Childhood Bipolar: Mother Knows Best

Talking mother and angry sonrecent blog post in Bipolar News (one of our favorite resources for up-to-date information on bipolar research) argues that mother’s evaluations of their children are more useful than teacher’s report of symptoms and than reports from the children themselves when diagnosing childhood bipolar.

The article summarized research presented at the 2015 International Society for Bipolar Disorders by Eric Youngstrom.

Eric Youngstrom, Ph.D., is a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, and Psychiatry, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is also the Acting Director of the Center for Excellence in Research and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder.

The research was based on a meta-analysis of studies that looked at the value of checklist surveys completed by caregivers, teachers, and children themselves in evaluating pediatric bipolar disorder.

Overall,parents were better at detecting irritability, while children were better at assessing their energy levels and the quality of their sleep.

The article quoted some research on the epidemiology of bipolar in childhood:

Youngstrom reported that about 2% of children worldwide are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, when bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP NOS), a diagnosis given when symptoms do not meet the diagnostic criteria for Bipolar I or II, is included in the statistics, rates of bipolar disorder among children in the US reach about 6%.

Youngstrom mentioned that an epidemiological study by Kathleen Merikangas found that among children in the US with a bipolar spectrum diagnosis, only 22% were in treatment, compared to 38% of those with depression and 60% of those with ADHD.

An upsurge in the diagnosis of pediatric or childhood bipolar disorder led to the creation of a new diagnostic classification in DSM5 – Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. In DSM5 the diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder is reserved for children with clear manic episodes alternating with depressive episodes rather than a combination of depressive symptoms and angry outbursts. Whether this distinction will be clinically meaningful or not is not clear.

The article concluded by inviting parents to take advantage of a resource from Bipolar News.

Parents of children (aged 2–12) with mood, anxiety, and behavioral disorders are invited to join the Child Network, our program for tracking weekly symptoms which can then be printed out longitudinally to share with the child’s doctor.

For more information

Children at Risk for Bipolar

Outcomes of Childhood Bipolar

Children of Bipolar Parents