Diagnostic and Therapeutic Dilemmas in the Management of Pediatric-Onset Bipolar Disorder

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Although the diagnosis of pediatric-onset bipolar disorder is controversial, an increasing literature of systematic research has challenged the traditional view that this disorder is a rare condition. This article summarizes research regarding the atypical presentation of pediatric bipolar disorder and its overlap with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other comorbid conditions, as well as family-genetic and treatment data. When structured interview data were examined, cases of pediatric mania constituted 16% of referrals to our outpatient clinic. Presentation is atypical by adult standards and includes irritability, chronicity, and mixed state. Family-genetic and treatment data help to establish diagnostic validity. Pediatric bipolar disorder is not a rare condition. Treatment requires a combined pharmacotherapy approach to address issues of comorbidity. Atypical antipsychotic medications have provided promising treatment results, but additional controlled clinical trials are needed.

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62(suppl 14):10-15