Cognitive Function, Symptoms, Coping Style in Older Adults With Bipolar Disorder

woman with hands over face
woman with hands over face
Investigators suggest to optimize treatment to reduce depressive symptoms and focusing on therapeutic intervention for coping mechanisms in patients with bipolar disorder.

More active coping is associated with fewer depressive symptoms and better executive functioning in older age adults with bipolar disorder, and furthermore, subclinical depressive symptoms can have a negative influence on active coping, even for euthymic patients, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The current study used the convenience samples of 2 previous studies of older adults with bipolar disorder. These cohort studies combined to create a sample of 90 euthymic patients (55.6% female, mean age 67.3) with bipolar disorder type I and II. Results determined that more active coping is associated with fewer depressive symptoms (=.001) and better executive functioning (=.02), however, the association between coping styles and executive functioning became nonsignificant when current depressive symptoms were added to the same model. These findings indicate that subclinical depressive symptoms can impact coping style, even in euthymic patients.

As most older adults with bipolar disorder have a passive coping style, active coping styles can have a positive impact on course of illness and mood regulation, it is important to examine the relationship between mood symptoms, coping styles, and cognitive functioning to identify ways to optimize treatment.

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Study investigators believe that optimizing treatment for the reduction of depressive symptoms in all individuals is ideal, as these symptoms impact the coping styles of even euthymic patients, whose depressive symptoms are more easily missed. Treatment interventions designed to promote active coping must also take mood into account. They conclude, “[when] the complex interactions between cognitive functioning, mood and coping styles are well understood, care for bipolar disorder in older people can be improved to optimise their functioning and quality of life.”


Paans NPG, Dols A, Comijs HC, Stek ML, Schouws SNTM. Associations between cognitive functioning, mood symptoms and coping styles in older age bipolar disorder [published online April 5, 2018]. J Affect Disord. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.04.052