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Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens - When To Call a Doctor

Call 911, the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or other emergency services right away if:

  • Your child is thinking seriously of committing suicide or has recently tried to commit suicide. Serious signs include these thoughts:
    • Has decided how to kill himself or herself, such as with a weapon or medicines.
    • Has set a time and has a plan.
    • Thinks there is no other way to solve the problem or end the pain.
  • Your child feels he cannot stop from hurting himself or someone else.

Call a doctor right away if:

  • Your child hears voices.
  • Your child has been thinking about death or suicide a lot but does not have a plan for suicide.
  • Your child is worried a lot that the feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide are not going away.

Seek care soon if:

  • Your child has symptoms of depression, such as:
    • Feeling sad or hopeless.
    • Not enjoying anything.
    • Having trouble with sleep.
    • Feeling guilty.
    • Feeling anxious or worried.
  • Your child has been treated for depression for more than 3 weeks but is not getting better.

Who to see

It is best to build a long-term relationship with your child's care providers so that when a depressive or manic episode occurs, the care providers can recognize the changes in the child's behavior and provide quick treatment advice.

You may wish to find a doctor who has special training in children's mental health conditions or experience treating bipolar disorder in young people. Bipolar disorder can be diagnosed and treated by a health professional such as a:

Your child may also benefit from professional counseling to help deal with mood changes and the effects bipolar disorder has on your child's life. A counselor with special training in child mood disorders or experience treating child bipolar disorder may be most helpful. Counseling for bipolar disorder can be provided by a:

Other health professionals who also may be trained in counseling include:

Who to see for family member support

If you are a family member of a child with bipolar disorder, it is very important to get the support and help you need. Living with or caring for someone who has bipolar disorder can be very disruptive to your own life. Manic episodes can be particularly difficult. It may help to seek your own counselor or therapist to support you.

Also, some national support organizations may have a local chapter in your area or provide information on the Internet. Examples of such groups include the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 10, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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