There is still much discussion regarding childhood bipolar
disorder, also known as pediatric bipolar disorder, as it is very
rare in children and can often be hard to diagnose. Onset usually
occurs in mid-to-late adolescence, though there are cases in
children. Children with bipolar disorder are
afflicted with bouts of major depression and periods of
mania—euphoria, poor judgment, and extreme risk-taking
activity—in an often debilitating cycle.
Unlike most adults who have bipolar disorder, children with
pediatric bipolar disorder are characterized by abrupt mood
swings, periods of hyperactivity followed by lethargy, intense
temper tantrums, frustration and defiant behavior. This rapid and
severe cycling between moods may produce a type of chronic
irritability with few clear periods of peace between episodes.
Keep in mind that many of these behaviors, in and of themselves,
are not indicative of a possible disorder and are characteristic
of normal childhood development. Separation anxiety, by itself,
is a normal fear of being separated from one or both of the
parents. Children and teenagers with Bipolar Disorder have manic
and/or depressive symptoms.
Research has improved the ability
to diagnose Bipolar Disorder in children and teens. Bipolar
Disorder can begin in childhood and during the teenage years,
although it is usually diagnosed in adult life. The diagnosis of
Bipolar Disorder in children and teens is complex and involves
careful observation over an extended period of time. A thorough
evaluation by a child/adolescent psychiatrist is recommended to
identify Bipolar Disorder and begin treatment.
You cannot catch bipolar disorder. It is a complex genetic
illness, and often runs in families. If someone in your family
has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or a mood disorder, your
chances of having the illness are increased. Bipolar can also
appear in individuals who have no family history of the
Medication is essential to the
treatment of bipolar disorder, as is the involvement of the whole
family. Psychotherapy can be of help in limiting and managing
manic and depressive episodes and their consequences, which can
severely affect a young person and all those around him. Even
with an effective course of medication, people with bipolar can
relapse, so the support network of family, friends, and
caregivers is vital.
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If you or a loved one is in immediate crisis, please call 911
or visit the nearest emergency room.
The UACF Hope Line is a message system for parents and caregivers
that provides resources and connections to individuals in your
community that may be able to assist you in finding appropriate
support services for your child’s mental health needs. Feel free
to leave a message on the UACF Hope Line and your call will be
returned as promptly as possible.