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Childhood-Onset Bipolar Disorder

Visit the BPhoenix Bipolar & Depression Message Board.

It is estimated that one-third of all the children in the United States who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder with hyperactivity are actually suffering from early-onset bipolar disorder. Until recently, bipolar disorder was not viewed as an illness that could occur among children.

Many psychiatrists are reluctant to give a diagnosis of bipolar disorder to a young child for many reasons. Distinguishing between normal and abnormal behavior in children is difficult as all children suffer from some degree of impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and a low tolerance for frustration. Also, the symptoms of early-onset bipolar can overlap or mimic the symptoms of ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), and/or anxiety disorders, clouding the picture even further. Bipolar disorder in children usually presents quite differently from the way it presents in adults. Children normally have a more chronic course of illness and tend to cycle very rapidly. Some may have frequent spikes of highs and lows within a 24 hour period. Bipolar children tend to be oppositional and inflexible, they are often extremely irritable, and most experience rages that can last for hours at a time.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Childhood-Onset Bipolar Disorder

Common Symptoms of COBPD:

According to Demetri and Janice Papolos, authors of "The Bipolar Child", the symptoms observed in children with early-onset bipolar disorder most commonly include the ones listed below:

Separation anxiety
Rages and explosive temper tantrums lasting up to several hours
Marked irritability
Oppositional behavior
Rapid cycling (frequent mood swings occurring within an hour, a day, or several days)
Distractibility and hyperactivity
Impulsivity
Restlessness/fidgetiness
Silliness, giddiness, goofiness
Racing thoughts
Aggression
Grandiosity
Carbohydrate cravings
Risk-taking behaviors
Depressed mood or lethargy
Low self-esteem
Difficulty getting up in the morning
Social Anxiety
Oversensitivity to emotional or environmental triggers
Bedwetting (especially boys)
Night terrors
Rapid or pressured speech
Fascination with gore or morbid topics
Hypersexuality

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This Site Updated 04/09/11