Understanding Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens
In Children and Teens
What is Bipolar Disorder?
• Bipolar disorder is a serious but often untreated brain
disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness.
• Children and teens with bipolar disorder go through
mood changes that cannot be explained by events. If they
sometimes feel unusually happy or irritable, with an
increase in activity and less need for sleep, they may be
showing signs of mania.
• Sometimes children and teens with bipolar disorder feel
very sad and "down," and are much less active than
usual. This can be signs of the depression phase.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
• There are a series of factors, including:
• Genes, because the illness runs in
families. Children with a parent or sibling
with bipolar disorder are more likely have
• Abnormal brain chemistry.
• Anxiety disorders. Children and teens with anxiety disorders are
more likely to develop bipolar disorder.
• Environmental stress does not cause the disorder, but can bring
on an episode.
Signs and Symptoms
According to http://www.nimh.nih.gov/, children and teens having a manic episode may:
• Feel very happy or act silly in a way that's unusual
• Have a very short temper
• Talk really fast about a lot of different things
• Have trouble sleeping but not feel tired
• Have trouble staying focused
• Talk and think about sex more often
• Do risky things.
Children and teens having a depressive episode may:
• Feel very sad
• Complain about pain a lot, like stomachaches and
• Sleep too little or too much
• Feel guilty and worthless
• Eat too little or too much
• Have little energy and no interest in fun activities
• Think about death or suicide.
How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?
1. Medication. Different types of medication can help children and
teens suffering from Bipolar Disorder. Because people respond to
medications in different ways, the type of medication is dependent on
the child. It’s not uncommon to need more than one type of medication
to manage complex symptoms.
2. Therapy. Different kinds of
psychotherapy can help children and teens
with Bipolar Disorder. According to
psychiatrist Dean Freedlander MD, therapy
can help children and teens change
behavior and manage routines.
How to Help Your Child or Teen
If your child or teen is suffering from Bipolar Disorder, here
are ways you can help:
• Be patient
• Encourage your child to talk, and listen to him or her carefully
• Be understanding about mood episodes
• Help your child have fun
• Help your child understand that treatment can help him or her get
If You Need Help
• If you're unsure where you can get help for your
child or teenager, call your family doctor. You
can also browse the web for mental health
professionals. Hospital doctors can help in the
case of an emergency.