Millions of Americans are affected by bipolar disorder. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (1997) give further details that up to one-third of 3.4 million American children and adolescents with depression may actually be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder. In the last 15 years, pediatric bipolar disorder (PBPD) is gradually becoming more recognized as a distinctive disorder for persons under the age of 18 years.
A psychosocial consequence of PBPD is that children and adolescents may struggle with academics and interpersonal relationships (Hamrin & Pachler, 2007) during critical stages of emotional development. Additionally, children and adolescents are at a higher risk for legal problems, substance abuse, increased suicidal behavior, and hospitalizations (Hamrin & Pachler, 2007).
Recent advancements in psychotherapy have shown that the recovery rate in treating patients with PBPD is remarkably high, which is a promising prognosis for relapse prevention. For treating PBPD, several empirically-based articles point to four methods of psychotherapy, which include: cognitive-behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy, psychoeducation, and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy. When considering the best treatment interventions, many pieces of literature also point to both pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic interventions that are needed to adequately treat PBPD (Fristad et al., 2007).
Nevertheless, the best support that a clinician can provide is to separate the child from the symptoms – the symptoms of PBPD do not define the personality of individuals seeking treatment. This awareness is paramount in helping to remind parents that their child is not “bad,” and that there is hope in successfully managing pathological symptoms to achieve an enhanced quality of life.
1. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2007). Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Bipolar Disorder. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 46(1): 107-125.
2. Fristad, M.A., Davidson, K.H., and Leffler, J.M. (2007). Thinking-feeling-doing: A therapeutic technique for children with bipolar disorder and their parents. Journal of Family Psychotherapy; 18(4): 81-103.
3. Hamrin, V., and Pachler, M. (2007). Pediatric bipolar disorder: Evidence-based psychopharmacological treatments. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing; 20(1): 40-58.