Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens

View the Bipolar Disorder Overview Slideshow Pictures

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms of bipolar disorder depend upon whether the sufferer is experiencing a depressive or manic episode. Symptoms and signs of manic episodes include elevated or expansive mood, rushed or pressured speech, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, poor judgment, increased goal-directed activity, impulsivity, grandiose thoughts (thinking one has superpowers or special abilities), and tangential speech (switching topics frequently).

Major depressive episodes often alternate with manic episodes in bipolar disorder. These episodes can be characterized by feelings of hopelessness, depressed mood, decreased interest in pleasurable activities, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances or changes in sleep patterns, fatigue, and trouble concentrating.

Quick GuideBipolar Disorder Overview Pictures Slideshow

Bipolar Disorder Overview Pictures Slideshow

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a serious brain illness. It is also called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. Children with bipolar disorder go through unusual mood changes. Sometimes they feel very happy or "up," and are much more energetic and active than usual, or than other kids their age. This is called a manic episode. Sometimes children with bipolar disorder feel very sad and "down," and are much less active than usual. This is called depression or a depressive episode.

Bipolar disorder is not the same as the normal ups and downs every kid goes through. Bipolar symptoms are more powerful than that. The mood swings are more extreme and are accompanied by changes in sleep, energy level, and the ability to think clearly. Bipolar symptoms are so strong, they can make it hard for a child to do well in school or get along with friends and family members. The illness can also be dangerous. Some young people with bipolar disorder try to hurt themselves or attempt suicide.

Children and teens with bipolar disorder should get treatment. With help, they can manage their symptoms and lead successful lives.

Who develops bipolar disorder?

Anyone can develop bipolar disorder, including children and teens. However, most people with bipolar disorder develop it in their late teen or early adult years. The illness usually lasts a lifetime.

Why does someone develop bipolar disorder?

Doctors do not know what causes bipolar disorder, but several things may contribute to the illness. Family genes may be one factor because bipolar disorder sometimes runs in families. However, it is important to know that just because someone in your family has bipolar disorder, it does not mean other members of the family will have it as well.

Another factor that may lead to bipolar disorder is the brain structure or the brain function of the person with the disorder. Scientists are finding out more about the disorder by studying it. This research may help doctors do a better job of treating people. Also, this research may help doctors to predict whether a person will get bipolar disorder. One day, doctors may be able to prevent the illness in some people.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/1/2015

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