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Mental Health Center

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Fish Oil Soothes Personality Disorder

Omega Fatty Acids Ease Borderline Personality Symptoms

WebMD Health News

Jan. 17, 2003 -- Fish oil supplementation may be a simple and safe way to treat one of the most difficult to treat mental disorders, borderline personality disorder. Few people with the condition get adequate relief from antidepressants and mood stabilizers, but a new study shows daily fish oil supplementation can significantly reduce their symptoms without the negative side effects associated with other treatments.

Borderline personality disorder is a mental condition in which a person's personality becomes skewed and marked by periods of moodiness and impulsive aggression. Researchers say that treatment of the disorder with currently available medications provides only modest results.

But studies have shown that populations that eat larger amounts of seafood tend to have lower rates of mental disorders linked to personality disorders, such as bipolar disorder and major depression. This prompted researchers to investigate whether increasing a person's intake of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish would have any effect on symptoms.

The study, published in the January 2003 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, compared the effects of daily fish oil supplementation (one gram of ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid or E-EPA) in 20 adult women with moderate borderline personality with 10 women who were given a placebo.

After eight weeks of treatment, women who took the supplements had significantly diminished aggression as well as a drop in the severity of depression compared with the placebo group.

No adverse side effects were reported, which researcher Mary C. Zanarini, EdD, of the department of psychiatry at Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues, say is especially important. Taking prescribed medications is one of the biggest problems in treating mental disorders, but in this study 90% of both the fish-oil and placebo-treated groups complied and completed the study.

Researchers say the findings confirm prior studies that show fish oil supplementation is an effective addition to standard treatment for bipolar disorder and recurrent depression. But they say more research is needed to see if fish oil is equally effective in men or in those with more severe symptoms.

SOURCE: American Journal of Psychiatry, January 2003 • WebMD Medical News: "Personality Disorders Change Over Time."

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