Research on bipolar disorder and children

The number of children evaluated, diagnosed and cared for in relation to bipolar disease has risen substantially in recent years. This is part of the finding of new research coming out of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology - founded in 1987 - which found bipolar-like symptoms to be somewhat frequent in pre-pubescent youngsters.

However, it was suggested the age at which the condition can be first diagnosed is still a controversial topic, while both environmental and developmental factors being key to understanding why some young people suffer from the illness.

It was also pointed out that it remains important to make a clear distinction between bipolar disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Biological markers - such as neural circuits and brain structure - should be considered when recognising and diagnosing those children that are thought to be bipolar, as well as looking at their overall clinical history, the study concluded.

John Pinschof, Chartered Psychologist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society, commented: "All research that suggest an increase in this or that disorder, including this latest article on Bipolar Disorders, needs to ensure that there is a viable and reliable reference point against which it is comparing figures.

"What earlier reliable data is available for this 'so called' disorder and then can the researchers be sure that their own methodology matches any past methodology and so make a reliable comparison. I would seriously doubt the validity of the latest research findings.

"The article also refers to ADHD in a way that suggests the authors take this diagnosis seriously. They suggest that it is important to distinguish between Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. Have the current authors bothered to investigate the home life, parenting and general background issues of the children under review before making assumptions and diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder based purely on observable behaviour in the child? 

"This basis check is never carried out in any research article I have seen on ADHD and I suggest we can be fairly confident that it has not been carried out for this latest bit of research, thus rendering any conclusions unreliable. 

"I would suggest that if there is any reliable evidence that there is an increase in some aspect of disturbed child behaviour (a big if) it is likely to be due to either an artefact of the research or to some environmental aspect such as increased social deprivation/family disturbance/unemployment in the parent(s) or other similar issues."