Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens - Symptoms
Bipolar disorder causes cycles of
mania (or hypomania, a less severe form of mania) and
depression. The different
types of bipolar disorder are based on whether a person has more severe
symptoms of mania or depression.
- With bipolar I disorder, moods swing between
mania and depression, sometimes with periods of normal mood between extremes.
All children with this disorder have episodes of mania, but episodes of depression vary. For example, some children do experience depression, and others rarely are depressed.
- With bipolar II disorder, depression is
more severe than mania. And manic episodes may last for fewer days and be less
- With cyclothymia, the high and low mood swings are not as severe as the mania and depression seen in bipolar I or bipolar II disorders.
- Bipolar, NOS (not otherwise specified), is diagnosed when symptoms of mania and depression are not frequent or severe enough for the above diagnoses.
In children and younger teens, bipolar disorder tends to be rapid-cycling or mixed cycling:
- Rapid-cycling means that there have been at least four shifts between depression
and mania over the past 12 months. These shifts occur quickly, sometimes within the same day. Often the shifts happen without a return to a normal mood in between the extremes.
- Mixed-cycling (also known as mixed-features) means that
symptoms of both mania and depression occur at the same time.
Following are some common symptoms of bipolar disorder
in children and teens.1
- Continuous sad or irritable mood
- Loss of interest
in activities that the child enjoyed in the past, such as hobbies, sports, games, or
- Significant changes in appetite or body weight (weight loss
- Sleeping too much or too little or having trouble falling
- Slowed body movements or restlessness
energy, or loss of energy
- Inappropriate feelings of guilt or
- Problems concentrating
thoughts or talk of death or suicide
- Headaches, muscle aches, or stomachaches
- Severe changes in mood from being extremely
irritable to overly silly and elated
- Too much energy, such as the
ability to keep going without tiring while the child's peers are
- Decreased need for sleep, such as going for days with very
little sleep and not being tired
- Talking too much or too fast,
changing topics too quickly, and not allowing
- Increased distraction and constantly moving from one
thing to another
- Grandiosity, such as inflated self-esteem or a
belief in unrealistic abilities or powers
- Increased sexual
thoughts, feelings, activity, and use of sexual language (hypersexuality)
- Increased obsession with reaching goals or becoming involved in
too many activities
- Risky, wild, thrill-seeking behavior
During severe episodes of mania, your child may suffer
from symptoms of
psychosis, such as having
delusions of grandeur (for example, telling people
that a rock band is coming to his or her birthday party).