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Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens - Topic Overview

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.

Children with this disorder are more likely to have other problems. These include alcohol and drug abuse, trouble in school, running away from home, fighting, and even suicide. Treating the disorder as early as possible may keep your child from having these problems.

Watch for the warning signs of suicide, which change with age. Warning signs of suicide in children and teens may include thinking too much about death or suicide. Watch also for things that can trigger a suicide attempt such as a recent breakup of a relationship or the loss of a parent or close family member through death or divorce.

The mood changes that come with bipolar disorder can be a challenge. But with the right treatment, they can be managed well. Treatment usually includes both medicine (such as mood stabilizers) and counseling.

An important part of treatment is making sure your child takes his or her medicine. Children and teens with this disorder sometimes stop taking their medicines when they feel better. But without medicine, their symptoms usually come back.

Medicines for bipolar disorder in adults have been well studied. But more research is being done on how the medicines work and if they are safe for children and teens.

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