of Bi-Polar Disorder with Co-Morbid Anxiety in the Elderly, attempts to pick apart the complexities of determining whether a geriatric patient is bi-polar, and how to come up with a treatment plan.
Currently, in individuals over 65 year of age, prevalence rates of bipolar disorder range from 0.1% to 0.4%. As is the case for bipolar disorder in younger individuals, bipolar disorder may be unrecognized or underrecognized among older adults. While anxiety disorders are frequently comorbid among younger individuals with bipolar illness, the prevalence and impact of comorbid anxiety is far less understood among geriatric individuals with bipolar disorder, in whom anxiety disorders may be underreported. This comorbidity may have serious consequences, since in older adult populations with depression, the presence of comorbid anxiety is associated with more severe depressive symptoms, more chronic medical illness, greater functional impairment, and lower quality of life; the same associations may prove to be true in older patients with bipolar disorder. As with younger individuals with bipolar disorder, effective treatment of the underlying mood disorder is critically important before treating comorbid symptoms. Unfortunately, few evidence-based studies are available to guide the treating clinician in the management of these vulnerable patients, many of whom have additional psychiatric or medical comorbidity.