About Bipolar Disorder In Teens And Childhood Bipolar Disorder Facts

It is possible that your child may have childhood bipolar disorder or you may be facing the problem of bipolar disorder in teens in your home. If you have a child that experiences intense mood changes, behavior changes, gets excited or feels sad often for no apparent reason it may indicate bipolar disease and this needs thorough investigation. Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children and adolescents is harder than with adults. This disorder does not affect every kid in the same way.

How to handle a defiant child to make it behave?

Bipolar disorder can happen to any body and that includes children andteens. The duration, frequency and intensity, of a child’s symptoms and it’s response to treatment vary dramatically. The onset of this disease occurs during teenage or early adult period. This is a life long disease but the comforting news is that it can be treated.

Bipolar disorder in children can be more severe than that experienced by older teens and adults. In children bipolar disorder may affect the function, size and shape of brain regions and networks as they grow up. Children who suffer this disease can have the symptoms more often than adults who are bipolar. Studies show that that symptoms and intensity may change due to growth of brain since parts of brain mature at varying rates and also at varying times. The brain attains full maturity around the age of 25. So the symptoms can also change in conjunction with the varying maturity levels of brain.

So far the exact cause for this disorder is not known and research is on to find the risk factors that may contribute to the onset of this disease. The causes of bipolar disorder in children can vary from child to child. The main contributing factor is genetics and the disease causing gene may have been inherited. Another reason can be abnormal brain structure and function. Anxiety disorders in children can also predispose them to bipolar disorder.

The symptoms vary in intensity and duration from child to child. The child may experience manic episodes or depressive episodes or mixed episodes and the symptoms too vary according to the type of episode experienced. Bipolar children and teens may experience more mixed episodes compared to bipolar adults. These mood episodes are intense causing behavior changes and can last for a week or two along with the symptoms.

Children and teens during a manic episode may do risky things. They will think and talk about sex more often. They can not stay focused and will not feel the need to sleep but at the same time will not feel tired. They lose temper easily and may act silly. They also will have the tendency to talk fast, changing the topics frequently.

How to handle a defiant child to make it behave?

During the depressive episode, the children feel sad and will either sleep less or in excess. They may also eat too little or too much and will not be interested in fun activities. These children will complain about stomach aches or headaches often. They feel guilty, worthless and may contemplate suicide.

Child and teens bipolar disorder F.A.Q

Does your child go through intense mood changes?

Does your child have extreme behavior changes too? Does your child get too excited or silly sometimes? Do you notice he or she is very sad at other times? Do these changes affect how your child acts at school or at home? Some children and teens with these symptoms may have bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness. Read this brochure to find out more.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a serious brain illness. It is also called manic-depressive illness. Children with bipolar disorder go through unusual mood changes. Sometimesthey feel very happy or “up,”and are much more active than usual. This is calledmania. And sometimes children with bipolar disorder feel very sad and “down,”and are much less active than usual. This is called depression.

Bipolar disorder is not the same as the normal ups and downs every kid goes through. Bipolar symptoms are more powerful than that. The illness can make it hard for a childto do well in school or get along with friends and family members. The illness can also be dangerous. Some young people with bipolar disorder try to hurt themselves or attempt suicide. Children and teens with bipolar disorder should get treatment. With help, they can manage their symptoms and lead successful lives.

Who develops bipolar disorder?

Anyone can develop bipolar disorder, including children and teens. However, most people with bipolar disorder develop it in their late teen or early adult years. The illness usually lasts a lifetime.

How is bipolar disorder different in children and teens than it is in adults?

When children develop the illness, it is called early-onset bipolar disorder. This type can be more severe than bipolar disorder in older teens and adults. Also, young people withbipolar disorder may have symptoms more often and switch moods more frequently than adults with the illness. Models are used for illustrative purposes only.

What causes bipolar disorder?

Several factors may contribute to bipolar disorder, including:

s Genes, because the illness runs in families. Children with a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder are more likely to get the illness than other children.s Abnormal brain structure and brain function.s Anxiety disorders. Children with anxiety disorders are more likely to develop bipolar disorder.

The causes of bipolar disorder aren’t always clear. Scientists are studying it to find out more about possible causes and risk factors. This research may help doctors predict whether a person will get bipolar disorder. One day, it may also help doctors prevent the illness in some people.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Bipolar mood changes are called “mood episodes.” Your child may have manic episodes, depressive episodes, or “mixed” episodes. A mixed episode has both manic and depressive symptoms. Children and teens with bipolar disorder may havemore mixed episodes than adults with the illness. Mood episodes last a week or two—sometimes longer. During an episode, the symptoms last every day for most of the day.

Mood episodes are intense. The feelings are strong and happen along with extreme changes in behavior and energy levels.

