Pediatric Bipolar Disorder

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It is not uncommon for a healthy child to have moments of not staying still, dealing with frustration and failing to control impulses. In order to diagnose a bipolar disorder however, adult criteria must be met. There are no set criteria for a child in The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual IV (DSM-IV), which is the model used when diagnosing bipolar disorder. While the DSM-IV manual requires a distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable moods lasting through at least four days, around seventy percent of children with bipolar disorder have mood swings several times a day (About Pediatric Bipolar Disorder). While it is difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder in children because the symptoms may resemble other illnesses, early intervention and treatment is the best possible alternative to give children the full potential to succeed and minimize the effects that the illness may have.

The dictionary definition of bipolar disorder is any of several mood disorders usually characterized by alternating episodes of depression and mania or by episodes of depression alternating with mild nonpsychotic excitement (Medical Dictionary). Exactly what does that mean? It means that it is a medical condition in which a person will experience extreme highs and lows in his or her moods. There are four different types of bipolar disorder which helps to categorize patients based on their symptoms. The four types of bipolar disorder are Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cyclothymia, and Bipolar – NOS. Bipolar I is where the child experiences intense alternating episodes of mania and depression. Bipolar II is where the child will experience episodes of hypomania between recurring periods of depression. Cyclothymia is a form of the disorder in which there are definite mood swings, but the periods are less severe. Finally, Bipolar – NOS, which stands for “not otherwise specified”, is used as a catch all. This is where doctors classify a patient with bipolar disorder but can’t categorize it under one of the other three categories (About Pediatric Bipolar Disorder).

When dealing with bipolar disorder, there are four types of mood episodes that can occur and each has its own specific symptoms. These four types are mania, hypomania, depression and mixed state. The manic phase is an episode where the patient describes feeling unstoppable and like being “on top of the world.” While mania feels great at first, it will sometimes spiral downward, causing the patient to make foolish decisions and behave recklessly. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. The symptoms are similar but much milder and less disruptive than that in mania. The problem is that those who have episodes of hypomania, may be to live a day to day life with little interference but unfortunately many times it can escalate to full blown mania. Depression tends to cause people to lose interest in things and to move and talk slowly. A mixed state tends to show symptoms of both mania and depression. With these types of many highs and lows, there is a higher risk of suicide among those who show signs of mixed state (Bipolar Disorder).

While it is not known why bipolar disorder exists, there are several factors that are being linked to the causes of bipolar disorder. There is no one cause of bipolar disorder. The factors that are contributing to the cause of bipolar disorder are genetic, biochemical and environmental. Researchers have been studying the genetic aspect of bipolar disorder for years since the illness seems to run in families. However, it is not a single gene that causes bipolar disorder but a combination of many genes acting together. If bipolar disorder were solely based on genetics, it could not appear in only one of a pair of identical twins. What genetic studies have shown though is that in the case of identical twins, the twin of the patient diagnosed with bipolar disorder is more likely than any of the other siblings to have the...
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