Bipolar disorder in children

Last reviewed: 5 Nov 2022
Last updated: 30 Nov 2022



History and exam

Key diagnostic factors

  • history of major depressive episode(s)
  • ≥7 days of elated, expansive, or irritable mood and persistently increased activity/energy different from patient's usual self (mania)
  • inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • decreased need for sleep
  • pressure of speech
  • subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  • distractibility
  • excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences
  • impairment in functioning
More key diagnostic factors

Other diagnostic factors

  • adolescence and young adulthood
  • flight of ideas
Other diagnostic factors

Risk factors

  • family history of bipolar disorder
  • history of depression
  • physical and/or sexual abuse
  • poor sleep
  • neurodevelopmental abnormalities
  • lack of maternal warmth/expressed emotion (duration)
  • life events
  • increased sociability and verbal functioning
  • persistent affective symptoms (transition to bipolar disorder)
  • male sex (when ADHD is comorbid)
  • high intellectual performance
  • family conflict
  • symptoms of inattention
More risk factors

Diagnostic investigations

1st investigations to order

  • clinical assessment
More 1st investigations to order

Treatment algorithm


acute mania/mixed mania

acute depressive episode


mania or depression: not responsive to all previous treatment



Sarah Hamilton, MD

Clinical Assistant Professor

Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center




SH declares that she has no competing interests.


Dr Sarah Hamilton would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr Robert A. Kowatch, Dr Bernadka Dubicka and Dr Gabrielle A. Carlson, previous contributors to this topic.


BD is a member of the UK National Institute of Health Research Health Technology Assessment (HTA) panel, and has previously received HTA funding. She is a clinical advisor to NHS England and an occasional advisor to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. BD serves as Vice Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists child and adolescent faculty, and as Editor on the journal Child and Adolescent Mental Health. BD is an author of a number of references cited in this topic. GAC is an author of a number of references cited in this topic. RAK is on the data safety monitoring committee for Forrest and Pfizer, and is compensated for his time for this effort. He is also an author of a number of references cited in this topic.

Peer reviewers

Jon McClellan, MD


Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

University of Washington




JM is an author of a number of references cited in this topic.

John Werry, MD

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry

The Werry Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Department of Psychological Medicine

University of Auckland


New Zealand


JW is an author of a number of references cited in this topic.

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