What Bipolar Disorder Looks Like In Children And Teens


Are you worried that your child might have bipolar disorder? It's not something a lot of people think of, but can be really frustrating for the person who has it. I should know-I have bipolar.

Bipolar disorder is something that a person is born with the tendency towards, but it doesn't necessarily set on right away, (if at all). It used to be thought that it set on in early adulthood, and that is still the case with a lot of people. That's how it was for me, although I didn't realize it at the time. However, more and more children and teens are being diagnosed with it these days. It's not necessarily that kids and teens have it at higher percentages than they did before so much as that doctors know enough about it now to recognize it at an earlier age. However, it's still very hard to diagnose a person (child or not) with bipolar because it shares symptoms with so many other things. 

Here are some of the most common symptoms of Childhood Bipolar Disorder, also known as Early Onset Bipolar Disorder or Juvenile Bipolar Disorder.

  • Rages and intense temper tantrums that last up to a few hours
  • impulsivity
  • oppositional behavior (talking back, vandalizing/destroying things, lying, manipulative behavior, etc)
  • mood swings
  • irritability (more so than before)
  • Silliness/giddiness
  • Social and separation anxiety
  • lethargy and depressed mood
  • aggressive behavior
  • problems with learning
  • racing thoughts/pressured speech
  • Lack of attention or organization
  • lack of short-term memory
  • fascination with death or other morbid topics
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Excessive daydreaming
  • Paranoia
  • Motor/vocal tics
  • bedwetting (more often in boys)
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

As you can see, bipolar is hard to diagnose and treat because it is very easy to blame the symptoms on something else. For instance, some people will see the attention issues and assume it's ADD, the oppositional behavior and assume that the child is just a brat or the daydreaming and think she's just bored. While it's not at all uncommon for other disorders such as ADD to occur alongside bipolar, it's usually helpful to see a specialist such as a psychiatrist for a complete diagnosis. The reason for this is because children with bipolar who are left untreated can have serious problems growing up, more so than an adult would. They are more likely to drop out of school, to try drugs, to break the law...this isn't to say that adults don't do stupid things too, but things like what I mentioned above affect the 'groundwork' on which the child's entire future is built on.

I know a lot of parents don't like the idea of medicating their kids or taking them to therapy; frankly, I don't blame them. We worry so much about what goes into their bodies or wonder if certain behavior is just 'being a kid'. Bipolar disorder, however, is a medical disorder that most often requires medication to manage. Unfortunately, there isn't any test that can be done to tell which medications will work for which people, so we just have to try different things until something works.

If you suspect your child may have bipolar or some other disorder, please see your doctor. I'm not trying to alarm anyone, but it's really important that you and your doctor 'get to the bottom' of what could be causing your child's problem. Believe me, having the right diagnosis and treatment for something like bipolar can vastly improve the quality of your child's life.

No comments:

Post a Comment