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Pediatric bipolar disorder: Comorbidity

Boris Birmaher, MD
Section Editor
David Brent, MD
Deputy Editor
David Solomon, MD


Bipolar disorder in children and adolescents is characterized by recurrent episodes of elevated mood (mania or hypomania), which exceed what is expected for the child’s developmental stage and are not better explained by other psychiatric and general medical conditions [1-4]. In addition, youth with bipolar disorder usually have recurrent episodes of major depression; however, depressive episodes are not necessary for making the diagnosis. Pediatric bipolar disorder severely affects normal development and psychosocial functioning and increases the risk for behavioral, academic, social, and legal problems, as well as psychosis, substance abuse, and suicide [1,2,5].

Pediatric bipolar disorder is usually characterized by psychiatric comorbid conditions, and many bipolar patients have multiple comorbid illnesses [6,7]. The presence of comorbidities in youth with bipolar disorder may hinder clinicians from recognizing bipolar disorder. Clinicians should identify and treat comorbidities because they may adversely affect response to treatment of bipolar disorder and the course of illness [6,8,9].  

This topic describes the comorbid psychiatric and general medical illnesses that commonly occur in pediatric bipolar disorder. The epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical features, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents are discussed separately.

(See "Pediatric bipolar disorder: Epidemiology and pathogenesis".)

(See "Pediatric bipolar disorder: Clinical manifestations and course of illness".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 13, 2017.
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