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Pediatric Psychopharmacology Clinical & Research Program: Conditions and Treatments
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder | Autism Spectrum Disorders | Bipolar Disorder
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) refers to a set of clinical features that include a deficit in attention to tasks, distractibility, defects in regulation of motoric activity (also known as hyperactivity) and defects in inhibiting impulses (also known as impulsivity).
This set of symptoms usually onsets in early childhood but tends to be manifested more clearly when the child begins school. The symptoms tend to be stronger when circumstances are boring or less interesting to the child, thereby affecting schoolwork both at home and in school. This variability in the clinical picture has been confusing to parents, doctors, and teachers since the affected person, at any age, can concentrate well on tasks and activities that he or she finds interesting, such as videogames or hobbies, but not on other, less interesting activities. The most prominent and visible symptoms of ADHD, those associated with hyperactivity, tend to wane or permute over time, yet the problems with attention deficits and impulsivity tend to persist.
ADHD is a biological disorder most likely caused by genes that affect the way that key circuits in the brain function, leading to the clinical symptoms described above. Unfortunately there is no test to diagnose this disorder. The diagnosis continues to rely on clinical assessment by a trained clinician focusing on eliciting a detailed history of the symptoms described above.
Although treatment with medications of various types can be very helpful to mitigate the symptoms that characterize ADHD, improve function, and enhance the quality of life of affected individuals, these treatments are not curative and need to be taken chronically to maintain their benefits.
In addition to medications, some individuals with ADHD require additional psychological and educational support. Untreated, ADHD can have very negative effects on all aspects of life including educational and occupational attainment, driving accidents, alcohol, drug and cigarette abuse, as well as social and marital difficulties.
For more about autism spectrum disorders, please visit the Bressler Program website.
Bipolar Disorder is a severe condition marked by dramatic shifts in mood from hopelessness and depression, to rage and irritability, to high energy and euphoria.
At any age, Bipolar Disorder is among the most impairing psychiatric conditions facing the mental health field. Recent research has determined that the majority of adults with bipolar disorder had an onset of their illness in the childhood or adolescent years. Groundbreaking research from our program as well as others has identified hundreds of children and adolescents with bipolar disorder who come for treatment and to participate in research studies.
Children with bipolar disorder have always been in our midst, but in years past professionals, due to pre-conceived ideas that children could not have bipolar disorder, often recognized in them the other conditions that co-occur with bipolar such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and missed the mood diagnosis.
Our work has consistently documented that bipolar disorder in children presents with mood episodes characterized by highly irritable, often aggressive behavior, which can be long lasting and frequent, with simultaneous states of sadness and joylessness, characteristic of depression. Because bipolar disorder itself is so disruptive to family, school and play, we strive to treat it with medication and non-medication interventions as soon as it is diagnosed.
In addition, we hope to prevent the negative outcomes associated with bipolar disorder, including substance use disorders and addiction, delinquency and incarceration, and suicide.
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