Bipolar disorder was first thought of as juvenile
disorder in the mid 1990s by Joseph Biederman of
Havard and Barbara Geller of Washington University
in St. Louis
Children that have relatives with alcoholic tendencies
are more likely to be bipolar.
“Anticipation”: Genetic disorders are passed on at a
higher rate causing symptoms to show up earlier and
earlier and in some cases becoming more serious
Bipolar disorder begins before the age of 13 about 15-28% of the
time and before the age of 19 about 50-66% of the time.
1997 estimate: juvenile bipolar disorder thought only to affect 1
out of 20,000 children. In 2007 it is believed to be around 1 in
Estimated that 1/3 of the time symptoms of bipolar disorder first
appear in childhood or adolescence
Differences Between Pediatric and Adult Bipolar Disorder
Critics argue that normal children have quickly changing moods
Juvenile bipolar diagnosis has been neglected in the past because
children do not usually show the extreme mood swings that last
several months with normal behavior in between that adults
Bipolar disorder is difficult to distinguish between ADHD
The three major symptoms that they both share are:
Up to 30% of children diagnosed with ADHD are given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder
Up to 50% of children with bipolar disorder fit the criteria for the diagnosis of ADHD
Children with a bipolar parent have a higher than average rate of ADHD
Symptoms of bipolar in children are often mistaken for ADHD and the symptoms of
bipolar are different in adults.
1/3 of children diagnosed with ADHD actually suffer from normal symptoms of bipolar
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Possible symptoms of pediatric bipolar disorder overlap with other mood disorders. Some
of these include: rapid mood changes, inappropriate moods, and bursts of rage
The National Institute of Mental Health funded Course and Outcome
of Bipolar Illness in Youth (COBY) followed 263 children ages 7 to 17 for
2 years. They found that 70% recovered from their first episode of
mania or depression. However, they relapsed an average of three times.
These children only had symptoms 60% of the time but only were
diagnosed with bipolar disorder 20% of the time. Many with no bipolar
symptoms had other problems such as ADHD. Children originally
diagnosed with bipolar disorder eventually developed typical adult
The COBY study has also shown that children and adolescents with
bipolar disorder (171, mean age of 13.2 years) continue to suffer from the
same disorder 2 years later, with 68% recovering from their initial
episode but 58% experiencing a recurrence. This shows stability of
bipolar disorder through adolescence and, among some, into early
86 patients with prepubertal onset bipolar disorder for four years with a
mean age of 10.8 years, 72% of them relapsed.
In adults bipolar is usually treated with mood stabilizers
Lithium is the most popular drug
Experts believe that for children with early onset bipolar
treatment should start with a single drug (lithium) and
than drugs are added or subtracted with response.
Antipsychotic medications are also used in more severe
Supportive therapy provides strategies for solving everyday
Psychodynamic therapy may help older children and adolescents
explore current and past relationships, their psychological
development, and how to deal with uncomfortable feelings
Cognitive therapy where children and adolescents observe and
change their behavior. They can be taught proper social skills and
problem solving if they threaten to relapse to their mood swings.
Going to sleep and getting up at the same times each day may help
with mania and mood swings.
Parent education on how to cope with a child with erratic behavior
is necessary to help the child and not make the child’s problems and
family situations worse. Family therapy and support groups are
needed to help the parents and children deal with the behavioral
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