Bipolar Disorder and Treatments in Teens

Bipolar Disorder, formerly called Manic Depression, is a mood disorder that causes an individual to have extremes in mood, from manic, restless highs to depressive, listless lows. These extremes can be experienced in a relatively short period of time with an individual. Bipolar Disorder in children and teens is very much the same as in adults. The biggest issue with children is that the disorder can easily be misdiagnosed because it has some of the same characteristics as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is often diagnosed in children. Bipolar Disorder in teens can also look different than it does in adults simply because it does not fit perfectly into the same diagnostic mold as adult Bipolar Disorder.  Teenage symptoms may also be due to other problems which are common in teens, such as normal ups and downs, stress, trauma, or other mental health issues.

According to Mayo Clinic, one of the biggest indicators of bipolar disorder in children and teens is mood changes that are noticeably more extreme than the normal mood changes your child may experience. The pattern of mood changes may also be quite different from those in adults. Children’s and teens’ moods may shift rapidly within episodes, and there may be a long period of normalcy in between episodes. Since there are varying types of Bipolar Disorder, there may be fewer depressive episodes and more manic episodes, more depression, and fewer manic episodes, or it may be equally divided between the two.

Some of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder may include:

  • Irritability
  • Increased energy
  • Racing thoughts
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeping little or sleeping too much
  • Poor judgement
  • Inability to think clearly

Having one or more of these symptoms is not enough to reach a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. It is important for your child or teen to have a comprehensive clinical assessment by a licensed mental health counselor. A physical examination by your doctor is also recommended. Along with this, there is a likelihood that your child or teens’ moods will have to be charted over a period of time to get an idea of how often and for how long the mood swings are occurring. Treatment for Bipolar Disorder varies depending on the severity of the disorder as well as the type of disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic,  treatment for children and teens is usually determined on a case by case basis and may include:

  • Medication can be prescribed by your child’s pediatrician or by a psychiatrist.
  • Therapy can help manage symptoms. Some strategies that may be incorporated are helpful routines, coping skills, resolving social problems, improving communications within the family, and addressing learning difficulties. It is also important to treat any substance abuse problems with teens because this can interfere with their treatment. Clinical mental health counselors are well trained to meet your needs for therapy and treatment.
  • Psychoeducation or skill-building. It is important as a parent to become educated on Bipolar Disorder so that you can be well-versed in treatments and be able to effectively communicate with your child’s treatment team as well as your child. Our counselors can teach you and your child to manage moods more effectively and deal with intense emotions.
  • It is important to work with your child’s teachers and school counselor through effective communication. Family and friends are also a great way to learn about community resources that may be of help to your child.

Bipolar Disorder is a disorder that is highly treatable. If you suspect you or your child may be suffering from Bipolar Disorder, give us a call at Lifeologie Counseling Raleigh (919) 900-7552, we can help! Or, find a Lifeologie therapist near you who specializes in mood disorders


About Elizabeth Grady

Elizabeth “Liz” Grady is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Clinical Supervisor (LCMHCS), a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) and a Board Certified Tele-Mental Health (BC-TMH) Counselor. She earned her MA in Counseling and her PhD in Counselor Education from North Carolina State University. She has advanced training in Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). She specializes in stress management, school/employment, relationships, and past and present life experiences, including childhood maltreatment and trauma. She sees adolescents, adults, and families at Lifeologie Counseling Raleigh.

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