Updated: Mar 17, 2019
Bipolar Disorder, formerly called Manic Depression, is a mood disorder that causes an individual to have extremes in mood, from manic, restless highs to depressive, listless lows. These extremes can be experienced within a relatively short period of time.
Bipolar Disorder in children and teens is very much the same as in adults. The biggest issue with children is that the disorder can easily be misdiagnosed because it has some of the same characteristics as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is often diagnosed in children. Bipolar Disorder in teens can also look different than it does in adults simply because it does not fit perfectly into the same diagnostic mold as adult Bipolar Disorder.
Teenage symptoms may also be due to other problems which are common in teens, such as normal ups and downs, stress, trauma, or other mental health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the biggest indicators of bipolar disorder in children and teens are mood changes which are noticeably more extreme than the normal mood changes your child may experience. The pattern of the mood changes may also be quite different from those in adults. Children and teens’ moods may shift rapidly within episodes, and there may be a long period of normalcy in between episodes. Since there are varying types of Bipolar Disorder, there may be fewer depressive episodes and more manic episodes, more depression and less manic episodes, or it may be equally divided between the two.
Some of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder may include:
Increased energy, fast pace of activity
Lack of focus
Lack of impulse control or increase in impulsiveness
Sleeping very little or sleeping too much
Inability to think clearly
Having one or more of these symptoms is not enough to reach a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. It's important for your child or teen to be thoroughly interviewed by a clinician, as some of these symptoms can also be a normal part of adolescence. There will need to be a physical exam as well as a clinical assessment by a counselor. Along with this, there is a likelihood that your child or teens’ moods will have to be charted over a period of time to get an idea of how often and for how long the mood swings are occurring. After all of this, the clinician will determine whether or not your child’s symptoms match the criteria for Bipolar Disorder as indicated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition or DSM-V.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder varies depending on the severity of the disorder as well as the type of disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment for children and teens is usually determined on a case by case basis and may include:
Medication (usually prescribed by a primary care physician or psychiatrist/nurse practitioner)
Psychotherapy/Counseling (usually by a counselor or therapist). Therapy can help manage symptoms and build skills that help your teen be more resilient. Some strategies that may be incorporated are healthy, consistent routines, coping skills, resolving social problems, improving communications within the family, stress management and addressing learning difficulties. It is also important to treat any substance abuse problems with teens because this can interfere with their treatment.
Psychoeducation (usually by a counselor or therapist). It is important as a parent to become educated on Bipolar Disorder so that you can be well-versed in treatments and be able to effectively communicate with your child’s treatment team as well as support your child.
Support (your family, friends, school personnel, other community support people). It is important to work with your child’s teachers and school counselor through effective communication. Family and friends are also a great way to get the support you need to manage any illness, especially one that brings a lot of highs and lows, like Bipolar Disorder.
Bipolar Disorder is highly treatable. If you suspect your child may be suffering from Bipolar Disorder, connect with one of eSupport’s counselors today. We offer clinical assessments via online counseling and can refer you to a psychiatrist if needed or desired. We can also collaborate with your primary care doctor to create the best plan of care. We want to help you get the support you need for yourself and your child. #esupportcounseling #biploar #mooddisorders #teens #support #counselorshelp #mentalhealthmatters #bipolarawareness #moodiness #angerinteens #adhd