Bipolar Disorder In Kids
Severe changes in mood -- from unusually happy
or silly to irritable, angry, or aggressive.
Unrealistic highs in self-esteem. May feel
indestructible or believe they can fly, for example.
Great increase in energy level. Can go without
sleep for days without being tired.
Excessive involvement in multiple projects and
activities. May move from one thing to the next and become easily
Increase in talking. Talks too much, too fast,
changes topics too quickly, and cannot be interrupted. This may be accompanied
by racing thoughts or feeling pressured to keep talking.
Risk-taking behavior such as abusing drugs and
alcohol, attempting daredevil stunts, being sexually active, or having
Frequent sadness or crying.
Withdrawal from friends and
Decreased energy level, lack of enthusiasm, or
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive
Extreme sensitivity to rejection or
Major changes in habits such as oversleeping or
Frequent physical complaints such as headaches
Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or
Many of these symptoms can be indicative of conditions other than bipolar
disorder, but it's important to have the child evaluated to reach the right
diagnosis, says Tim Lesaka, MD, child psychiatrist with The Staunton Clinic in
suburban Pittsburgh. Many cases previously thought to be attention deficit
hyperactive disorder (ADHD) may, in fact, be bipolar disorder, he says.
"With kids with bipolar disorder, it's a matter of extremes," says
Lesaka. "With an ADHD kid, there's a five-minute tantrum and then an
apology. With the bipolar child, it can be eight hours of rage with no apology.
There is an explosiveness ... followed by a super-depression."
Treatment for bipolar disorder -- in kids as well as in adults -- usually
consists of a combination of medications that may include one or more of the
following: mood stabilizer, antipsychotic drug, antidepressant, or antiseizure
drug. Medication does work, Kowatch says, but there's always the problem of
getting kids to stay with the program. "It's a real pain for them," he
says. "The drugs have side effects ... but the alternative is to wind up in