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What's new in psychiatry
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What's new in psychiatry
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
Literature review current through: Dec 2016. | This topic last updated: Jan 10, 2017.

The following represent additions to UpToDate from the past six months that were considered by the editors and authors to be of particular interest. The most recent What's New entries are at the top of each subsection.


Lithium may decrease self-harm in patients with bipolar disorder (August 2016)

Self-harm causes substantial morbidity in bipolar disorder, and patients who self-harm have an increased risk of suicide. Lithium may reduce the risk of self-harm. A recent study used electronic health records from a nationally representative sample from the United Kingdom to identify over 6000 patients with bipolar disorder who received maintenance monotherapy with lithium, valproate, olanzapine, or quetiapine [1]. Self-harm included any nonfatal act of self-injury, regardless of suicidal intent. Patients were matched on observed potential confounders such as history of prior self-harm, sex, and comorbid disorders. Self-harm rates were lower with lithium, compared with valproate, olanzapine, or quetiapine. There was no difference in the rate of self-harm among valproate, olanzapine, or quetiapine. Lithium is one of our preferred options for maintenance therapy for patients with bipolar disorder. (See "Bipolar disorder in adults: Choosing maintenance treatment", section on 'Reduced risk of suicide'.)


Childhood factors predicting persistence of ADHD into adulthood (November 2016)

Child/adolescent attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) persists into adulthood in approximately 40 to 60 percent of cases. In a longitudinal study of 453 children with ADHD, multivariate analysis found that initial ADHD symptom severity, co-occurring disorders, and parental mental health problems predicted the persistence of ADHD symptoms on follow-up assessment as adults (mean age of 25 years) [2]. Childhood IQ, socioeconomic status, parental education, and parent-child relationships showed no associations with adult ADHD symptom persistence. (See "Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical features, course, assessment, and diagnosis", section on 'Course'.)

Effectiveness of antidepressants for pediatric unipolar major depression (August 2016)

Antidepressant medications are often used to treat moderately to severely ill children with unipolar major depression. For children and adolescents with acute depressive disorders, first-line pharmacotherapy is typically fluoxetine. There are several randomized trials comparing antidepressant medications with placebo, but there are few head-to-head comparison trials. In a recent meta-analysis of 34 trials comparing one antidepressant with placebo or another active drug for the acute treatment of major depressive disorder in children and adolescents, fluoxetine, sertraline, and escitalopram were statistically more efficacious than placebo [3]. In addition, paroxetine was superior to clomipramine and fluoxetine was superior to nortriptyline. In a network meta-analysis subsequently performed to compare and rank antidepressants for the acute treatment of major depressive disorder, only fluoxetine was better than placebo. In comparison with other antidepressants, fluoxetine was significantly more effective than nortriptyline. Important limitations of the network meta-analysis include risk of bias within individual studies, lack of power and generalizability, and potential selective reporting. (See "Pediatric unipolar depression and pharmacotherapy: Choosing a medication", section on 'All antidepressants'.)


Continuation treatment with electroconvulsive therapy plus pharmacotherapy for remitted late-life depression (August 2016)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is often more effective for unipolar major depression than pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, particularly for late-life depression. Although continuation treatment for patients who remit with ECT typically consists of pharmacotherapy, ECT plus pharmacotherapy is superior to pharmacotherapy alone. In one study, older adults with unipolar major depression were acutely treated with ECT plus venlafaxine; those who remitted (n = 120) were randomly assigned to six months of open-label continuation treatment with ECT plus pharmacotherapy (continuation venlafaxine plus lithium) or pharmacotherapy alone [4]. Continuation ECT consisted of four weekly treatments following randomization and subsequent treatments as warranted by symptoms. Depression rating scale scores were lower with ECT plus pharmacotherapy than pharmacotherapy alone. There was no difference between the two groups in global cognitive functioning at baseline and post-ECT. Continuation ECT plus pharmacotherapy can benefit patients with late-life depression who initially respond to acute treatment with ECT plus pharmacotherapy. (See "Overview of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for adults", section on 'Efficacy'.)


