Bipolar disorder is a condition with alternating sets of symptoms. During certain periods of time, your adolescent may act extremely happy, elated, or very irritable (manic symptoms). During the alternate periods of time they will exhibit symptoms of major depression.
When symptoms are present before age 12, they are sometimes confused with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, advances continue to be made in recognizing bipolar disorder in younger children.
What are the signs of bipolar disorder? If your child has bipolar disorder, you’ll notice both types of the following symptoms. They’ll be present to a varying degree:
- Has an overly inflated sense of self-esteem
- Seems to not need sleep or rest as much
- Is very distracted and irritable
- Excessively gets involved in high-risk and/or pleasurable activities, for example: sexual promiscuity, reckless driving, reckless spending, substance abuse
- Enhanced talkativeness
- Appears to have excessive “high” or euphoric feelings, grandiose at times
- Unpredictably changes mood from happy or silly, anger or agitation
- Increased sex drive
- Increased energy level
- Uses uncharacteristic poor judgment
- Difficulty with relationships
- Expresses excessive guilt
- Expresses hopelessness
- Is extremely sensitive to failure or rejection
- Is unable to concentrate
- Lacks energy
- Lacks interest in activities once enjoyed
- Persistently suffers sadness
- Seems irritable, hostile or aggressive
- Shares feelings of wanting to die
- Shows changes in appetite or weight
- Shows signs of low self-esteem
- Sleeps too much or very little
- Thinks about suicide or attempts suicide
- Threatens running away from home
What causes bipolar disorder? The exact cause is unknown, but research suggests that it is hereditary, as it often runs in families. Studies are still underway to try and identify which gene (or genes) may be responsible.
What should you do if you believe your child has bipolar disorder? Contact your pediatrician or family doctor to set up an appointment for evaluation. If further assessment is needed, your doctor may recommend evaluation by a licensed behavioral health professional. Bipolar disorder can be effectively treated, usually with a combination of therapy and medication.