Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes extreme changes in mood, thinking, and behavior. There are usually two mood phases, a manic phase and a depressed phase. In the manic phase your child has an unusually high amount of energy and is extremely active. In the depressed phase your child is very sad, hopeless, and doesn’t care about anything.
Bipolar disorder may last a lifetime. Symptoms tend to get worse if not treated. Bipolar disorder can be managed even if it is not cured.
The exact cause of the disorder is not known.
Bipolar disorder is not very common in children. It is usually not diagnosed until the late teenage years.
BPD is different in children and teens than in adults. In adults there are often clear episodes of mania or depression that last a week or longer. In children and teens, the phases are less clear and changes from one mood to the other may happen faster. Children may have more than one depressed or manic mood in a single day.
In the manic phase, symptoms may include:
In the depressed phase, symptoms may include:
Teens may be less likely to admit that they are sad and depressed.
Your child may also have what is called a mixed episode. A mixed episode is mania with depressed symptoms at the same time.
Your healthcare provider or therapist will ask about your child’s symptoms. He will make sure your child does not have a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms. Many symptoms are also symptoms of other disorders. A mental health therapist who specializes in working with children and teens is best qualified to diagnose bipolar disorder because children and teens may also have other disorders in addition to bipolar disorder, such as:
Bipolar disorder can be successfully treated with therapy, medicines, or both. If bipolar disorder is not treated, it tends to get worse. The mania and depression phases can be more severe and episodes may happen more often. Most of the time, your child will feel better after a few weeks of treatment.
Several types of medicines can help treat bipolar disorder. Your healthcare provider will work with you to select the best medicine. If your child also has ADHD, medicines for ADHD may be prescribed. However, in some cases the medicines for ADHD can trigger manic symptoms or mood swings in children with bipolar disorder. Medicines to treat depression can also bring on bipolar symptoms in children.
Seeing a mental health therapist is helpful. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that helps your child identify and change thought processes. Replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones can help your child learn how to manage problem behaviors.
Family therapy is often very helpful. Family therapy treats the family as a whole rather than focusing on just your child.
Interpersonal therapy can help your child work on one or two problem areas, such as relationships with friends and family. Learning about the disorder and how to manage symptoms also helps.
Learning ways to relax may help. Yoga and meditation may also be helpful. You may want to talk with your healthcare provider about using these methods along with medicines and therapy.
Claims have been made that certain herbal and dietary products help control depression symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce symptoms of depression. No known herbal or natural remedies are effective in treating bipolar disorder. Supplements are not tested or standardized and may vary in strengths and effects. They may have side effects and are not always safe.
Stay in touch with teachers, babysitters, and other people who care for your child to share information about symptoms your child may be having.
Get emergency care if your child has thoughts of suicide or harming others, or if manic behavior puts you, others, or your child in danger.
For more information, contact: