Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Bipolar Disorder Health Center

Font Size

Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens - Topic Overview

Bipolar disorder causes mood swings with extreme ups (mania) and downs (depression). When people with this problem are up, they have brief, intense outbursts or feel irritable or extremely happy (mania) several times almost every day. They have a lot of energy and a high activity level. When they are down, they feel depressed and sad.

Experts don't fully understand what causes bipolar disorder.

It seems to run in families. Your child has a greater risk of having it if a close family member such as a parent, grandparent, brother, or sister has it. Parents may wonder what they did to cause their child to have bipolar disorder. But there is nothing a parent can do to cause or prevent it.

In children and teens, moods quickly change from one extreme to another without a clear reason. But for a child to have bipolar disorder, these mood changes must be different from the child's usual moods and must happen with other symptoms or changes in behavior. These distinct periods of time with changes in mood and behavior are called mood episodes. People with bipolar disorder have manic and depressive mood episodes.

Times of mania (ups) or depression (downs) may be less obvious in children and teens than in adults.

  • A manic episode lasts at least a week. It is a period of extremely happy, aggressive, and/or angry mood that occurs with some of the following symptoms. The child or teen may:
    • Have little need for sleep.
    • Have high energy levels.
    • Have extreme confidence in themselves.
    • Talk very fast.
    • Have many thoughts at once.
    • Seem very distracted and unable to focus.
    • Touch his or her genitals, use sexual language, and approach others in a sexual way.
    • Act inappropriate or are intrusive in social settings.
  • A depressive episode is a period of sad, low, or cranky mood that occurs with some of the following symptoms. The child or teen may:
    • Not find pleasure in things they normally enjoy.
    • Have low energy or feel "slowed down."
    • Have sleep and appetite changes.
    • Have low self-esteem.
    • Feel guilty or worthless.
    • Withdraw from friends or family.
    • Have difficulty focusing.
    • Have thoughts about death or suicide.
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    lunar eclipse
    Signs of mania and depression.
    Pills on blank prescription paper
    Learn about this popular bipolar disorder medication.
    serious looking young woman
    Assess your symptoms.
    teen girl in bad mood
    How is each one different?
    Feeling Ups and Downs
    Bipolar or Schizo
    Foods to Avoid
    Man being scolded by his shadow
    lunar eclipse
    depressed man
    young women not speaking
    man talking with therapist