Olanzapine for anorexia nervosa (January 2017)

Many patients with anorexia nervosa decline or do not respond to first-line treatment with nutritional rehabilitation (refeeding) and psychotherapy. For these patients, olanzapine has often been used as add-on treatment, despite low-quality evidence for its efficacy. Increased support for this approach was demonstrated by the preliminary findings from a large randomized trial (n = 152) that compared olanzapine with placebo and found a modest advantage with olanzapine, such that weight gain with active drug exceeded weight gain with placebo by approximately one pound per month [5]. (See "Anorexia nervosa in adults: Pharmacotherapy", section on 'Olanzapine'.)

Treatment of binge eating disorder (July 2016)

Several psychotherapies and medications have been studied for treating binge eating disorder. In a recent systematic review and meta-analysis of trials evaluating the efficacy of different treatment options compared with no treatment or placebo, there was strong evidence supporting the use of therapist-led cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), lisdexamfetamine, or second-generation antidepressants (eg, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) [6]. In addition, less compelling evidence indicated that patients can achieve abstinence with self-help CBT or topiramate. We regard CBT as first-line treatment; however, no head-to-head trials have compared the efficacy of different active treatments. (See "Binge eating disorder in adults: Overview of treatment", section on 'Cognitive-behavior therapy'.)


Age of symptom onset and diagnosis of adult ADHD (September 2016)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is conceptualized as a disorder with childhood onset that persists in adulthood. DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for adult ADHD require the presence of several symptoms prior to age 12 years. Multiple recent studies, however, have challenged this understanding of the disorder. One of them, a longitudinal cohort study, followed all children born in Pelotas, Brazil in 1993 up to the ages of 18 or 19 years [7]. Three hundred ninety-three of the 5249 children were diagnosed with ADHD at age 11 and 492 were diagnosed with ADHD at age 18 or 19 years. Only 60 children with ADHD continued to have ADHD as young adults (17.2 percent) and only 60 young adults with ADHD had the disorder in childhood (12.6 percent). The requirement of childhood onset for the diagnosis of adult ADHD is controversial and may be reexamined as further data become available. (See "Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical features, course, assessment, and diagnosis", section on 'Course'.)


Pharmacotherapy for antipsychotic-induced akathisia in schizophrenia (October 2016)

Benzodiazepines, beta blockers, and the anticholinergic drug benztropine are believed to be comparably effective in the treatment of akathisia in schizophrenia patients, based upon limited data from small clinical trials. Until recently, we favored benzodiazepines for first line treatment of akathisia. Earlier in 2016, however, a large retrospective analysis of claims and mortality data reported an increased mortality risk associated with benzodiazepine use in patients with schizophrenia [8]. Subsequently, a dose-related relationship between cumulative benzodiazepine use and increased mortality was found in a national registry study of over 20,000 Swedish adults with schizophrenia [9]. Although the study designs do not allow causality to be determined, based upon these findings, we now suggest that a beta blocker, such as propranolol, be used as first-line treatment for akathisia. Benzodiazepines remain an option, particularly in patients who do not respond to a beta blocker or benztropine. (See "Pharmacotherapy for schizophrenia: Side effect management", section on 'Akathisia'.)

Adjunctive antidepressant treatment in patients with schizophrenia (September 2016)

Approximately one in four patients with schizophrenia will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. Identification and management of depression requires exclusion of other clinical entities with overlapping presentations, such as negative symptoms of schizophrenia or antipsychotic drug-induced extrapyramidal symptoms. Previous systematic reviews have reported mixed effects of adjunctive antidepressants in schizophrenia patients; the clinical trials have multiple methodological limitations. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis, the largest to date, found that adjunctive antidepressant treatment compared with placebo or no adjunctive treatment in antipsychotic-treated schizophrenia patients led to reductions in depressive, negative, and overall symptoms without increasing psychotic symptoms [10]. Beyond the typical antidepressant side effects, no differences in adverse events were seen between groups. The findings support antidepressant treatment of apparent depression in schizophrenia, particularly after optimization of antipsychotic medication management. (See "Depression in schizophrenia", section on 'Pharmacotherapy for major depressive disorder'.)


