Education is an essential step in the process of helping a child or adolescent heal from bipolar disorder. The more you understand about the signs, symptoms, and effects of bipolar disorder, the better prepared you will be to get help for your son or daughter. At Altacare, we’re committed to supporting students and families throughout Montana as they work to heal from bipolar disorder.
Learn about bipolar disorder among children and adolescents
Bipolar disorder is a form of mental illness that is characterized by significant changes in mood and energy.
Children and adolescents who develop bipolar disorder will experience periods of elevated activity, energy, and impulsivity. These experiences are known as manic or hypomanic episodes. Young people who have bipolar disorder will also have times of diminished energy, lowered self-esteem, and pervasive sadness. These are known as depressive episodes.
The three most common types of bipolar disorder are bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder. These forms of bipolar disorder are defined by the nature and frequency of manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes that a young person experiences.
Since childhood and adolescence involve times of great change and emotional extremes, it can be difficult for a non-clinician to differentiate between developmentally appropriate behaviors and symptoms of bipolar disorder. Thus, any parent who suspects that their son or daughter may be struggling with bipolar disorder should arrange for an evaluation by a certified mental health professional.
The good news is that bipolar disorder is a treatable condition. If your child has been struggling with bipolar disorder, effective professional care can be extremely beneficial. With the right type and level of treatment for bipolar disorder, your son or daughter can make significant progress toward a much healthier and more satisfying future.
Statistics about bipolar disorder
The National Institute of Health has reported the following statistics about bipolar disorder among children, adolescents, and adults in the United States:
- The lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder among adolescent girls is 3.3%.
- Among adolescent boys, the lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder is 2.6%.
- The lifetime rate of bipolar disorder among all Americans is 4.4%.
- The rate of attempted suicide among individuals who have bipolar disorder is 25-50%.
Causes and risk factors for bipolar disorder among children and adolescents
As is the case with most complex mental health challenges, no sole cause of bipolar disorder has been identified. The likelihood that a child or adolescent will develop bipolar disorder may be influenced by a variety of factors, including the following:
- Family history of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or major depressive disorder
- Having a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder
- Gender (bipolar disorder is slightly more common among girls than among boys)
- Differences in brain structure or functioning
- Experiencing trauma or other types of significant stress
- Living in a high-income nation
Symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents
Bipolar disorder can affect children and adolescents in many ways. Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary widely depending upon the type of bipolar disorder that a young person has, as well as whether they are experiencing a manic, hypomanic, or depressive episode.
Depending upon these and other factors, a child or adolescent who has bipolar disorder may exhibit signs such as the following:
Symptoms of depressive episodes:
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Memory problems
- Significant change in appetite
- Lethargy, persistent fatigue, or profound lack of energy
- Needing excessive amounts of sleep
- Frequent complaints of stomachaches or headaches
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness
- Poor self-esteem, low self-confidence, and diminished sense of self-worth
- Pervasive sense of helplessness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Self-harming behaviors
- Talking about death and dying
Symptoms of manic or hypomanic episodes:
- Significantly increased energy
- Racing thoughts and rapid speech patterns
- Acting in an impulsive or reckless manner
- Uncharacteristic levels of happiness or silliness
- Outbursts of anger or destructiveness
- Increase in sexual thoughts or behaviors
- Inflated sense of self-confidence and self-esteem
- Increased social involvement
- Heightened participation in goal-directed pursuits
- Jumpiness, jitteriness, and restlessness
- Needing little sleep
Effects of untreated bipolar disorder in children and adolescents
Children and adolescents who develop bipolar disorder need to receive proper professional treatment. In the absence of appropriate care for bipolar disorder, young people may have an elevated risk for a wide range of negative outcomes, such as the following:
- Strained relationships with family members and friends
- Poor performance in school
- Physical injuries due to dangerous or violent behaviors
- Legal problems related to poor decision-making and reckless behaviors
- Withdrawing from or being ostracized by peers
- Diminished self-confidence
- Onset or worsening of other mental health disorders
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
Please note that the outcomes listed above do not impact every young person who struggles with bipolar disorder. When your son or daughter receives effective comprehensive care for bipolar disorder at a reputable treatment center, they can avoid these types of harm. If they’ve already suffered setbacks due to bipolar disorder, they can begin to heal while in treatment.
When they receive the right type and level of care, young people with bipolar disorder can achieve significant improvements in the quality and substance of their lives.
Common co-occurring disorders among children and adolescents who develop bipolar disorder
If your son or daughter is struggling with bipolar disorder, they may also be at increased risk for several other mental and behavioral health concerns, including the following:
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- Intermittent explosive disorder (IOD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse and addiction
Altacare can help children and adolescents who have been struggling with bipolar disorder
Untreated bipolar disorder can have a profound negative impact on children and adolescents. Young people who have bipolar disorder but fail to receive proper professional care may experience a broad range of challenges and setbacks. The impact of bipolar disorder during childhood or adolescence may also cause problems as these individuals transition into adulthood.
However, when a young person gets effective treatment for bipolar disorder, their life can get much better. With therapy and medication, when appropriate, young people who have been living with bipolar disorder can learn to manage their symptoms and resume their pursuit of healthier and more satisfying futures.
Children and adolescents in Montana who have been struggling with bipolar disorder may be eligible to receive school-based services through Altacare of Montana.
Our outpatient programming options include customized treatment plans for children and adolescents who have bipolar disorder. We offer multiple types of therapy and a host of related services. Best of all, children and adolescents who receive treatment for bipolar disorder through Altacare of Montana can participate in treatment with minimal interruption to their school day and home life.