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Diagnosis and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents

Karen Dineen Wagner, MD, PhD

Published: November 15, 2004

Article Abstract

Bipolar disorder is a serious illness in children that adversely affects social, academic, emotional, and family functioning. Its prevalence in adolescents is estimated to be as high as 1%. The diagnosis of bipolar disorder in young children is often a challenge, largely because the symptoms may differ from those exhibited in late adolescence and adulthood. The occurrence of comorbid disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also may complicate the diagnosis. Despite the significant severity and chronicity of this disorder in youths, very few controlled data are available to guide treatment decisions in children and adolescents. The treatment literature consists largely of open studies, case series, and case reports. Therefore, a pressing need exists for controlled trials to determine whether medications commonly used to treat the disorder in children are significantly superior to placebo, as well as to determine whether initial monotherapy or combination treatment is warranted. This article will review the epidemiology, diagnosis, course of illness, and treatment of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents.’ ‹

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