Quality of life in bipolar disorder
Maintaining good quality of life is an important goal for people with bipolar disorder. Beyond managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, people naturally want to maximise satisfaction in important life areas, such as the social, leisure, sleep, and identity domains.
The goal of good quality of life can be particularly challenging for people who have a long history with bipolar disorder, and have experienced a large number of episodes. Our international team of researchers, clinicians and lived experience experts see this as an important gap in treatment options, and have been working over the last few years to develop an accessible self-help intervention that hopefully will make this challenge a bit easier.
The ORBIT project
In 2016, we received 4-year funding from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council to develop and test two brief online interventions designed to improve quality of life for people who have had 10 or more episodes of bipolar disorder. The project is called ORBIT, which stands for ‘online recovery-focused individualised bipolar tool’.
The two interventions differ in therapeutic approach, but to make sure our participants aren’t biased, we won’t say too much about their content. Both are based on best-practice principles of online delivery of psychological intervention. The content is delivered through peer videos (people with bipolar disorder explaining the skills), there are plenty of interactive exercises, discussion forums and charts for helping monitor progress. The active phase of both interventions goes for 5 weeks, but we will follow people up for 6 months to assess the benefits of participating (participants are paid for the assessment parts of the study). During the 5-week active phase, participants have email access to a personal online coach who will help them engage with the onsite content.
Why is this important?
We believe this new intervention strategy for people has the potential to change the way we think about the psychological part of bipolar disorder management. By delivering the intervention online, we hope to overcome the many barriers people face to accessing targeted support for their bipolar disorder. By making the intervention self-help, we hope to empower people with the skills they need to manage their own quality of life. By encouraging social interaction on the site, and using lived experience experts to deliver the content (by video), we hope to create a sense of an empowered online community of people working to improve their own quality of life, and at the same time help others with the challenge.
With input from clinical and lived experience experts around the world, we have now finished building the two online interventions. We are now are seeking participants for this research trial. As this is an online study, we are recruiting participants from around the world (currently the site is available in English only, so we are expecting that most participants will come from English-speaking countries). The interventions are designed as an add-on, not a replacement for, people’s normal care: To participate, people must be under the care of a nominated medical practitioner.
If you would like more information about the ORBIT project, including full eligibility criteria, please visit www.orbitonline.org