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People with Bipolar Disorder are not More Likely to Commit Violent Crimes


There is often a fear that individuals with certain types of mental illness such as schizophrenia are more likely to engage in violent acts than individuals who do not have such illnesses. However, research and history have shown otherwise much of the time.

Recent research conducted at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden indicates that individuals with bipolar disorder do not have a greater risk of committing acts of violence. Rather, the crime statistics that indicate bipolar individuals are more likely to do so appear to be primarily due to their concurrent use of alcohol or drugs, not because they have bipolar disorder.

Many people assume that when someone with a mental illness commits a violent crime that it is because of his or her illness. And past studies have indicated that people with bipolar disorder do have a greater risk of becoming violent. But this Swedish study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, compared data spanning over 30 years. The scientists compared data of 3700 bipolar patients with 37,000 control subjects from the general population. They found that of those who were convicted of committing violent crimes, there was very little difference between the general population and those bipolar individuals who did not have significant substance abuse issues. The numbers were 3% and 5% respectively. However, the rate was substantially higher (21%) for bipolar patients who also had a severe substance abuse diagnosis.

This study suggests that abusing alcohol and / or drugs plays a much greater role in violent behavior than a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The researchers found the same to be true of individuals with schizophrenia - that they are only more likely to become violent than the general public if they abuse substances as well.

Unfortunately, however, many people still stigmatize and fear those who have serious psychiatric disorders; even though studies like these indicate they are no more dangerous than the general population.

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