Stichting tot Steun VCVGZ has awarded over 160,000 Euros to Annemiek Dols and Alexandra Beunders for a mixed-methods
study in older people with bipolar disorder without medication. This research consists of a quantitative part and a qualitative part and is being conducted by Alexandra Beunders, psychiatrist training in PhD student at GGZ inGeest. Patient experts (ervaringsdeskundigen) will also be involved in the design and implementation of the research.

In the guideline for bipolar disorder, long-term treatment with maintenance medication is recommended to prevent relapse. However, especially among people over 50, there is a group of patients who have stopped taking medication. This group is invisible to treatment facilities and therefore excluded from research, while these people can provide valuable information about what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder without medication.

In the field of ​​psychosis and depression, much research has already been done into the effects of interrupting medication and developing medication-free treatment options. In the field of bipolar disorder, hardly any research has been done on this, while it is known that a considerable group of people voluntarily decide to stop taking medication. What considerations did they make when they came to this choice? Do they have additional resilience or do they have specific strategies for remaining stable? Or have they perhaps been wrongly diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the past?

In the quantitative part of the study, 60 new participants who do not use medication are compared with 220 participants from the DOBi (Dutch Older Bipolar) cohort study who do use medication. The new participants must be over 50 years old, have a bipolar disorder diagnosis for at least 5 years and no medication for this for at least 5 years. For the qualitative part, 20-25 of the new 60 participants who do not use medication are selected. They will receive an individual semi-structured interview. This will include questions about how they experience their disease and which strategies they use to stay stable without medication.

This research will show the clinical and personal characteristics of the subgroup of people with bipolar disorder who have stopped taking medication on their own initiative. Knowledge of this can benefit the clinical guidelines for bipolar disorder. It could also improve shared decision-making on maintenance medication and psycho-education courses with new self-management strategies.

This research project will start in October 2020. By that time, more information will be posted on  the GGZ inGeest website about the recruitment of participants. For questions please contact Alexandra Beunders.