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Parental Reports of Prodromal Psychopathology in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder

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Objectives: Early psychopathology in children diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (BD) remains poorly characterized. Parental retrospective reports provide helpful details on the earliest manifestations and their evolution over time. These symptoms occur early in the course of BD, often before a formal diagnosis is made and/or treatment is implemented, and are of great importance to early recognition and prevention.

Methods: Parents of pre-pubertal children and adolescents with DSM-IV diagnoses of BD attending an outpatient mood disorders clinic provided retrospective ratings of 37 symptoms of child psychopathology. Stability and comorbidity of diagnoses were evaluated, and severity of symptoms for each subject was assessed by identifying the earliest occurrence of the reported symptoms causing impairment.

Results: Severe mood instability, temper tantrums, anxiety symptoms, sleep disturbances and aggression were among the most common signs of psychopathology reported in children diagnosed with BD before puberty. Symptoms were already apparent in the first three years in 28%, and formal diagnoses were made before the age of 8 y in the majority of cases.

Conclusions: Retrospective parental reports of early symptoms of psychopathology in pre-pubertal children with BD revealed a very early occurrence of affective precursors (irritability and mood dysregulation) and clinical risk factors like impulsive aggression and anxiety that can precede the syndromal onset of mania by several years. These findings support previous reports suggesting a progression of symptoms from abnormal, non-specific presentations to sub-threshold and finally syndromal BD. The importance of early identification and intervention is discussed.
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Keywords: Adolescent; bipolar disorder; children; onset; parents; prodromes; psychopathology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2017

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  • Current Neuropharmacology aims to provide current, timely and comprehensive reviews of all areas of neuropharmacology and related matters of neuroscience. The journal publishes reviews written by experts and leaders in the fields of molecular, cellular, and systems/behavioural aspects of neuropharmacology and neuroscience. The journal serves as a comprehensive, multidisciplinary expert forum for neuropharmacologists and neuroscientists.
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