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Bipolar Disorders and ADHD

An increasing number of youth are being diagnosed with, and treated for, bipolar disorder.  Youth with episodic mania, elation and irritability common during manic episodes. In diagnosing mania in youth, clinicians should focus on the presence of episodes that consist of a distinct change in mood accompanied by concurrent changes in cognition and behavior. Bipolar disorder should not be diagnosed in the absence of such episodes.

In youth with ADHD, symptoms such as distractibility and agitation should be counted as manic symptoms only if they are markedly increased over the youth’s baseline symptoms at the same time that there is a distinct change in mood and the occurrence of other associated symptoms of mania,” wrote A. Baroni and colleagues, National Institute of Mental Health.

The researchers concluded: “Although different techniques for diagnosing comorbid illnesses have not been compared systematically, it appears most rational to diagnose co-occurring illnesses such as ADHD only if the symptoms of the co-occurring illness are present when the youth is euthymic.”

Baroni and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (Practitioner review: the assessment of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2009;50(3):203-15).

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