Challenges in Diagnosing Children's Bipolar Disorder

Diagnosing Bipolar in Children
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Diagnosing bipolar disorder in adults is difficult. Distinguishing between normal behaviors and those that may indicate a mental illness such as bipolar disorder in a kid is more challenging because:

  • The span of time in a young life is insufficient to establish a course of illness (Papolos, 2006);
  • Many symptoms are different from those found in adults with bipolar disorder (see Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Children);
  • Episodes are much shorter than for adults, spanning only days or even hours;
  • Developmental factors are in full play – “a child's often nonstop motion, lack of impulse control, difficulty tolerating frustration, and vivid imagination are part of a typical, everyday picture” (Papolos, 2006).
With all these issues clouding the picture, how is a child diagnosed with bipolar disorder? What symptoms and behaviors would lead a doctor to diagnosis a kid with bipolar disorder? What are The Criteria for Diagnosing Childhood Onset Bipolar Disorder?

More on Diagnosing Children With Bipolar Disorder:

Emphasizing Irritability
Looking for Most Common Symptoms
Could My Child Have Bipolar Disorder?


Papolos, J. & Papolos, D.F. (2006, November). Why is it so difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder in children? The Bipolar Child Newsletter, 23.

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