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Nat Rev Neurol. 2009 Sep;5(9):484-91. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2009.117. Epub 2009 Aug 11.

Managing bipolar disorders in children and adolescents.

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  • 1Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK.


Bipolar disorders are recurrent disturbances in mood that include periods both of depression and mania. Classic bipolar disorders, with manic episodes lasting for at least several days, often start in adolescence, but are uncommon in earlier childhood. Treatment of mania in young patients should include ensuring the individual's safety, and administration of a mood-stabilizing drug, or, in severe cases, a neuroleptic. Prophylaxis with lithium or an anticonvulsant should then be considered. In younger children, brief outbursts of excessive emotion--especially anger--should be recognized as a notable clinical problem. These outbursts do not necessarily constitute the beginnings of a classic bipolar disorder, but should trigger a diagnostic differential that also includes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, reaction to hostile environments, severe mood dysregulation, substance misuse, and autism spectrum disorders.

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