What is bipolar disorder?
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.
In the past, experts
thought bipolar disorder was the same in children and adults. But symptoms in
children and teens are different from those in adults, and they need different
What causes bipolar disorder?
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.
What are the symptoms?
In children and teens, moods quickly change from one extreme to another
without a clear reason. Some children may briefly return to a normal mood
between extremes. Many children change continuously between mania and
depression, sometimes several times in the same day. Sometimes children with
bipolar disorder have symptoms of both mania and depression at the same
Times of mania (ups) or depression (downs) may be less obvious in children
and teens than in adults.
- During a time of mania, children and teens
- Feel irritable and throw violent temper
- Seem extremely happy and have high energy
- Touch their genitals, use sexual language, and approach
others in a sexual way.
- Not sleep much and go about the house late
at night looking for things to do.
- Talk very fast.
- During a time of depression, children and
- Say they feel empty, sad, bored, or
- Complain of headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or
- Often spend time alone and may
easily feel rejected or criticized.
- Move very slowly.
How is bipolar disorder diagnosed in children and teens?
This disorder can be hard to diagnose in children and teens. The symptoms
can look a lot like the symptoms of other problems, such as:
Bipolar disorder can often occur
along with these problems.
If your doctor thinks your child or
teen may have bipolar disorder, he or she may ask questions about your child?s
feelings and behavior. Your doctor may also give you and your child written
tests to find out how severe the mania or depression is.
The doctor may do
other tests (such as a blood test) to rule out other health problems. He or she
may ask if your family has any history of mental illness or problems with drugs
or alcohol. Any of these problems can be linked to bipolar disorder.
Why is early diagnosis of bipolar disorder important?