Tips to Help Your Teens Who Have Bipolar Disorder

Mood swings are considered a normal part of a teenager’s life. However, ‘normal’ mood swings can be quite different from the intense mood swings of bipolar disorder. Formerly called manic-depressive disorder, bipolar disorder is a serious lifelong psychiatric illness. Although onset typically occurs in early adulthood, it can also develop in childhood or teenage years. 

As a parent, it is challenging to determine what is normal and what’s not when it comes to a teen’s emotional health. This brief blog is crafted to help you know which signs to watch out for and steps to take if your teenager has bipolar disorder.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder in Teens

There are two main things to remember:
  1. Watch for drastic changes in your teen’s normal mood
  2. Symptoms of mania and depression differ in teens than in adults

Signs to Look For

Mania and hypomania – Manic episodes can cause elation, euphoria or extreme irritability. In teens, irritability is more common than elation. Other signs include:
  • Short fuse
  • Rapid speech
  • Intrusiveness
  • High energy levels
  • Grandiosity
  • Reckless behavior
  • Impatience
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
Depression – Depression episodes are marked by negativity, persistent sadness, and increased withdrawal from family and friends. Other symptoms include:
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feeling empty
  • Drop in self-confidence or self-esteem 
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anger outbursts
  • Suicide attempts
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
Know the first steps towards bipolar management

Talk to your teen – Sit down and have a compassionate talk with your teen. Express your concerns and ask about their extreme mood swings. Have an open conversation with your teen to find out if anything is bothering them, but don’t pressure them. Let your teen know that you want to help and that you are willing and available.

Set an appointment for evaluation – It would be preferable to have your teen initially evaluated by a child and adolescent psychologist or psychiatrist.  These professionals have the specialized training and experience to identify and understand the more challenging and often subtle nuances of bipolar disorder in this age group.

Treatment – Once your teen has been evaluated, treatment recommendations will be discussed. Treatment for bipolar disorder in teens typically involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Along with these steps you will need to encourage and support your teen in every way. You will have to educate yourself about the brain-based disorder, be patient with them, be available, actively participate, and keep an eye on them in order to work on managing this condition


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