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The long, wild ride of bipolar disorder

A severe childhood mood disorder often lasts into young adulthood

4:10pm, October 6, 2008

Children who grow up with the psychiatric ailment known as bipolar disorder rarely grow out of it. Almost half of youngsters who suffered from bipolar’s severe, rapid-fire mood swings at around age 11 displayed much of the same emotional volatility at ages 18 to 20, even if the condition had improved for a while during their teens, according to the first long-term study of children diagnosed with the disorder.

Bipolar disorder took off with a vengeance in these kids. Initial episodes, often periods of frequent, dramatic mood swings, lasted for up to three years. Second episodes lasted for slightly more than one year, while third episodes continued for roughly 10 months.

During these periods, youngsters can veer back and forth several times a day between a manic sense of euphoria and a serious, even suicidal depression, say psychiatrist Barbara Geller of WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis and her colleagues. Manic euphoria typically inclu

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