New research published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry indicates a strong link between subthreshold manic episodes and likelihood of developing bipolar disorder in children of parents with bipolar disorder. The study’s findings could improve clinical assessment and care for these high-risk children by potentially enabling earlier identification, treatment or possible preventive measures.

The study is among the first to show that subthreshold manic episodes — experiences that approach but do not meet the cut-offs for full-blown bipolar disorder — are important diagnostic risk factors for the development of bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions in high-risk children. In addition, it found that children of parents with bipolar disorder have substantially higher rates of subthreshold mania or hypomania (13.3 vs 1.2%); manic, mixed or hypomanic episodes (9.2 vs 0.8%); and major depressive episodes (32% vs 14.9%) than community children.

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