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Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Oct 1;58(7):583-8. Epub 2005 Sep 28.

How cardinal are cardinal symptoms in pediatric bipolar disorder? An examination of clinical correlates.

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  • 1Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



The main goal of this study was to test whether the hypothesized cardinal symptom of euphoria results in differences in clinical correlates in bipolar youth ascertained with no a priori assumptions about cardinal symptoms.


Subjects (n = 86) satisfying DSM-IV criteria for bipolar disorder with and without the proposed cardinal symptom of euphoria were compared in their bipolar symptom pattern, functioning and patterns of comorbidity.


Among Criterion A (abnormal mood), we found that severe irritability was the predominant abnormal mood rather than euphoria (94% vs. 51%). We also found that among Criterion B items, grandiosity was not uniquely overrepresented in youth with mania, nor did the rate of grandiosity differ whether irritability or irritability and euphoria were the Criterion A mood symptom. Neither symptom profile, patterns of comorbidity nor measures of functioning differed related to the presence or absence of euphoria.


These findings challenge the notion that euphoria represents a cardinal symptom of mania in children. Instead they support the clinical relevance of severe irritability as the most common presentation of mania in the young. They also support the use of unmodified DSM-IV criteria in establishing the diagnosis of mania in pediatric populations.

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