Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder or manic-depression is a serious but treatable illness marked by extreme changes in mood, energy, and behavior. Once thought to be rare in early childhood, bipolar disorder is now recognized and treated in young children. Symptoms may be present from infancy or early childhood (early-onset), or emerge in adolescence or young adulthood.

The illness looks different in children from the way it appears in teens and adults. Children usually have an ongoing, continuous mixture of mania (extreme high) and depression, with rapid, severe, cycling between moods and few clear periods of wellness between episodes. Symptoms may include
chronic irritability
rapidly changing moods lasting a few hours to a few days
explosive, lengthy, and often destructive rages
defiance of authority
hyperactivity, agitation, and distractibility

In adolescents, bipolar disorder more closely resembles the illness in adults, with periods of mania, including elevated mood, decreased need for sleep, increased rapid talking, and unrealistic positive self image and periods of depression with persistent sadness, crying, loss of enjoyment in favorite activities, thoughts of death or suicide, and major change in eating or sleeping.

Bipolar disorder is the result of a biochemical imbalance in the brain that alters a person's moods. Having a birthparent or sibling with the illness increases the risk for a child. Although there is no known cure, it can be effectively treated with medication, psychotherapy, and parenting techniques. With early intervention and appropriate treatment, many children achieve significant improvement and learn how to manage their symptoms as they grow older.

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