Childhood Bipolar Disorder

Doctor Ellen Leibenluft discusses recent research into childhood bipolar disorder, which is most commonly found in children with a family history of the disorder.

So in recent years there has been increased attention paid to the fact that children can get bipolar disorder. We’ve known for a very, very long time, really since the time of the Greeks that teenagers could develop bipolar disorder and in fact that’s a very common time for the illness to have its beginning, so you can often see it in teenagers or early adults. But in the last 15 years or so there has been more interest in the question of whether prepubertal children, children who haven’t yet gone through puberty, whether they can also develop bipolar disorder. It’s very clear now that they can. There certainly are children who develop a form of bipolar disorder which looks very similar to what adults with bipolar disorder have; very similar kinds of symptoms. They tend to get episodes of mania as well as episodes of depression. There is some evidence that these children may have a particularly severe form of bipolar disorder, they have frequent episodes of mania and of depression. We believe that by and large the illness that we’re seeing in children is relatively similar to the illness that we see in adults. That’s still an area of active research and there really haven’t been too many studies published that directly compare children with bipolar disorder to adults with bipolar disorder. In particular there haven’t been studies that compare brain function in children with bipolar disorder and adults with bipolar disorder. We're actually analyzing data from some studies like that right now. We do know that children with bipolar disorder tend to have very strong family histories of bipolar disorder, so they’ll have parents with bipolar disorder [or] other relatives with bipolar disorder. That’s one of the reasons we think that this is probably the same illness and not a different illness.

bipolar, disorder, childhood, family , brain, common time, puberty, teenager, adolescent, depression, ellen, leibenluft

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