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Psychosocial Functioning, Familiality, and Psychiatric Comorbidity in Bipolar Youth With and Without Psychotic Features

Liwei L. Hua, MD, PhD; Timothy E. Wilens, MD; MaryKate Martelon, MPH; Patricia Wong, BA; Janet Wozniak, MD; and Joseph Biederman, MD

Published: March 15, 2011

Article Abstract

Objective: Few studies have examined the correlates of psychosis in children and adolescents with bipolar disorder (BPD). We examined psychiatric comorbidity, familiality, and psychosocial functioning in multiple domains in BPD children and adolescents with and without psychotic features.

Method: As part of 2 ongoing family-based studies of children and adolescents with DSM-IV-defined BPD, we compared youth and their families with psychotic symptoms (BPD+P) and without psychotic symptoms (BPD-P). All youth and family members were assessed using indirect and direct structured psychiatric interviews (Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders-Epidemiologic Version and DSM-IV Structured Clinical Interview) in a blinded manner. One study was conducted from January 2000 through December 2004, and the other study was conducted from February 1997 through September 2006.

Results: Of the 226 youth with BPD, 33% manifested psychotic symptoms, as defined by the presence of hallucinations or delusions. We found that BPD+P youth had a greater number of BPD episodes (P < .01), more psychiatric hospitalizations (P < .01), and significantly higher rates of psychiatric comorbidity compared to BPD-P youth (all P values < .05). Additionally, a higher percentage of BPD+P youth had a family history of psychosis (P = .01). There was a lower processing speed (P = .03) and lower arithmetic scaled score (P = .04) in BPD+P youth, but no other meaningful differences in cognitive variables were identified between the 2 BPD groups. Psychosis in BPD was also associated with decreased family cohesion (P = .04) and poorer overall global functioning (P < .01).

Conclusions: In children and adolescents with BPD, those who manifest psychotic features have higher rates of comorbid psychopathology, family history of psychosis, and poorer overall functioning in multiple domains than BPD children without psychosis. Future studies should examine neuroimaging correlates, medication response, and longitudinal course of children and adolescents with BPD who manifest psychosis as part of their clinical picture.

J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72(3):397-405

Submitted: February 3, 2010; accepted May 4, 2010


Corresponding author: Timothy E. Wilens, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, YAW 6A, 55 Fruit St, Boston, MA 02114 (

Volume: 72

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