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Symptoms of bipolar disorder in children

Bipolar disorder

Child suffering from bipolar disorder may often have intense mood and behavior swings, get too excited or act extremely silly, but sometimes very sad. These changes may affect a child’s school performance and relationships within the family.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a serious mood disorder. Patients suffering from this brain illness often experience unusual mood changes ranging from manic to depressive. Sometimes they might feel extremely happy, are more active than normally, while they might soon, and without any obvious reason, start feeling sad and depressive. These are usual difficulties that every child goes through; these symptoms are more intense in bipolar children. The disorder affects normal functioning of patients’ life and it may even lead to attempts to hurt themselves or even try to commit suicide.

Bipolar disorder may happen to anyone. Most people develop this illness in the late teens or early adult years and it most commonly lasts throughout a lifetime. Bipolar disorder developed in children (or early-onset bipolar disorder) may be more serious than in the older population. Their mood swings are also more frequent.

Causes of bipolar disorder

The causes of bipolar disorder vary between individuals; however, several main factors may be distinguished:

  • Genetic heritage – bipolar disorder is an illness that runs in the family. Children with parent or sibling suffering from bipolar disorder may have greater chances of developing this mental illness.
  • Abnormal brain structure and functioning
  • Anxiety disorders – increases the risk of developing bipolar disorder as well.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder

Children suffering from bipolar disorder experience strangely elevated or depressed states for different periods. A mood episode may sometimes last a week or two or even longer and the symptoms are present during the whole day. These mood episodes range from hyper state called “manic episode” to extremely sorrowful state called “depressive episode”. Sometimes children may have so called “mixed episode” that has both manic and depressive symptoms.

Manic episode symptoms:

  • Acting joyful and silly in an abnormal way
  • Having short temper
  • Talking fast about various things
  • Having troubles sleeping and not feeling tired
  • Having troubles to stay focused
  • Talking and thinking about sex more often
  • Doing risky things
Depressive episode symptoms:
  • Feeling extremely miserable
  • Complaining about pain, stomach-ache and headache
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Feeling blameworthy and useless
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Being low on energy and without interest in amusing activities.
  • Thinking about death and suicide

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no cure for bipolar disorder, but effective management methods, similar to those used in adult patients, are being used for children.

Medications are used depending on child’s reaction to it. Sometimes doctors may prescribe a couple of different types to see which one is the most effective. Parents should never stop giving their child medication without doctor’s advice. Sudden change may even worsen children’s condition.

Psychotherapy or talk therapy is also effective in dealing with children. It may help managing child’s behavior and socialization.
It is important to understand that child’s bipolar disorder may change. If this happens, the treatment will have to adjust, too. Parents may help in treatment by keeping a chart of child's moods, behaviors, and sleep patterns so that the doctors may easily observe the effects of the treatment.

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