Pilot Study of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety and Bipolar I Disorder

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Mass General Brigham




Bipolar Disorder
Anxiety Disorders


Drug: Treatment as usual
Behavioral: UP CBT

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


The specific goal of this research study is to investigate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a transdiagnostic, cognitive-behavioral therapy developed specifically to target common core processes across mood and anxiety disorders [Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders (UP)], for the treatment of patients with bipolar I disorder (BD-I) and comorbid anxiety. The study will compare treatment-as-usual with pharmacotherapy (TAU) plus 18 one-hour sessions of treatment with the UP to TAU alone. Patients in both treatment conditions will be followed over a 12-month period and will be assessed monthly to track changes in mood, anxiety and emotion-related symptoms; functional impairment; and relapse rates. Data on the acceptability of the treatment will be gathered concurrently through monthly patient self-reported ratings of treatment satisfaction, and by tracking rates of acceptance for randomization into the study, number of completed sessions, and dropout rates. The study will examine: 1) whether combined cognitive behavioral treatment (UP) for BD-I and comorbid anxiety disorders is an acceptable and feasible approach to treatment; 2) whether treatment with the UP for BD-I and comorbid anxiety disorders as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy treatment-as-usual (TAU) leads to greater symptom reduction and reduced functional impairment than pharmacotherapy alone, 3) whether treatment for BD-I and comorbid anxiety disorders with the UP improves relapse rates over a 6-month follow-up relative to TAU; and 4) whether reduction in symptoms, relapse rates, and functional impairment are mediated by changes in emotion regulation skills. The broader aim of this study is to address the need for improved treatments for bipolar disorder.


34 patients




18 to 65 years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Men and women age 18-65

DSM-IV diagnosis of bipolar I disorder and at least one of three additional anxiety disorders:

generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social phobia.

  • HAM-D-17 score <16 (i.e. depressive symptoms)
  • YMRS score < 12 (i.e. no or very low manic symptoms)
  • Current, stabilized (> 3 months) pharmacotherapy treatment under the care of a psychiatrist consisting of optimized, stable maintenance pharmacotherapy at maximum tolerated dosages according to Texas Implementation of Medication Algorithm.

Exclusion criteria

  • Active suicidality (HAM-D-17 suicide item #3 score > 3) in the past 2 months. Potential participants scoring 3 or higher on the HAM-D-17 suicide item will be immediately evaluated by the PI and Sponsor and referred to a higher level of care if clinically indicated.
  • DSM-IV bipolar I disorder subtype rapid cycling
  • DSM-IV manic or mixed episode in the past 2 months
  • DSM-IV major depressive episode in the past 2 months
  • Psychotropic medication not in accordance with the revised Texas Implementation of Medication Algorithm
  • Current Pregnancy
  • Medical illness or non-psychiatric medical treatment that would likely interfere with study participation.
  • Neurologic disorder, previous ECT, or history of head trauma (i.e. known structural brain lesion)
  • Current or past history of selected DSM-IV Axis I disorders other than bipolar disorder including: organic mental disorder, substance abuse within the past 12 months and/or history of substance abuse for > 1 year; current substance dependence (including alcohol), as assessed by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR, Substance Use Disorders (Section E); schizophrenia, delusional disorder, psychotic disorders not otherwise specified, obsessive compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (due to low prevalence of ~6.5% each).
  • Concurrent psychotherapy other than cognitive-behavioral therapy as provided in this study (to rule out other uncontrolled effects of concurrent psychotherapies)
  • Presence of metallic implants that would interfere with safety during fMRI scanning (i.e. cardiac pacemaker, metal plates, etc.)
  • Claustrophobia

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Single Blind

34 participants in 2 patient groups

Treatment as usual plus UP CBT
Experimental group
Existing psychiatrist-administered psychopharmacotherapy plus weekly transdiagnostic CBT
Behavioral: UP CBT
Treatment as usual
Active Comparator group
Existing psychiatrist-administered psychopharmacotherapy
Drug: Treatment as usual

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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