Outpatient diagnosis and clinical presentation of bipolar youth

Kirti Saxena, Paul A. Nakonezny, Alex Simmons, Taryn Mayes, Annie Walley, Graham Emslie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction: Many children and adolescents in the community do not fit the classic Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) criteria for Bipolar Disorder, Type I., and bipolar disorder, not otherwise specified (BPNOS) is often the "catch all" diagnosis. Significant research has been conducted to better understand the phenomenology of the spectrum of bipolar disorder; however, there are presently different operational definitions for bipolar disorder, in both clinical and research settings. A recent study, The Course and Outcome of Bipolar Youth (COBY) provided preliminary validation for diagnosing BPNOS. Using these COBY research definitions for BPNOS, we examined the clinical presentation and the prior history of psychotropic medication usage of youth with BPI vs. BPNOS presenting to an outpatient clinic. Methods: The initial evaluation consisted of a direct clinical interview with the parent(s) and the patient. Standardized rating scales such as the Young Mania Rating Scale and the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms were used to assess current mood states. The Clinical Global Impressions Scale-Severity was used to assess the overall functioning of bipolar youth. Results: Age, comorbidities, and family histories of 68 bipolar youth in the clinic are similar to what other studies have reported. BPNOS youth have significant functional impairment which is comparable to the BPI youth. Both bipolar groups are equally likely to have similar prior exposure to psychotropic medications. Discussion: BPNOS is a serious illness the diagnostic guidelines for which are still debatable. Until further clarification of this diagnosis, the COBY definitions for BPNOS can be used in a clinic. The use of stringent criteria for diagnosing the bipolar spectrum disorders allows for careful differential diagnoses of psychiatric illnesses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-220
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 22 2009


  • Bipolar
  • Diagnosis
  • Outpatient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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