Treatment for somatic symptom disorder (November 2016)

Somatic symptom disorder (SSD) is characterized by at least one distressing somatic symptom and excessive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors associated with somatic symptoms or related health concerns, whereas illness anxiety disorder (IAD) is characterized by high levels of anxiety about health without or with only mild somatic symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for these conditions. In a 12-week trial, 130 patients with SSD or IAD (86 percent had SSD) were randomly assigned to CBT or a waiting list control group [11]. Compared with the control group, there was significant improvement in health anxiety measures with CBT, and the benefit of CBT was maintained at the six-month follow-up assessment. (See "Somatization: Treatment and prognosis", section on 'Cognitive behavioral therapy'.)


Clinical manifestations of severe synthetic cannabinoid toxicity (July 2016)

Synthetic cannabinoids consist of a heterogeneous group of chemical compounds that act as agonists at cannabinoid receptors with 2 to 800 times the potency of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component of cannabis (marijuana). They have emerged as a popular recreational drug in the United States and Europe. In an observational study of a multicenter, hospital-based registry of medical toxicology consultations, over two-thirds of 277 patients with single-agent exposure to synthetic cannabinoids had altered mental status including severe agitation, toxic psychosis, hallucinations, seizures, and coma [12]. Rhabdomyolysis and acute kidney injury were present in approximately 5 percent of these patients. There were three deaths, including a 17-year-old adolescent with sudden death after first-time inhalational use. Thus, unlike cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids have significant potential to cause serious and life-threatening toxicity among recreational users. (See "Synthetic cannabinoids: Acute intoxication", section on 'Clinical manifestations'.)


Quetiapine monotherapy reduces symptoms of PTSD (August 2016)

There are few evidence-based medication options for patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who do not respond fully to treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). In trials to date, second-generation antipsychotic (SGA) drugs have been most promising, but they carry a significant side effect burden and have limited evidence of benefit. In a recent 12-week clinical trial comparing quetiapine monotherapy with placebo in 80 United States military veterans with chronic PTSD, patients assigned to receive quetiapine compared with placebo experienced reductions in PTSD symptoms overall and in symptoms specific to re-experiencing and hyperarousal [13]. These results support a role for SGA medications in the treatment of PTSD resistant to SSRIs/SNRIs. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is favored over medication as first-line treatment for PTSD, but medication is an acceptable alternative if CBT is not available or the patient prefers medication. (See "Pharmacotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults", section on 'Monotherapy'.)


Psychotropic medication and violent reoffending after prison release (November 2016)

The prevalence of severe mental illness has been estimated at 15 to 25 percent of people in US prisons. Assuring mental health care continuity in the community for people on release from prison may prevent subsequent incarceration. In a cohort study of released prisoners in Sweden, rates of violent reoffending were lower during periods when people received psychotropic medications (antipsychotics, psychostimulants, and/or drugs to treat substance use disorder) compared with periods when they were not medicated [14]. Assuring mental health care continuity in the community for people on release from prison may prevent subsequent incarceration. (See "Clinical care of incarcerated adults", section on 'Psychiatric disorders'.)

Use of adjunctive antidepressants for treating complicated grief with comorbid depression (August 2016)

Complicated grief is a distinct syndrome that often occurs in bereaved individuals and is characterized by maladaptive thoughts, dysfunctional behaviors, and poorly regulated emotions. The best treatment for complicated grief is psychotherapy that is specific for complicated grief (complicated grief therapy, CGT). Antidepressants are frequently prescribed as an adjunctive therapy. Although adjunctive antidepressants do not appear to mitigate symptoms of complicated grief, they can improve comorbid unipolar major depression, which is common. In a recent trial, 395 adults with complicated grief were randomly assigned to citalopram alone, placebo alone, CGT plus citalopram, or CGT plus placebo [15]. As expected, more patients responded to CGT plus placebo than placebo alone. The addition of citalopram did not significantly improve complicated grief outcomes. However, improvement of depressive symptoms was greater with citalopram. Thus, in patients with complicated grief and depressive symptoms, the addition of citalopram may be helpful. (See "Complicated grief in adults: Treatment", section on 'Other options'.)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy and other psychotherapies for prevention of recurrent self-harm (August 2016)

