Bipolar Disorder in Children Lingers

Study finds 44% still suffer bouts of mania, depression as young adults

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THURSDAY, Oct. 9, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- A new study strongly suggests that many children with bipolar disorder continue to have bouts with the condition as young adults.

The study, published in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that about 44 percent of people who had the cyclical episodes of mania and depression as children still had them in the late teens and beyond.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis followed 108 children diagnosed with bipolar disorder, average age 11, for eight years, tracking their symptoms, diagnoses, daily cycles of mania and depression, and interactions with others through interviews with the kids and their parents.

By the study's end, half the patients were 18 or older, and 44.4 percent of that group continued to have manic episodes. About 35 percent also had substance use disorders, a rate similar to those who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder as adults.

Also, while almost 88 percent of all those studied recovered from the disorder, nearly three quarters of them relapsed.

While there has been an enormous increase in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder, some skepticism exists that children can truly have the condition, according to background information in the article.

"In conclusion, mounting data support the existence of child bipolar disorder I, and the severity and chronicity of this disorder argue strongly for large efforts toward understanding the neurobiology and for developing prevention and intervention strategies," the study authors wrote in a news release.

More information

The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) has more about bipolar disorder.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, Oct. 6, 2008

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