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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
Silliness, giddiness, goofiness
Racing thoughts
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

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This Site Updated 04/09/11