Although it is normal for any person to have ups and downs in his or her mood, a bipolar child’s mood swings will stand out. Many parents will notice unusual shifts in their child’s moods and energy levels. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe and interfere with school performance, social relationships and relationships with family members. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives. I have treated many children and adolescents with bipolar disorder in my 25 years of practice.
The typical symptoms that I see for bipolar disorder in children involve swings from distinct, unusually intense periods called “mood episodes.” An overly joyful or excited state is called a manic episode. An extremely sad or hopeless state is canned a depressive episode. Patients can cycle between these mood episodes. Changes in mood are often accompanied by significant changes in energy, activity and sleep and behavior. See the attached brochures from the National Institutes for Mental health that further describe the symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents.
Having a child with bipolar disorder can be very stressful for the child’s parents and other family members.
There are a number of treatments available for children who have bipolar disorder. Proper treatment of bipolar disorder can lead to substantial improvements in school, social activities and family life for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder. In my practice, we often combine the use of a medication with psychotherapy. Although medications can usually improve many of the symptoms of manic depressive disorder, I usually recommend therapy to help the child or adolescent to understand her situation better and to improve social and self-esteem issues.
If you suspect your child is suffering from bipolar disorder, please contact me.