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Call to help bipolar teenagers

Many youngsters who have bipolar disorder can go for years without having their symptoms recognised, health officials have warned.

More must be done to help people recognise the signs of the condition so more people can get earlier access to help, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said.

The majority of people with the disorder begin to experience symptoms in their teens but they can be misdiagnosed for many years, Nice said.

The health authority has issued updated guidance on the care and treatment of people with bipolar disorder.

The condition, which can affect as many as one in every 100 people, affects people's moods, which can swing from one extreme to another. Those affected experience periods of mania when they feel high and overactive or depression where they feel very low and lethargic.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at Nice, said: "Since the publication of the previous Nice guideline in 2006, there have been some important advances in what we know about which treatment approaches are most likely to benefit people with bipolar disorder.

"The guideline has been updated to reflect this new knowledge and sets out the criteria for when patients need to be referred on for specialist psychiatric assessment and treatment. It also sets out the drug treatment options for people with bipolar disorder and emphasises the need to involve the individual patient in treatment decisions.

"The majority of people with the disorder begin to experience symptoms in their teens. However, it often goes unrecognised or misdiagnosed for many years. More needs to be done to raise awareness of the condition.

"This guideline provides information for young people, parents, carers and professionals on the signs to look out for to recognise the condition early and treat it appropriately."

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