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J Affect Disord. 2007 Apr;99(1-3):51-7. Epub 2006 Oct 12.

Childhood antecedent disorders to bipolar disorder in adults: a controlled study.

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  • 1Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit and Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02138, United States.



The aim of the study was to examine antecedent childhood psychiatric disorders in adult patients with bipolar disorder.


Using structured diagnostic interviews, childhood psychiatric diagnoses of 83 referred patients with diagnosed DSM-IV bipolar disorder were compared to those of 308 adults without mood disorders.


Patients with bipolar disorder had significantly higher rates of childhood disruptive behavior disorders (ADHD, oppositional-defiant disorder, and conduct disorder), childhood anxiety disorders (separation anxiety and overanxious disorder), and enuresis, compared to patients without mood disorders. The presence of these childhood disorders was associated with an earlier age of onset of bipolar illness.


The retrospective nature of the study may have affected both the rates of disorders recalled, as well as the ages of onset of disorders. Different referral sources for bipolar and comparison participants may have also impacted findings.


Bipolar disorder in adults is frequently preceded by childhood disruptive behavior and anxiety disorders. These childhood disorders may be important markers of risk for adult bipolar disorder.

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