Bipolar Disorder In Teens – Signs and symptoms


Teenagers are known to be moody, but how can you differentiate the typical mood swings brought about by peer pressure, raging hormones and teenage angst to the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Many argue that it is usual for a teenager to go through periods of “downs” and “ups”, and that certain changes in behavior are only an expression towards the changes a teenager is experiencing. But the signs and symptoms coupled with the behavioral changes in bipolar disorder are more overwhelming.

Any individual can develop bipolar disorder, but most commonly it occurs in the late teenage years and this could last one’s lifetime.

Bipolar Disorder In Teens


A direct cause for bipolar disorder is yet to be established, but there are factors that are indicated:

  • Genes: It is considered familial, wherein a child born from parents who have bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the condition than children from parent who does not have the condition.
  • Anxiety disorders: Anxiety disorder is another mental condition common in children and if not treated or dealt with properly may lead to the development of bipolar disorder.
  • Brain structure

Signs and symptoms

A teenager with bipolar disorder can have periods wherein he or she feels sad or down; this is called a depressive episode, and at certain periods he or she may feel bursts of energy and happiness; this is called a manic episode. But at times an individual can experience both; this is called a “mixed state” or “mixed episode”. Each episode can last for a week or too, but sometimes it may last longer.

Teens having a depressive episode may feel

  • Sad and lacking energy most of the day for no apparent reason
  • May choose to lock oneself in one’s room rather than interact with people and friends
  • May have feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • May start hurting self and have thoughts about death and suicide
  • May choose to eat too much or none at all
  • May sleep too little or too much

Teens having a manic episode may feel

  • Extremely happy and energetic that may appear unusually
  • Maybe irritable and lose one’s temper too quickly
  • May not be able to focus at a given task
  • May not feel the need for sleep
  • May be preoccupied with sex than usual
  • May partake in risky behavior more often

Other problems linked with bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder in teenagers may occur with other problems like:

  • Substance abuse whether alcohol or illicit drugs
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Other mental illnesses

If any of these are present with your child, it is best to seek the help of a doctor, preferably a specialist dealing with psychiatric disorders. Though bipolar disorder may last a lifetime, it is highly responsive to therapy and medication. At present the condition may not have a cure, but having regular sessions with a therapist and taking the prescribed medications will help manage the disorder, providing the teenager proper ways to deal with the mood swings and learn correct ways to cope with the disorder.

As a parent how can you help your child with bipolar disorder?

  • Encourage your child to speak out feelings and emotions but at the same time be patient and understanding
  • Accept that any individual can develop bipolar disorder and that it doesn’t mean that your child is handicapped by the mental illness
  • As a parent rearing a child with bipolar disorder, it can prove to be stressful and challenging therefore it is also encouraged that parents go for therapy sessions as well to learn more about ways to cope and proper techniques to keep stress level down