Children and teens having a manic episode may:

s Feel very happy or act silly in a way that’s unusuals Have a very short tempers Talk really fast about a lot of different thingss Have trouble sleeping but not feel tireds Have trouble staying focuseds Talk and think about sex more oftens Do risky things.Children and teens having a depressive episode may:s Feel very sads Complain about pain a lot, like stomachaches and headachess Sleep too little or too muchs Feel guilty and worthlesss Eat too little or too muchs Have little energy and no interest in fun activitiess Think about death or suicide.

Do children and teens with bipolar disorder have other problems?

Bipolar disorder in young people can co-exist with several problems.

s Substance abuse. Both adults and kids with bipolar disorder are at risk of drinking or taking drugs.

s Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Children with bipolar disorder and ADHD may have trouble staying focused.

s Anxiety disorders, like separation anxiety. Children with both types of disorders may need to go to the hospital more often than other people with bipolar disorder.

s Other mental illnesses, like depression. Some mental illnesses cause symptoms that look like bipolar disorder. Tell a doctor about any manic or depressive symptoms your child has had. Sometimes behavior problems go along with mood episodes. Young people may take a lot of risks, like drive too fast or spend too much money. Some young people with bipolar disorder think about suicide. Watch out for any sign of suicidal thinking. Take these signs seriously and call your child’s doctor.

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

An experienced doctor will carefully examine your child. There are no blood tests or brain scans that can diagnose bipolar disorder. Instead, the doctor will ask questions about your child’s mood and sleeping patterns. The doctor will also ask about your child’s energy and behavior. Sometimes doctors need to know about medical problems in your family, such as depression or alcoholism. The doctor may use tests to see if an illness other than bipolar disorder is causing your child’s symptoms.

How is bipolar disorder treated?

Right now, there is no cure for bipolar disorder. Doctors often treat children who have the illness in a similar way they treat adults. Treatment can help control symptoms. Treatment works best when it is ongoing, instead of on and off.


Different types of medication can help. Children respond to medications in different ways, so the type of medication depends on the child. Some children may need more than one type of medication because their symptoms are so complex. Sometimes they need to try different types of medicine to see which are best for them. Children should take the fewest number and smallest amounts of medications as possible to help their symptoms. A good way to remember this is “start low, go slow.” Also, medications can causeside effects. Always tell your child’s doctor about any problems with side effects. Do not stop giving your child medication without a doctor’s help. Stopping medication suddenly can be dangerous, and it can make bipolar symptoms worse.


Different kinds of psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, can help children with bipolar disorder. Therapy can help children change their behavior and manage their routines. It can also help young people get along better with family and friends. Sometimes therapy includes family members.

What can children and teens expect from treatment?

With treatment, children and teens with bipolar disorder can get better over time. It helps when doctors, parents, and young people work together. Sometimes a child’s bipolar disorder changes. When this happens, treatment needs to change too. For example, your child may need to try a different medication. The doctor may also recommend othertreatment changes. Symptoms may come back after a while, and more adjustments may be needed. Treatment can take time, but sticking with it helps many children and teens have fewer bipolar symptoms. You can help treatment be more effective. Try keepinga chart of your child’s moods, behaviors, and sleep patterns. This is called a “daily life chart” or “mood chart.” It can help you and your child understand and track the illness. A chart can also help the doctor see whether treatment is working.

How can I help my child or teen?

Help your child or teen get the right diagnosis and treatment. If you think he or she may have bipolar disorder, make an appointment with your family doctor to talk about the symptoms you notice. If your child has bipolar disorder, here are some basic things you can do:

s Be patients Encourage your child to talk, and listen to him or her carefullys Be understanding about mood episodess Help your child have funs Help your child understand that treatment can help him or her get better.

How does bipolar disorder affect parents and family?

Taking care of a child or teenager with bipolar disorder can be stressful for you too. You have to cope with the mood swings and other problems, such as short tempers and risky activities. This can challenge any parent. Sometimes the stress can strain your relationships with other people, and you may miss work or lose free time.If you are taking care of a child with bipolar disorder, take care of yourself too. If you keep your stress level down you will do a better job. It might help your child get better too.

Where do I go for help?

If you’re not sure where to get help, call your family doctor. You can also check the phone book for mental health professionals. Hospital doctors can help in an emergency.

I know a child or teen who is in crisis.What do I do?

If you know a child who is in crisis, get help quickly.Do not leave him or her aloneCall your doctorCall 911 or go to the emergency roomCall a toll-free suicide hot line: 1–800–273–TALK (8255) for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The TTY number is 1–800–799–4TTY (4889).

(F.A.Q courtesy NIMH)

Related article:

Dealing with bipolar children

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