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Teens and Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is more likely to affect children with bipolar disorder. When one parent has bipolar disorder the risk the child will also be bipolar is 15-30%. When both parents are bipolar the rick increases to 50-75%.
Symptoms with bipolar disorder, in children and teens, may be hard to recognize because they are often mistaken for age appropriate behavior.
Manic children and teens are more likely to be irritable and prone to destructive outburst. When depressed, the complain of headaches, stomach aches, tiredness, poor performance in school, poor communication, and extremely sensitivity to rejection or failure.
< The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry estimate that up to one-third of the 3.4 million children and teens in the U.S. with depression may actually be showing early signs of bipolar disorder.>
Feeling blamed: many parents are given the message that their child's disorder has been caused by poor parenting, or an inadequate behavior management program.
Communication breakdown: sad, but often the case, the "treatment providers" do not communicate well with the parents.
Issues with hyper-sexuality: it is an unfortunate fact that children who display sexual behavior have often been abused. As part of the misdiagnosed, often parents are reported to the authorities and put through emotional draining, embarrassing, and unwarranted investigation.
Lack of knowledge: the recognition of bipolar disorder in children and teens has only been seen in the last 10 years, many clinicians are NOT familiar with this.
Researchers write," not only do parent struggle against their child's disorder, but against the treatment providers also."
Dos and Don'ts
You child's doctors should:
- work with you
- listen
- be understanding
- separate the child from the symptoms
- avoid blame
- be willing to refer
You child's doctor should NOT:
- talk about the child in front of the child
- blame parents for lack of treatment success
Early warning signs to look for:
(very common)
- separation anxiety
- rages and explosive temper
- marked irritability
- oppositional behavior
- frequent mood swings
- destructibility
- hyperactivity
- impulsiveness
- restlessness
- silliness
- racing thoughts
- aggressive thoughts
- grandiosity
- carbohydrate cravings
- risk taking behaviors
- depressed mood
- tiredness
- low self-esteem
- difficulty getting up in the mornings
- social anxiety
- oversensitive
- bed wetting (especially in boys)
- night terrors
- rapid speech
- excessive day dreaming
- compulsive behavior
- motor and vocal tics
- learning disabilities
- poor short-term memory
- lack of organization
- fascination with gore or morbid thoughts
- hyper-sexuality
- manipulative behavior
- bossiness
- lying
- suicidal thoughts
- destruction of property
- paranoia
- hallucinations and delusions
(less common)
- migraine headaches
- binging
- self-mutilation behavior
- cruelty to small animals
Bipolar disorder, for the diagnosed individual, as well as family, creates a sense of isolation. People feel like they are alone, with nowhere to turn.
Some ways of coping and relieving stress are:
- take a break from the news
- spend more time with family and friends
- play with your pet
- plant some flowers
- volunteer in your community
- take medication as prescribed
- keep an open dialog
- maintain normal daily routines
- get adequate sleep
- limit caffeine
- avoid alcohol
A huge part of coping is having someone to talk with. Someone who will listen without passing judgments.

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