Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens – Things Every Parent Should Know

diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder in teens

Children who display extreme changes in behaviour and mood swings that do not appear natural or normal in children of that age, may have bipolar disorder, otherwise known as manic depression.

When such children exhibit extreme energy and appear unusually happy and active, they could be experiencing a manic episode; common symptoms of which include shortness of temper, rapid speech, insomnia, and undertaking behaviours which would be soon by others as risky, wreckless, or distinctly unusual/out of character. In addition to these common symptoms, mania can also facilitate itself in the form of productivity & creativity, often in the form of ones work.

When the children appear sad and listless, it’s a depressive episode and is characterised by excessive sleep, whining, fluctuations in food intake, lethargy, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts.

It is important that such children be diagnosed accurately as early as possible for the nature and severity of the condition, and an appropriate treatment regime be initiated. With children, misdiagnosis is a possibility and the symptoms may be assigned to separation anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, or attention deficit disorder. These conditions can also accompany bipolar disorder; therefore, as mentioned above, an accurate diagnosis is essential in treating the subjects.

Heredity and a genetic predisposition to the condition make people susceptible to the condition in their late teens and early adulthood. Research into brain function is yielding information that doctors are using to treat juvenile and adult bipolar disorder.

There are no physical or pathological tests that can be used to determine bipolar disorder in children. The doctor will arrive at a diagnosis based on questions asked about the child’s behaviour and the family’s history of brain illnesses.

Treating bipolar disorder in children does not differ from the procedures followed for adults. Since there is no cure for the condition, and it may last a lifetime, medical practitioners place emphasis on controlling the symptoms, typically with a balance of medication and other treatments. Ideally, children should be administered the lowest possible doses and as few medicines as possible. Parents should keep track of how their ward responds; side effects should be reported to the doctor. Immediate cessation of medication is not recommended, it can worsen the symptoms. Therapy, that may sometimes also include family members, gently guides young adults about managing their relationships and making suitable changes to their behaviour so that they may stay positive and keep dark thoughts away.

The treatment works best when the affected child has the full support of his parents and others around him. The child should be treated with patience and compassion. He should be encouraged to enjoy and have fun. If the disorder changes, then the treatment needs to change accordingly. The doctor is best-placed to assess symptoms and prescribe changes in the treatment protocol to accommodate for a reduction or increase in bipolar symptoms. Parents can make the doctor’s job easy by diligently tracking the child’s moods and conduct.

Helping a child, teen or young adult cope with bipolar disorder can be stressful. You need to take time out to recharge yourself mentally and physically. Being there for your child takes on a whole new meaning, but with help from counsellors and therapists, you can incorporate the necessary changes into your routine.

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