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World Bipolar Disorder Day

Depression can be the first symptom of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents - what is worth knowing about the disease?

MedExpress Team

Published March 29, 2024 08:27

Depression can be the first symptom of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents - what is worth knowing about the disease? - Header image
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Recently, there has been more and more talk about mental health in Poland, and people struggling with illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia are getting better help. However, there are still many areas in need of education and systemic or organizational changes. One of these is bipolar affective disorder (ChAD), which is less common and much more difficult to diagnose than depression. The disease often begins as early as adolescents precisely with an episode of depression. It is essential that it be properly diagnosed and effectively treated as soon as possible, so that the young person can return to daily activities. March 30, the anniversary of the birth of Vincent van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as suffering from this ChAD, is World Bipolar Disorder Day to draw attention to this health problem.

In bipolar disorder, behaviors typical of depression, such as lowered mood, prolonged sadness and depression, lack of feeling joy in life, indifference, desire for isolation, sense of meaninglessness of life, often suicidal thoughts, alternate with periods of mania and hypomania: agitation, irritability, tendency to impulsive behavior, aggression.

Until recently, ChAD was mainly diagnosed in adults, but it turns out that in recent years it has been increasingly diagnosed in children. Even in 30-60 percent of people, the first symptoms appear as early as the teenage years, although in this age group the disease is extremely difficult to diagnose, especially since depression is often its first symptom. - Even in about 80 percent of cases, bipolar disorder in children and adolescents begins with a depressive episode, and such a diagnosis is often made initially. This is because in this age group there are usually no typical symptoms of mania (which cannot be missed); rather, there are episodes of hypomania: irritability, elevated mood or even aggression, considered to be behaviors typical of adolescence or ADHD or conduct disorder, says Dr. Aleksandra Lewandowska, national consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry.

Epidemiological data, however, indicate that ChAD affects about 1.8 percent of children and adolescents, and 2.6-6.6 percent in the over-14 group alone. Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of reported cases of bipolar disorder, an increase still particularly evident after the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, 2,418 people used health services, compared to 843 in 2014, a threefold increase in the number of pediatric patients with a diagnosis of ChAD using health services. Such a trend is an important signal to the health care system, to pay attention to this health problem as well, and to provide appropriate preventive measures for both adults and children and adoles...

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