Little is known about the longitudinal course of mood symptoms and functioning in youth who are at high risk for bipolar disorder (BD). Identifying distinct course trajectories and predictors of those trajectories may help refine treatment approaches.
This study examined the longitudinal course of mood symptoms and functioning ratings in 126 youth at high risk for BD based on family history and early mood symptoms. Participants were enrolled in a randomized trial of family-focused therapy and followed longitudinally (mean 2.0 years, SD = 53.6 weeks).
Using latent class growth analyses (LCGA), we observed three mood trajectories. All youth started the study with active mood symptoms. Following the index mood episode, participants were classified as having a “significantly improving course” (n = 41, 32.5% of sample), a “moderately symptomatic course” (n = 21, 16.7%), or a “predominantly symptomatic course” (n = 64, 50.8%) at follow-up. More severe depression, anxiety, and suicidality at the study’s baseline were associated with a poorer course of illness. LCGA also revealed three trajectories of global functioning that closely corresponded to symptom trajectories; however, fewer youth exhibited functional recovery than exhibited symptomatic recovery.
Mood trajectories were assessed within the context of a treatment trial. Ratings of mood and functioning were based on retrospective recall.
This study suggests considerable heterogeneity in the course trajectories of youth at high risk for BD, with a significant proportion (32.5%) showing long-term remission of symptoms. Treatments that enhance psychosocial functioning may be just as important as those that ameliorate symptoms in youth at risk for BD.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.