8 Signs Your Child Might Have Bipolar Disorder

By bp Magazine
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An evaluation by a child/adolescent psychiatrist is the first step to a bipolar diagnosis. Here are eight symptoms that could warrant a visit to a mental health professional:

#1 Manic Episodes

Some signs your child may be experiencing mania, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP): Unrealistic highs in self-esteem, such as feelings of having special superhero powers; increases in energy and decreased need for sleep, or being able to go with little sleep for days without feeling tired; rapid thinking and talking and repeated high risk-taking behavior, such as sexual promiscuity, reckless driving, or abusing alcohol and drugs.

#2 Depressive Episodes

The AACAP describes this abnormal state for children or teens as having low energy, fatigue, poor concentration and decreased enjoyment in favorite activities; decreased appetite or major change in eating habits; complaints of physical illnesses, such as stomach aches and headaches and thoughts of death or suicide.

#3 Anger and Rage

All children get angry periodically, but for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder they tend to feel anger on a very intense level. This can manifest into violenc, possibly attacking others or destroying their toys. Because children with bipolar anger are usually are not able to control their outbursts, these emotions turn into severe rage that can last for hours.

#4 Severe fluctuations in mood

Bipolar children are more likely to have rapid cycling, moving back and forth between a depressed mood and a manic mood over a shorter period of time or even within the same day. It’s common to see a pattern of severe fluctuations in mood, energy and daily routines, which lead to difficulty in functioning in school, with friends, or at home, says Helena Verdeli, PhD, assistant prof. of clinical psychology at Columbia University.

#5 Flights of Fancy

Although less common than symptoms of rage and anger, children and teens do experience elation, grandiosity or mania and this could be a key signal in an initial assessment, says bipolar research expert Eric Youngstrom, PhD. He asks parents if their child is being overly giddy and goofy at unexpected times, like bedtime and first thing in the morning, and whether “the elation is happening too often, too intensely or lasting too long.”

#6 Family Connection

“Most of the kids have a family history of mood disorder or bipolarity,” according to child psychiatrist Dr. Rosalie Greenberg. The chances of developing bipolar disorder are increased if a child’s parents or siblings have the disorder. But the role of genetics is not absolute and a child from a family with a history of bipolar disorder may never develop the disorder.

#7 Changes at school

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, symptoms in teens point to school issues. They may experience a drop in grades, quit sports teams or other activities, be suspended from school or arrested for fighting or drug use, engage in risky sexual behavior or talk about death or even suicide. Talk with your child’s teacher or guidance counselor to determine if they are seeing similar behaviors at school as what you’re seeing at home.

#8 Differences in similar illnesses

Mental health professionals may need to sift out bipolar disorder from other look-alike symptoms of illnesses. “For example, if a child with ADD has insomnia, they will be tired the next day; a child with bipolar [who didn’t sleep] won’t feel a need for sleep,” explains Benjamin Goldstein, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist at the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto. Hypersexuality is another bipolar marker, as it is a symptom of mania but not characteristic of ADD.

 

 

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128 Comments
  1. I was diagnosed with bipolar in my 40s but on reading, I think I’m closer to borderline personality. I’m 71 now and on an antipsychotic which is helping a lot. The hardest thing for me is knowing it’s forever. I treated all my children abominably and I can’t blame them for not wanting to have anything to do with me. I earned their contempt. I still have a very short temper. But I just got remarried almost 2 years ago. He helps me a lot.

  2. I have two boys, one is diagnosed with ADHD and ASD. The other is just diagnosed with ASD, but his father has bipolar 1. I’m concerned because the one just diagnosed with ASD goes through extreme rages where he throws furniture and a lot of anger, depression, & frustration. Only sleeps for a few hours even with melatonin.

  3. A lot of these guides are misleading. For example it’s probably pretty normal for your child to be elated or giddy if your child is bipolar. You’ve probably gotten so used to it it doesn’t seem abnormal esp if you the parent are undiagnosed bipolar. Also it’s likely that you believe the self esteem is just good self esteem. Not unrealistic. Because who doesn’t think their kid is the greatest?

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