Bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic changes in mood to euphoric or depressive states. This illness usually gets diagnosed in early adulthood, but early-onset bipolar disorder in children and teens has become more prevalent. Early-onset bipolar disorder is usually more severe than the adult version, so it’s important to fully understand the facts about this volatile illness.
Causes of Teen Bipolar Disorder
When certain chemicals in the brain do not exist in appropriate concentrations, the resulting imbalance may cause bipolar disorder. A family history of bipolar disorder can also increase the risk of developing the disease. A teen’s environment plays one of the greatest roles in determining whether and how bipolar disorder develops.
Symptoms of Teen Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is characterized by changes in mood that are commonly called episodes. There are several types of episodes, including mania, depression and mixed, each with its own effects on energy level and behavior. Episodes may last between several days to several months.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), symptoms of a manic episode include:
Reduced attention span
Problems sleeping without daily fatigue
Increased sexual behavior and thoughts
Symptoms of a depressive episode include:
Increased feelings of sadness
Reduced social interaction
Trouble completing schoolwork and other responsibilities
Feelings of guilt
Decreased or increased appetite
Lack of energy
Fixation on death, including suicide
In mixed episodes, these signs may appear in any combination. During any episode, substance and alcohol abuse may reveal increased mental difficulties.
Treatment Options for Teen Bipolar Disorder
Teens can receive treatment in a variety of ways depending on their needs.
Medication treatment: According to the NIMH,selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may pose an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions. However, multiple studies have found the potential benefits of SSRIs for depressive episodes generally outweigh the potential consequences. Each teen is different, so medication treatment with antidepressants should be closely monitored for any negative reactions
Psychotherapy: A counselor, therapist, psychiatrist, or social worker can conduct this treatment on an individual or group basis. Some teens may benefit from attending group sessions with friends and family members to help reduce feelings of reluctance
Hospitalization: When teens are in a state of crisis, such as contemplating suicide, hospitalization may be required. If substance abuse is also an issue, hospitalization and teen rehab can help address withdrawal symptoms. A specialized treatment center for teens ensures that patients can cope and overcome their disorders without fear of being judged by adults and peers
Social Support System: Family members, coworkers, friends and teachers play a vital role in the successful treatment of teen bipolar disorder. All should be consulted on a regular basis. For cases of substance abuse, alcohol and drug use should be excluded from the home if at all possible
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration, as many as one in 10 adolescents have shown possible signs of bipolar disorder. By understanding how bipolar disorder affects teenagers, more people will be able to take a proactive approach in helping teens overcome it.