Objective: To examine the longitudinal course of pediatric bipolar (BP)-I disorder in youth transitioning from childhood into adolescence. Methods: We conducted a four year prospective follow-up study of 78 youth with BP-I disorder 6-17 years old at ascertainment followed up into adolescent years (13.4 ± 3.9 years). All subjects were comprehensively assessed with structured diagnostic interviews, neuropsychological testing, psychosocial, educational and treatment history assessments. BP disorder was considered persistent if subjects met full criteria for DSM-IV BP-I disorder at follow-up. Results: Of 78 BP-I participating youth subjects, 57 (73.1%), continued to meet full diagnostic criteria for BP-I Disorder. Of those with a non-persistent course, only 6.4% (n = 5) were euthymic (i.e., syndromatic and symptomatic remission) at the 4-year follow-up and were not receiving pharmacotherapy for the disorder. The other non-persistent cases either continued to have subthreshold BP-I disorder (n = 5, 6.4%), met full (n = 3, 3.8%) or subthreshold (n = 1, 1.3%) criteria for major depression, or were euthymic but were treated for the disorder (n = 7, 9.0%). Full persistence was associated with higher rates of major depression and disruptive behavior disorders at the follow-up assessment and higher use of stimulant medicines at the baseline assessment. Non-Peristent BP-I was also characterized by high levels of dysfunction and morbidity. Conclusions: This four year follow-up shows that the majority of BP-I disorder youth continue to experience persistent disorder into their mid and late adolescent years and its persistence is associated with high levels of morbidity and disability. Persistence of subsyndromal forms of bipolar disorder was also associated with dysfunction and morbidity.
- Bipolar disorder