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Teen Bipolar Disorder Overview

Bipolar disorder also called manic-depressive disorder can severely affect teenagers and those around them. Teenagers with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings where high or manic mood alternates with low or depressed mood. Manic episodes in teens cause a great energy increase as well as irritability whilst in depressive episodes teens become less active, sad, exhausted and lose interest in any activity.

Experts have not yet explained the exact cause of bipolar disorder in teenagers but they believe it develops due to imbalance in the brain’s chemistry. Teenagers with family history of the disorder have an increased risk for developing a bipolar disorder as the genetic factor seems to play an important role in development of the illness. Extreme mood episodes in teenagers are usually triggered by stress, medications or environmental factors.

Teen bipolar disorder is incurable but with adequate treatment the illness can be controlled. Treatment for teen bipolar disorder involves psychotherapy and medications.

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder in teenagers is marked by dramatic shifts in mood, energy and activity levels usually without an obvious reason. Mania and depression may alternate rapidly or one intense episode may be followed by normal mood that precedes the next extreme mood episode. These episodes usually last for a week or two. The manic symptoms include:Increase in energy levelIrritabilityShort TemperRacing thoughts and increased talkingLittle sleepHigh-risk behaviors such as spending sprees, drug abuse and sexual promiscuityUnrealistic highs in self-esteem where a teen, for example, may believe to have special powersThe depressive episodes are associated with symptoms such as:Persistent sadnessFrequent cryingA long period of feeling emptyLose of interest in favorite activitiesTirednessDifficulty in sleepingChange in eating habitsThoughts about death or suicide, or suicide attemptsIn some teenagers suffering from bipolar disorder, symptoms of both mania and depression may occur at the same time. This is known as a mixed state. In other teens bipolar disorder does not cause extreme manic episodes but only minor ones and it is known as hypomania.

Signs that may also indicate bipolar disorder in teens include: poor performance at school, thinking or talking about running away, substance abuse, self-destructive behavior, extreme sensitivity, delusions or hallucinations and suicidal tendencies.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Teen Bipolar DisorderDoctors can diagnose bipolar disorder in teenagers by thorough mental health evaluation but first must rule out other medical conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or conduct disorder. The treatment for bipolar disorder generally consists of counseling and medications. Education of the patient and the family about the condition is also a part of the treatment.

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