Author(s): Schaff MR, Fawcett J, Zajecka JM
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Anticonvulsants have been shown to be effective in many patients with psychiatric disorders, especially those with bipolar affective disorder. We present our clinical experience with divalproex sodium in the treatment of 63 patients with a variety of affective disorders that had proved refractory to conventional pharmacotherapy. METHOD: We reviewed the charts of 63 patients diagnosed as bipolar I (35 patients), bipolar II (23 patients), or schizoaffective, bipolar type (5 patients). Twelve patients who appeared to have recurrent unipolar depression had a retrospectively recognized history of "covert cycling," with brief periods of socially acceptable hypomania occurring between depressive episodes. Prior to treatment with divalproex, 45 patients had been classified as treatment failures with lithium, 29 patients had been classified as treatment failures with carbamazepine, and 35 patients had also failed on a combination of lithium and carbamazepine. Divalproex was given to these patients and titrated to achieve blood levels in the range of 50 to 100 mg/L. RESULTS: Forty-seven (75\%) of the 63 patients responded positively to the addition of divalproex to their regimens. Of 45 patients who had failed to respond to lithium, 38 (84\%) responded when divalproex was added. Of 29 patients who had failed to respond to carbamazepine, 20 (69\%) responded when divalproex was added. Of 26 rapid-cycling patients, 21 (81\%) responded to the addition of divalproex. Side effects required drug withdrawal in 9 patients (14\%). CONCLUSION: The results confirm previous findings that both mania and rapid mood cycling may respond to a pharmacologic regimen that includes divalproex. Many patients who appear to have recurrent, major unipolar depression may actually be convert cyclers who will respond to divalproex, sometimes in combination with an antidepressant medication.
This article was published in J Clin Psychiatry
and referenced in Journal of Depression and Anxiety