Symptoms leading to a bipolar diagnosis: A phone survey of child and adolescent psychiatrists

Cathryn A. Galanter, Dana L. Pagar, Peter P. Oberg, Carrie Wong, Mark Davies, Peter S. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: We surveyed child and adolescent psychiatrists (CAPs) to characterize how they diagnose bipolar disorder (BPD) in children. Methods: We approached by mail and then telephone 100 CAPs randomly sampled from five regions of the main professional organization of American CAPs; 53 CAPs were reached and agreed to participate. We asked about their training and practice setting, and asked them to name 10 symptoms indicative of BPD. We conducted descriptive analyses to determine how CAPs ranked symptoms, whether reports were consistent with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) criteria, and whether alternative symptom models might guide their decision making. Results: CAPs considered lability, grandiosity, family history of BPD, aggression, and expansive or euphoric mood as the most important factors in diagnosing BPD. Only 21 (39.6%) CAPs reported sufficient symptoms to meet DSM criteria for BPD (DSM-Yes status). DSM-Yes status was associated with participants' region, less expertise (≤10 years practicing child and adolescent psychiatry), and lower levels of self-reported confidence in their ability to diagnose BPD. Conclusions: CAPs vary in the symptoms they use to diagnose BPD, with most using a mixture of DSM and non-DSM symptoms. Expertise and confidence may lessen one's reliance on DSM criteria. Further studies are needed to understand CAPs' diagnostic decisions about BD and to develop interventions to support accurate diagnostic decision making and improve patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-647
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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