If you think your son or daughter may be suffering from childhood-onset bipolar disorder, get him evaluated as soon as possible.

That seems to be the conclusion drawn from a May 2007 study in The Journal of Pediatrics. The study, conducted by researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health, a part of the National Institutes of Health, evaluated 420 adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder. These individuals completed questionnaires and subsequently were interviewed about the history of their illness.

Childhood-onset bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings. A child may go from the deepest depression accompanied by feelings of unworthiness and even thoughts of suicide and then swing to euphoric 'highs' in which he feels as if any accomplishment is within his reach.

More than 25 percent of the individuals developed childhood-onset bipolar disorder, according to this study. But the average length of time before treatment began was 16 years. As a result of this delay, those with untreated childhood-onset bipolar disorder experienced more manic-depressive incidents in a 24-hour period, as well as a greater number of such episodes throughout their lives.

The average age of the participants was 42 and had been diagnosed for more than 20 years.

In the interim of the first symptoms of childhood-onset bipolar disorder and the eventual treatment, the study stated that the patients are at a risk of becoming disabled, developing greater anxiety and creating a greater chance of abusing drugs.

Other conditions which may develop if there is a delay in the treatment of childhood-onset bipolar disorderbipolar disorder may also mean the individual will engage in risky behaviors and even elevates the risk of suicide. are difficulties with interpersonal relationships, and various problems with school. Accurate and early diagnosis of childhood-onset

The study also noted that some with childhood-onset bipolar disorder were misdiagnosed in the time period. Some were mistakenly treated for ADHD or for depression. As a result, these children received long-term treatment of only stimulants or antidepressants. Individuals with childhood-onset bipolar disorder should be receiving what are called 'combination medications,' the study explained. These include mood stabilizers or antipsychotic drugs.

If you believe your son or daughter may be at risk for childhood-onset bipolar disorder consult your health care provider immediately. If he does not think that your child is at risk, but you are convinced, don't be afraid to get a second opinion. Early diagnosis of childhood-onset bipolar disorder can mean a better quality of life for your child, not just not now, but for a lifetime.