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Mania-like symptoms suggestive of childhood-onset bipolar disorder in clinically referred children.

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Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.



To examine the prevalence, characteristics, and correlates of mania among referred children aged 12 or younger. Many case reports challenge the widely accepted belief that childhood-onset mania is rare. Sources of diagnostic confusion include the variable developmental expression of mania and its symptomatic overlap with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


The authors compared 43 children aged 12 years or younger who satisfied criteria for mania, 164 ADHD children without mania, and 84 non-ADHD control children.


The clinical picture was fully compatible with the DSM-III-R diagnosis of mania in 16% (n = 43) of referred children. All but one of the children meeting criteria for mania also met criteria for ADHD. Compared with ADHD children without mania, manic children had significantly higher rates of major depression, psychosis, multiple anxiety disorders, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder as well as evidence of significantly more impaired psychosocial functioning. In addition, 21% (n = 9) of manic children had had at least one previous psychiatric hospitalization.


Mania may be relatively common among psychiatrically referred children. The clinical picture of childhood-onset mania is very severe and frequently comorbid with ADHD and other psychiatric disorders. Because of the high comorbidity with ADHD, more work is needed to clarify whether these children have ADHD, bipolar disorder, or both.

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