bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder or bipolar illness is the term now applied to what was once termed manic-depressive illness. It occurs is children, and adults with the disorder sometimes relate that their symptoms began in childhood. It is characterized by either alternating depression and mania, or rapid mood swings. There is apparently a strong genetic component, as identical twins have a 65% rate of "concordance" (both twins are affected). Fewer than 20% of fraternal twin pairs show this linkage. Bipolar disorder or mood disturbances such as depressive illness are more likely in family members of patients with bipolar disorder.

The psychiatric manifestations of bipolar disorder in older children and adolescents can include

  • grandiose thoughts
  • high activity levels (often at bedtime)
  • pressured speech
  • distractibility
  • increased pleasurable activities with high levels of danger such as drug and alcohol abuse
  • overspending
  • extreme irritability and emotionality

The cornerstone of treatment of children and adolescents suffering with bipolar disorder is medication therapy. Medications used include lithium carbonate, certain anti-psychotic medications such as haloperidol during manic phases, and especially the anticonvulsants valproate and tegretol, which have great mood-stabilizing properties.

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