with Bipolar Disorder may have an ongoing combination of extremely
high (manic) and low (depressed) moods. Highs may alternate
with lows, or the person may feel both extremes at the same
Disorder usually starts in adult life. Although less common,
it does occur in teenagers and even rarely in young children.
This illness can affect anyone. However, if one or both parents
have Bipolar Disorder, the chances are greater that their
children will develop the disorder. Family history of drug
or alcohol abuse also may be associated with Bipolar Disorder
Disorder may begin either with manic or depressive symptoms.
The manic symptoms include:
changes in mood compared to others of the same age and background
- either unusually happy or silly, or very irritable, angry,
agitated or aggressive
highs in self-esteem - for example, a teenager who feels
all powerful or like a superhero with special powers
increase in energy and the ability to go with little or
no sleep for days without feeling tired
in talking - the adolescent talks too much, too fast, changes
topics too quickly, and cannot be interrupted
- the teen's attention moves constantly from one thing to
high risk-taking behavior; such as, abusing alcohol and
drugs, reckless driving, or sexual promiscuity
depressive symptoms include:
depressed mood, persistent sadness, frequent crying
of death or suicide
of enjoyment in favorite activities
complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches or stomach
energy level, fatigue, poor concentration, complaints of
change in eating or sleeping patterns, such as oversleeping
these signs are similar to those that occur in teenagers with
other problems such as drug abuse, delinquency, attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder, or even schizophrenia. The diagnosis
can only be made with careful observation over an extended
period of time. A thorough evaluation by a child and adolescent
psychiatrist can be helpful in identifying the problems and
starting specific treatment.
with Bipolar Disorder can be effectively treated. Treatment
for Bipolar Disorder usually includes education of the patient
and the family about the illness, mood stabilizing medications
such as lithium and valproic acid, and psychotherapy. Mood
stabilizing medications often reduce the number and severity
of manic episodes, and also help to prevent depression. Psychotherapy
helps the teenager understand himself or herself, adapt to
stresses, rebuild self-esteem and improve relationships.
information see Facts for Families:
# 3 Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
#4 The Depressed Child
#6 Children Who Can't Pay Attention (ADHD)
#33 Conduct Disorder, and
#52 Comprehensive Psychiataric Evluation.
See also: Your Child (1998 Harper Collins)/Your
Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins).
#38 Updated 05/00
Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving
us permission to use this article.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
represents over 6,900 child and adolescent psychiatrists
who are physicians with at least five years of additional
training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child
and adolescent psychiatry.
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