Bipolar Disorder In Kids About 1% of children in the U.S. have bipolar
disorder -- extreme changes in mood. Medication helps, but it can't teach
children coping skills.
Judith Lederman's son tried to jump off a pier in his first suicide attempt.
He was 5 years old. "A psychologist said he was just trying to get
attention," Lederman recalls. "He was 8 years old when he had his first
full-blown manic episode," says Lederman. "He stopped sleeping for days
on end, became very hostile, was pulling knives on us, and tried to attack his
The primary symptoms of bipolar disorder are periods of elevated or irritable mood accompanied by dramatic increases in energy, activity, and thinking. The illness has two (bi) strongly contrasting phases (polar): 1) bipolar mania or hypo-mania and 2) depression.
1) Bipolar mania or hypo-mania symptoms include:
Euphoria or irritability
Increased energy and activity
Excessive talk; racing thoughts
Unusual energy; less need for sleep
Lederman and her husband took their son to the hospital, where he was
admitted for a three-day evaluation. At the end of the three days, he had been
diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
From that day forward, the Lederman family's life changed. And even though
their son's condition is now stable, it requires "constant vigilance,"
says Lederman, author of the forthcoming book, Swing Shift: The Ups &
Downs of Parenting a Bipolar Child.
Previously known as manic-depression, bipolar disorder is a mood disorder
marked by extreme changes in mood, energy levels, and behavior. Although
symptoms typically emerge in adolescence or adulthood, they can be seen in
children as young as 7 or 8, says Robert Kowatch, MD, professor of psychiatry
and pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Until recently, young people were rarely diagnosed with this disorder. Yet
up to one-third of the 3.4 million children and adolescents with depression in
the U.S. may actually be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder,
according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Bipolar disorder begins with either manic or depressive symptoms. Like
children with depression, children with bipolar disorder are likely to have a
family history of the illness -- as was the case with Judith Lederman's son.
Her husband's father also suffered from the condition.
The National Mental Health Association lists the following signs and
symptoms and recommends that you seek medical help if you see a child
struggling with any combination of these symptoms for more than two weeks.