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Rapid, continuous cycling and psychiatric co-morbidity in pediatric bipolar I disorder


Corresponding author: Robert L Findling, MD, Director, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, University Hospitals of Cleveland, 11100 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-5080, USA. Fax: +1 216 844 5883; e-mail:


Objectives: The primary purpose of this study was to describe the clinical presentation of bipolar I disorder (BP-I) as it occurs in children and adolescents and to assess whether the manifestations of BP-I were similar in both age groups.

Method: Ninety youths between the ages of 5 and 17 years meeting full diagnostic symptom criteria for BP-I were included in this study. The diagnosis of BP-I was established for these youths based on the results of a semi-structured diagnostic interview and a clinical assessment by a child and adolescent psychiatrist. The course of a subset of these youngsters’ illnesses was assessed using the Life Charting Method (LCM). Data regarding the clinical presentation, longitudinal history, psychiatric co-morbidities and parental psychopathology were also obtained.

Results: The clinical presentation of BP-I was similar in children and adolescents. Youths meeting diagnostic criteria for BP-I developed an average of approximately 5.8 of the 7 symptoms of mania during periods of elevated or irritable mood. BP-I was found to be a cyclic disorder characterized by high rates of rapid cycling (50%) with almost no inter-episode recovery. Almost 75% of these subjects also met diagnostic symptom criteria for a disruptive behavior disorder. High rates of mood disorders were found in fathers.

Conclusions: These data suggest that the presentation of juvenile BP-I is a cyclic and valid clinical condition with manifestations on a continuum with the later-onset forms of this illness.