Testing & Diagnosis for Bipolar Disorder in Children


At Children’s Hospital Boston, we know that the first step to treating your child is forming an accurate, timely diagnosis.

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?
A Children’s mental health clinician (typically a child and adolescent psychiatrist, child psychologist or psychiatric social worker) will determine whether your child has bipolar disorder after a comprehensive psychiatric assessment.

During the assessment, you and your child will both be asked to talk about his symptoms, how they make him feel and how they are affecting him and the family. You will also be asked to provide an overview of your child’s family history, medical history, academic life and social interactions.  

At this time, there are no laboratory tests or imaging studies that can confirm a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (although tests are sometimes used to rule out other disorders). After completing the evaluation, your child’s doctor will compare his symptoms to the established criteria for bipolar disorder in order to make a definitive diagnosis.

If my child is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, what happens next?
Your Children’s mental health clinician will explain the diagnosis, provide the information you need to be well-informed about the condition and answer any questions you or your child may have.

The next step is developing a mutually agreed-upon, evidence-based treatment plan that works for you, your child and your family.

Community mental health outreach at Children’s

Noticing a need for better mental health support for children and families in Boston, Children’s has developed programs that aim to educate teachers, parents and peers about pressing mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, depression and suicide

  • The Children’s Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships (CHNP) provides high-quality, effective and culturally competent clinical services and mental health consultations through ongoing partnerships with Boston-area schools, community health center, and community organizations
  • The Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative at Children's is working to prevent and treat depression in school-aged children and to train educators and parents about recognizing and responding to mental health issues.