Often the first signs of
bipolar disorder are severe moodiness, unhappiness, or
symptoms of depression. It is common for children with
bipolar disorder to be diagnosed first with only
depression and then later to be diagnosed with bipolar
first manic or hypomanic episode can be triggered by a stressful situation or by certain medicines. Or it may occur without an obvious cause.
Children with bipolar disorder may:
- Have trouble getting going in the morning but then have intense energy later in the day.
- Miss school often or talk about running away from home.
- Become socially isolated and overly sensitive to any kind of rejection or criticism.
- Behave irresponsibly, take risks and not think about the consequences, or have trouble making and keeping friends.
In addition to having manic symptoms, children may have severe, seizure-like
temper tantrums when they are told "no." A child with bipolar disorder may kick, bite,
hit, and make hateful comments, including threats and curses. During tantrums,
which may last for hours, a child may destroy property or become increasingly
Young children with bipolar disorder
may have more extreme happy or silly moods than most children have.
Manic behavior by a teen with bipolar disorder may result in such problems as:
- Suspension from school.
- Arrest as a result of fighting or drug use.
- An unwanted pregnancy.
- A sexually transmitted infection (STI) from unsafe sexual behavior.
During depressive episodes, a teen may do poorly in school and may stop taking part in activities he or she enjoyed in the past, such as a sports team.
Watch for warning signs of suicide, which can
include preoccupation with death or suicide or a recent breakup of a
Substance abuse is common. Your child's doctor may recommend an evaluation for both
substance abuse problems and bipolar disorder if your child appears to suffer
from either condition.
Treating other conditions
Sometimes treatment for other conditions can make your
child's bipolar disorder worse. For example:
depression with antidepressants can trigger a manic
episode or make one worse.
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with
stimulants may also trigger severe mania, depression, and even
psychosis (loss of touch with reality).
- Treatment with
corticosteroids for conditions such as asthma may also trigger a manic or depressive episode.
Medicines that intensify bipolar symptoms may need to be stopped or changed to
a different dose or medicine. Sometimes an additional medicine (such as a mood
stabilizer) can solve the problem. But each child responds to medicines
differently. And it may take several tries before your doctor can identify an
effective medicine, dose, or combination of medicines for your child's