If you have a child or teenager that has extreme bouts of silliness or excitement intertwined with periods of deep sadness, you may want to consider having them tested for bipolar disorder. Extreme behavior changes can affect the child’s home life and how he does at school. It may also affect his ability to make and keep friends. Studies show that about one to three percent of the children and teens in the United States may have bipolar disorder.
Manifesting in children as young as six years old, bipolar disorder typically shows up in older teenagers and young adults. There are some debates in the medical field that bipolar disorder is wrongly diagnosed in many cases or it isn’t diagnosed at all. This is why it is difficult to tell how common this disease is among children.
Take time to learn all you can about this illness and consider getting a second opinion if your child is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. You would want to ensure that you are comfortable with your doctor and that you understand the ins and outs of any recommended treatment plan.
If you have concerns about your child’s extreme behavior, here is a link that will give you information on the first steps to take.
Pediatric Bipolar Disorder
When children are diagnosed to have bipolar disorder, it is often termed early-onset bipolar disorder or pediatric bipolar disorder. When this mental illness surfaces in childhood it can be more relentless than if the disease surfaces in older teens or adults. Children with bipolar disorder can have more frequent episodes than adults and the moods may switch more often.
Manic-depressive illness or bipolar disease is a serious mental illness. Those who suffer from the disease go through unusual up and down mood swings. The up moods are known as mania or manic while the down moods are called depression. These mood swings are not the normal ups and downs of childhood.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder in children can make it difficult for the child to make friends, do well in school and the most critical danger is that children may hurt themselves or try to commit suicide because they can’t control the disease. This is why it is important that you seek professional help for your children if you suspect them to be bipolar. Professional treatment will definitely help children manage their symptoms and be more successful in their lives.
Bipolar Disorder Causes
There isn’t one known cause for bipolar disorder. What is believed about this mental illness is that there are several factors that may contribute to the problem. The first contributing factor is genes. It is believed that this mental illness runs in families and if the child has a parent, sibling, or other blood relative with the disease they are at increased risk.
Bipolar disorder can also be caused by abnormal brain structure or a problem with brain function. This can be due to some kind of accident or a problem from birth. It has also been found that children who have anxiety disorders have a greater chance of developing bipolar disorder.
While the main cause hasn’t been completely defined or identified, scientists and doctors are researching on risk factors of the the illness in order to find treatments and diagnostic tools to prevent the illness or recognize the illness easily.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Children
The first symptom of bipolar disorder is called a mood episode. This could be a manic episode where the child doesn’t want to sleep, is in a great mood or really irritable and is acting very silly. Depressive episodes may have the child sleeping more, not wanting to play or be with others. Mixed episodes will have both manic and depressive elements at the same time. Children with bipolar disorder typically have more mixed episodes than adults afflicted with the disorder.
Whether the mood episode is manic, depressive, or mixed they can last for a week or longer. When a child is having an episode the symptoms will be apparent every day for almost the whole day. The intense feelings accompany extreme changes in behavior and energy.
Manic episode symptoms in children may include:
- Unusual level of giddiness, acting silly or being extremely happy for long periods of time
- The reverse is that they can be irritable and have a very short temper
- Not being able to sleep, yet not getting tired at all
- Speaking fast about lots of things
- Not able to stay focused on one thing
- They may do risky things
- They may think about sex and talk about it more often
Depressive episode symptoms in children may include:
- They may complain a lot about headaches, stomachaches and other pain
- Go through long periods of sadness
- They may sleep a lot or the reverse
- They may have feelings of being worthless or guilty
- They may eat too much or very little
- They can have little energy and no interest in doing things
- They may talk about or have thoughts of death or suicide
The symptoms of a mixed-episode will have them feeling silly and happy one minute and very sad and alone the next.
Children with bipolar disorder are at greater risk for substance abuse. They are also likely candidates to having Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Some may also have anxiety disorders such as separation anxiety.