Toward prevention of bipolar disorder in at-risk children: Potential strategies ahead of the data

Robert M. Post, Benjamin I. Goldstein, Boris Birmaher, Robert L. Findling, Benicio N. Frey, Melissa P. DelBello, David J. Miklowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Despite the well-documented negative impact of untreated bipolar illness, approaches to early intervention in childhood-onset bipolar and related disorders are not well delineated. Methods: We reviewed the extant treatment literature on children at high risk for bipolar disorder, with definitions based on family history, childhood adversity, and prodromal symptoms. Results: A panoply of approaches have been described, but most interventions are based on an inadequate database to support their routine implementation. We classify early stage interventions as a function of their safety and tolerability with the hope that these might generate more rigorous study and a stronger database. Limitations: Critics may rightly argue that identifying viable treatment methods is premature given our lack of ability to reliably predict illness trajectory in very young children. However, many of the psychosocial and pharmacological interventions we present could have nonspecific positive effects across a variety of symptoms, syndromes, and diagnoses, further enhancing the rationale for more rigorous study. Conclusions: Early stage interventions have the potential to improve functioning in prodromal illness and exert long-term positive effects on the course of illness. Many of the safest interventions deserve consideration for implementation and dissemination studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-520
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Early intervention
  • Epigenetics
  • Genetics
  • Prodromes
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Psychotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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