PITTSBURGH, Oct. 2 -- Not all children with bipolar disorder may be getting properly identified because they fall just short of meeting diagnostic criteria for the disordercriteria that is based on adult experiencesfinds a study that examines the characteristics of children and adolescents who have symptoms of mania. The findings, from the first study of its kind to delineate the types of symptoms seen in children with bipolar spectrum disorders, were published today by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The researchers found that a significant number of children who presented with symptoms of bipolar disorder were just below the threshold of meeting the two primary classifications of bipolar disorder, mostly due to the fact that their manic episodes did not last long enough. However, these youth with "subthreshold" mania were similar in most ways to children and adolescents who met the full diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder.
"Some children with bipolar disorder have distinct episodes of manic symptoms that last for many days or weeks at a time, just like it classically presents in adults with bipolar disorder. However, we do not know very much about children who have very clear periods of manic symptoms that do not last for several days. The results from this study suggest that some of these kids likely have bipolar disorder," said David Axelson, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "We need more research to figure out which kids go on to become bipolar adults, so it is too early to say that every child with brief periods of manic symptoms is bipolar. However, it is reasonable for clinicians to consider the possibility of bipolar disorder in youth who present with mania that does not reach the duration criteria for adult bipolar disorder."
The study assessed the symptoms of 438 ch