Objective: Using predetermined criteria for study quality and methods, a literature review and meta-analysis of seven reports about pediatric bipolar disorder (BPD) was conducted to determine if there is a consistent picture of the phenomenology and clinical characteristics of BPD in children and adolescents.
Methods: Searches were conducted in MedLine and PsycINFO using the terms mania, BPD, children and adolescents, and was limited to published articles in peer-reviewed journals. Seven reports were selected that met the following criteria: a systematic method for the elicitation and reporting of symptoms and clinical characteristics of subjects; subjects were interviewed by a trained researcher or clinician; ages 5–18 years; use of a diagnostic system, either DSM or RDC for categorization; a consensus method for the establishment of the diagnosis of BPD.
Results: Most DSM-IV symptoms of mania were common in the children and adolescents with BPD with the most common symptoms being increased energy, distractibility, and pressured speech. On average, four of five bipolar cases also showed threshold levels of irritable mood and grandiosity, and more than 70% of all cases showed elated/euphoric mood, decreased need for sleep, or racing thoughts. Roughly 69% of cases also showed poor judgment, whereas only half of bipolar cases demonstrated flight of ideas, and slightly more than one-third showed hypersexuality or psychotic features.
Conclusions: The clinical picture that emerges is that of children or adolescents with periods of increased energy (mania or hypomania), accompanied by distractibility, pressured speech, irritability, grandiosity, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep and euphoria/elation.