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Childhood-Onset Bipolar Disease More Severe

Childhood-onset subjects have longer episodes, more likely to have anti-social and drug use problems

TUESDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A small proportion of adult patients with bipolar disorders have roots of the disease in early childhood, and these patients tend to be more severely affected, according to a report in the September issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Anthony Levitt, M.D., of the Sunnybrook and Women's Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Canada, and a colleague conducted a retrospective, community-based study of the relationship between age of onset of bipolar I disorder and illness characteristics in adults. The authors identified 1,411 adults with bipolar disorder in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and divided them into groups based on age of onset.

About one in 10 patients reported childhood-onset of the disease, the investigators found. Patients with childhood-onset of bipolar disorder reported the longest episodes -- with an average of 260 weeks -- compared to those with adult-onset disease where the average episode length was about 75 weeks. Anti-social personality disorder and drug-use disorder were more prevalent in childhood-onset subjects than in adult-onset subjects.

"Implications [of the study] include heightened awareness of the potential prognostic importance of age at onset in the phenomenology, course, and comorbid conditions of bipolar disorder," the authors write.

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