"In the past, mental health professionals thought that about one percent of teens was bipolar our research indicates that if a strict definition of the illness is applied, up to twenty percent of adolescents on psychiatric units may be manic-depressive," says lead author Jeffrey Hunt, MD, a child psychiatrist at Bradley Hospital and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown Medical School. The study appears in the December issue of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is characterized by dramatic mood swings from overly "high" and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again. "There are often periods of normal mood in between, but there is always accompanying serious impairment in functioning," says Hunt.
This disorder was once believed to be rare in children and adolescents, but because of controversies surrounding diagnosis in juveniles, and because few large-scale studies have been conducted, prevalence rates of bipolar disorder in clinical and community samples of children and adolescents remain difficult to determine, the authors write.
The authors say that screening patients for manic symptoms upon admittance to a psychiatric unit can ultimately lead to better treatment overall. For example, many psychiatric patients first present with symptoms of depression, but depression can also be an indicator of bipolar disorder. The danger lies in the fact that the medication for treating depression can actually have an adverse effect on someone with manic-depression.
"This research is important because diagnosis of juvenile bipolar disorder is controversial impulsivity, irritability and hyperactivity commonly occur in adolescents
Contact: Carol L. Vieira