The association of comorbid anxiety disorders with suicide attempts and suicidal ideation in outpatients with bipolar disorder

J Psychiatr Res. Apr-Jun 2007;41(3-4):255-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2006.08.004. Epub 2006 Oct 18.


Individuals with bipolar disorder are at increased risk for suicide attempts and completion. Although anxiety may be a modifiable suicide risk factor among bipolar patients, anxiety disorder comorbidity has not been highlighted as critical in identification of high-risk individuals nor has its treatment been integrated into suicide prevention strategies. In this study, ancillary to the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD), 120 outpatients with bipolar disorder completed detailed assessment of suicidal ideation and behaviors. We examined the association of current and lifetime comorbid anxiety disorders with suicidal ideation and behaviors univariately and with adjustment for potential confounders in regression models. Lifetime anxiety disorders were associated with a more than doubling of the odds of a past suicide attempt, and current anxiety comorbidity was associated with a more than doubling of the odds of current suicidal ideation. Individuals with current anxiety disorders had more severe suicidal ideation, a greater belief suicide would provide relief, and a higher expectancy of future suicidal behaviors. However, some of these associations appeared to be better accounted for by measures of bipolar severity including an earlier age at bipolar onset and a lack of current bipolar recovery. Comorbid anxiety disorders may play a role in characteristics of bipolar disorder that then elevate risk for suicidal ideation and attempts. While further research is needed to establish the precise nature of these associations, our data support that the presence of comorbid anxiety disorders in individuals with bipolar disorder should trigger careful clinical assessment of suicide risk.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Bipolar Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatients*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*