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Bipolar Disorder Health Center

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Bipolar Kids Suffer as Adults, Too

Study Shows Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder May Continue in Adulthood

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"The study provides validation that the illness continues into adulthood in a very large proportion of the children, and unfortunately like adults with the disease, they have a high rate of substance dependence," says Geller.

"This is important for clinicians giving data to parents," continues Geller. "The first question parents ask when their children are diagnosed is if their children will have the illness as adults. Now we can say we have to keep being very vigilant and keep following the children."

The study concluded that the severity and chronic nature of this disorder highlights the need for a greater effort toward understanding the neurobiology behind the disease and for developing prevention and intervention strategies.

Gary Sachs, MD, the director of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, agrees that the study provides vital information for moving the conversation about childhood bipolar disorder forward.

"The article is important because it suggests that there are a fair number of detectable cases in children and that a number of them continue to express the illness after adulthood," says Sachs. "We all have to recognize that these kids are out there, and now that we say they exist, let's identify them appropriately with a formal diagnostic process."

The study also provides an important foundation for future research, writes Ellen Leibenluft, MD, of the National Institute of Mental Health, in an editorial that accompanied the study.

"The publication reflects our field's continuing efforts to nurture development conceptualizations of psychiatric illnesses," she writes. "Such conceptualizations hold the hope of fostering work that will allow us to treat youth with bipolar disorder more effectively and eventually give us the knowledge base needed to prevent the onset of bipolar disorder in youth at risk."

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