Children's Hospital Colorado

Bipolar Disorder in Children

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic changes in mood that are different from a person's usual mood. Mood changes occur in periods called episodes, which last anywhere from several days to months.

What causes bipolar disorder?

Doctors and researchers don't know what causes bipolar disorder. A person's life experience, environment and family background all play a role. People who have an immediate family member with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the disorder themselves. However, many others with a family member who have bipolar disorder never get it themselves. Many people with bipolar disorder have no family history.

Who gets bipolar disorder?

The most severe types of bipolar disorder affect about 3% of people. The condition occurs equally in males and females. Obvious manic episodes usually happen in adolescence or adulthood, so the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is often late.

It's difficult to predict whether a child will develop a manic episode. Still, some clues in childhood suggest risk for developing bipolar disorder. For example, a child who has a family history of bipolar disorder and brief, two-day manic episodes is at risk.

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Get to know our pediatric experts.

Lauren Wood, PhD

Lauren Wood, PhD

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Cassidy McNitt, MD

Cassidy McNitt, MD

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychiatry

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