Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens (cont.)

What illnesses often co-exist with bipolar disorder in children and teens?

Several illnesses may develop in people with bipolar disorder.

Alcoholism. Adults with bipolar disorder are at very high risk of developing a substance abuse problem. Young people with bipolar disorder may have the same risk.

ADHD. Many children with bipolar disorder have a history of ADHD. One study showed that ADHD is more common in people whose bipolar disorder started during childhood, compared with people whose bipolar disorder started later in life. Children who have co-occurring ADHD and bipolar disorder may have difficulty concentrating and controlling their activity. This may happen even when they are not manic or depressed.

Anxiety Disorders. Anxiety disorders, such as separation anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder, also commonly co-occur with bipolar disorder. This may happen in both children and adults. Children who have both types of disorders tend to develop bipolar disorder at a younger age and have more hospital stays related to mental illness.

Other Mental Disorders. Some mental disorders cause symptoms similar to bipolar disorder. Two examples are major depression (sometimes called unipolar depression) and ADHD. If you look at symptoms only, there is no way to tell the difference between major depression and a depressive episode in bipolar disorder. For this reason, be sure to tell a diagnosing doctor of any past manic symptoms or episodes your child may have had. In contrast, ADHD does not have episodes. ADHD symptoms may resemble mania in some ways, but they tend to be more constant than in a manic episode of bipolar disorder.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/26/2014

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Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens - Symptoms Question: If you are under 20, please describe the symptoms associated with your bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens - Risk Question: Please discuss any family history of bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses.
Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens - Detection Question: Describe the events that led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in you (if you are a teen) or your child.
Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens - Treatment Question: For parents of patients or teens: Describe the types of treatment you are receiving for bipolar disorder.