Bipolar Disorder in Children: Helpful Information That You Should Know

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  • Taking care of a child with bipolar disorder can be really stressful. From unexpected mood swings and short tempers to lifelong treatment methods, there are a lot of things that you and your child have to cope with
  • If you think your child is having extreme mood swings more often than other children, then it’s best to consult a mental health professional right away

One of the most common misconceptions about bipolar disorder is that children do not develop it.1 Unfortunately, this serious mental problem may indeed affect children of any age.

Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children and teens is usually more difficult since unruly behavior and emotional upheaval are considered a normal part of growing up. If you think your child is having extreme mood swings more often than other children, then it’s best to consult a mental health professional right away, especially if these mood changes also affect how your child acts at school or at home.2

How Prevalent Is Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens?

The prevalence of bipolar disorder in youth has significantly increased over the past decades. According to studies, a child’s risk of developing bipolar disorder increases 15 to 30 percent when one parent has this condition. If both parents have bipolar disorder, the risk may go as high as 50 to 75 percent.3

A statistics report by the National Institute of Mental Health shows that the lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder in adolescents is around 2.9 percent.4 Some studies also suggest that one-third of children with depression in the United States may actually be experiencing early symptoms of bipolar disorder.5

Unfortunately, only a few pediatric patients manage to start the appropriate treatment in time, since bipolar disorder often goes unrecognized in children and teens for months or even years. Prolonged delays in treatment not only disrupt normal development and psychosocial functioning, but also put a child at risk of developing other behavioral problems.6

Notable Differences of Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adults

Adults and children who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder both experience manic and/or depressive episodes. However, there is a noticeable difference in the severity and types of symptoms that these two age groups may experience. Children are more likely to be irritable than adults during manic episodes. They’re also more susceptible to hallucinations and delusions. During depressive episodes, children usually complain of physical pains, such as stomachaches and headaches.

The duration of bipolar episodes in children and adults is also different. Manic and depressive periods typically last for weeks, months or even years in adults. On the other hand, these mood swings may cycle more quickly in children, with some episodes lasting for only a day.7

What to Do if Your Child Is Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder

Taking care of a child with bipolar disorder can be really stressful. From unexpected mood swings and short tempers to lifelong treatment methods, there are a lot of things that you and your child have to cope with.

The first step to managing your child’s condition is by talking to a mental health professional. Doing this helps you better understand the behaviors and mood swings associated with bipolar disorder, and allows you to determine a treatment plan that can minimize the impact of this condition on your child’s daily life. Here are some of the other basic things that you can do:8,9

  • Keep a chart of your child’s moods, behaviors and sleeping patterns.
  • Monitor the side effects of medicines.
  • Engage in a conversation with your child.
  • Talk with your child’s teachers and help them understand your child’s needs.
  • Follow a daily routine to reduce stress.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that children with bipolar disorder tend to have suicidal thoughts that may trigger them to hurt themselves. To prevent this, make sure that you listen to your child and don’t ignore suicidal threats or life-threatening behaviors.10

MORE ABOUT BIPOLAR DISORDER

Bipolar Disorder: An Introduction

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder in Children

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Bipolar Disorder Causes

Bipolar Disorder Types

Bipolar Disorder Test

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bipolar Disorder Prevention

Living with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder Diet

Bipolar Disorder FAQ

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