Self-harm is defined as an intentional act of self-injury, regardless of suicidal intent, and is a growing problem that consumes considerable hospital resources. Psychotherapy is typically used to manage patients who self-harm, and a recent study establishes that specific psychotherapies can be beneficial. A meta-analysis of 10 randomized trials compared cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or problem solving therapy with usual care in >2200 patients with an episode of self-harm who were followed for up to 12 months [16]. Repetition of self-harm was less likely to occur with CBT/problem solving therapy than usual care (odds ratio 0.80). In addition, improvement of depression, including hopelessness and suicidal ideation, was greater with active treatment. The review also included a meta-analysis of three randomized trials that compared dialectical behavior therapy with usual care in patients with an episode of self-harm; the frequency of self-harm decreased more with dialectical behavior therapy. (See "Suicidal ideation and behavior in adults", section on 'Psychotherapy'.)

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  1. Hayes JF, Pitman A, Marston L, et al. Self-harm, Unintentional Injury, and Suicide in Bipolar Disorder During Maintenance Mood Stabilizer Treatment: A UK Population-Based Electronic Health Records Study. JAMA Psychiatry 2016; 73:630.
  2. Roy A, Hechtman L, Arnold LE, et al. Childhood Factors Affecting Persistence and Desistence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Adulthood: Results From the MTA. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2016; 55:937.
  3. Cipriani A, Zhou X, Del Giovane C, et al. Comparative efficacy and tolerability of antidepressants for major depressive disorder in children and adolescents: a network meta-analysis. Lancet 2016; 388:881.
  4. Kellner CH, Husain MM, Knapp RG, et al. A Novel Strategy for Continuation ECT in Geriatric Depression: Phase 2 of the PRIDE Study. Am J Psychiatry 2016; 173:1110.
  5. Attia E. Who is Willing to Take Olanzapine and Why? An Initial Look at Outpatient Participants in an Olanzapine vs Placebo Trial for Anorexia Nervosa. Presented at the XXII Annual Meeting of the Eating Disorders Research Society, New York, NY, October 29, 2016.
  6. Brownley KA, Berkman ND, Peat CM, et al. Binge-Eating Disorder in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med 2016; 165:409.
  7. Caye A, Rocha TB, Anselmi L, et al. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Trajectories From Childhood to Young Adulthood: Evidence From a Birth Cohort Supporting a Late-Onset Syndrome. JAMA Psychiatry 2016; 73:705.
  8. Fontanella CA, Campo JV, Phillips GS, et al. Benzodiazepine use and risk of mortality among patients with schizophrenia: a retrospective longitudinal study. J Clin Psychiatry 2016; 77:661.
  9. Tiihonen J, Mittendorfer-Rutz E, Torniainen M, et al. Mortality and Cumulative Exposure to Antipsychotics, Antidepressants, and Benzodiazepines in Patients With Schizophrenia: An Observational Follow-Up Study. Am J Psychiatry 2016; 173:600.
  10. Helfer B, Samara MT, Huhn M, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Antidepressants Added to Antipsychotics for Schizophrenia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Psychiatry 2016; 173:876.
  11. Hedman E, Axelsson E, Andersson E, et al. Exposure-based cognitive-behavioural therapy via the internet and as bibliotherapy for somatic symptom disorder and illness anxiety disorder: randomised controlled trial. Br J Psychiatry 2016; 209:407.
  12. Riederer AM, Campleman SL, Carlson RG, et al. Acute Poisonings from Synthetic Cannabinoids - 50 U.S. Toxicology Investigators Consortium Registry Sites, 2010-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016; 65:692.
  13. Villarreal G, Hamner MB, Cañive JM, et al. Efficacy of Quetiapine Monotherapy in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Am J Psychiatry 2016; 173:1205.
  14. Chang Z, Lichtenstein P, Långström N, et al. Association Between Prescription of Major Psychotropic Medications and Violent Reoffending After Prison Release. JAMA 2016; 316:1798.
  15. Shear MK, Reynolds CF 3rd, Simon NM, et al. Optimizing Treatment of Complicated Grief: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry 2016; 73:685.
  16. Hawton K, Witt KG, Salisbury TL, et al. Psychosocial interventions following self-harm in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Psychiatry 2016; 3:740.
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