Originally thought to be present in adults only, recent research now suggests that Bipolar Disorder is present in children and teens. A source of controversy in the psychiatric community, there’s a disparity in whether the symptoms experienced by adults differ from those in children or not.
Regardless, treatment exists if your child is suffering from extreme mood changes and energy levels that will help them get better over time. While the condition can be debilitating for some, there is hope for children and adults alike to live everyday, fulfilling lives.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is an umbrella term that includes three diagnoses: Bipolar I, II, and cyclothymic disorder. Generally, it is a brain disorder that makes people with this condition experience intense shifts in their emotional state that occur in episodes or specific periods, typically lasting days or weeks.
A mood episode can either be categorized as manic or depressive, which means a person can go from experiencing euphoria to profound sadness. There’s also a hypomanic state, where they can become abnormally irritable. Individuals with Bipolar may also experience mood changes accompanied by a severe behavior change and even a disruption in their day-to-day function.
The good news is, Bipolar is very treatable and can be managed with the right combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Can Young Children Experience Bipolar Disorder?
Yes, bipolar is possible in children. However, while it’s more commonly associated with teenagers or older children, it can technically present itself in children of any age.
Rebellious behavior and not knowing how to process big emotions such as anger, irritability, and hyperactivity are a normal part of growing up. Still, it can be a sign that your child needs help in some cases. If your child’s emotional problems tend to be severe or have begun to be a disruption in their daily lives, this may be cause for further investigation. Let’s delve into the symptoms you should look out for if you think your child may be experiencing a manic or depressive episode.
Manic episode symptoms:
- An intense and prolonged elated mood
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia
- Difficulty remaining focused
- Interest in risky activities
- Exerting poor judgment and engaging in said dangerous activities
- Speaking fast about unrelated things
Depressive episode symptoms:
- Frequent sadness that comes out of nowhere
- Irritability or hostility
- Complaints of physical pain
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Over or under-eating
- Thoughts about death or suicidal ideation
- Little to no interest in otherwise pleasurable activities
How Is It Treated?
Bipolar disorder in children is treated with the help of an extensive support system that involves medication, therapy, family support, and, if necessary, the involvement of their school.
A therapist will help kids recognize where their intense moods originate and teach them how to manage those emotions. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT, children will also work through processes that will aid them in transforming their negative feelings and behaviors into newer, healthier ways of coping with their mental illness.
This will raise the child’s self-esteem and empower them to become active participants in their treatment journey and realize that their identity is more than their condition.
Medication is usually taken for several years and can be a long adjustment process, but it brings about irrefutable rewards, especially in contrast to life without medication. Your child’s practitioner will determine the appropriate prescription based on the benefits and most manageable side effects.
Ultimately it is best to remember that every child’s experience is unique, but it is ultimately worth it to weather the ups and downs of Bipolar treatment in order for your child to live their life to the fullest.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.