Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Manic-depressive illness in children-Diagnosis, Manic-depressive illness in adolescence-Diagnosis, Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Child, Children, Adolescents, Pediatric, Diagnose, Social work, Treatment, Clinical, Qualitative study, Thesis, Diagnosis, Symptom


Bipolar disorder (BD) is a diagnosis that an increasing number of individuals under the age of 18 are being given, despite the fact that the DSM-IV has no description or criteria of what BD in this age group looks like. The purpose of this exploratory study was to look at the experiences of clinical social workers who have diagnosed BD in children and adolescents. To do so, eleven social workers who have a Master's of Social Work were interviewed using a standardized open-ended interview guide. The major findings of this study follow. Participants reported having diagnosed significantly more adolescents with BD than children. Participants looked for a wide range of different symptoms when making this diagnosis, such as: changes in sleep, changes in mood, agitation and irritability, risky behavior, and other symptoms of mania and depression. Participants found the following things helpful in making this diagnosis: collaborating with other providers and family members, observing the youth's behavior, and longitudinal information about the youth. Participants reported struggling with the following things while making this diagnosis: fear of labeling, access to services, and differentiating BD from other disorders. Most participants reported that after the diagnosis was made, it did have some positive influence on their understanding of and ability to appropriately treat these children and adolescents.




iv, 100 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 80-92)