Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents: Warning Signs and Treatment Options


Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that affects people of all ages. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 4.4 percent of people age 18 and above in the United States experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.

This condition can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms can be similar to other disorders. It is particularly tricky to diagnose adolescents because their symptoms are closely related to teenage development challenges.

However, you must understand the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder in adolescents, as early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the child's long-term prognosis. Read on to find out the types, symptoms, and treatment of bipolar disorder. You will also get tips on caring for people suffering from this illness.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a mental health disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. These swings can result in severe depression, mania, or mixed symptoms.

Bipolar disorder often begins in late adolescence or early adulthood but can also occur during childhood. It is one of the most serious types of mental illness and can lead to problems at school, work, and home. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical for managing bipolar disorder and helping people achieve their fullest potential.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that affects behavior and mood. It causes people to experience extreme highs called mania and depression. It is prevalent to see people with manic depression have mood swings, mani, or depression episodes. The severity of these episodes depends majorly on the types of bipolar disorder. The types of manic depression include

Bipolar I Disorder

People with Bipolar I Disorder experience manic episodes that may last for a week or more. A manic episode is when a person has an extremely high mood and energy levels. They may also feel very irritable or angry. In some cases, the episodes become so acute that the victim will need admission to a hospital or any mental care facility.

Manic depressive episodes are another symptom common to Bipolar I Disorder, and the episodes can last for over two weeks. A person can be diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder even if they do not experience such depressive episodes.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is a less severe condition compared to Bipolar I disorder. Its symptoms consist of both hypomania and depression. A hypomanic episode is a period of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, lasting at least four days.

A person with bipolar disorder may have one or more hypomanic episodes. Before or after a manic episode, a person with Bipolar II Disorder will likely experience a terrible depressive episode.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic (mood cycle) disorder, or cyclothymia, is a conjugate of hypomania and depression. It can last for up to two years and more in adults, while children experience it for about a year.

Although cyclothymia features mania and depression, the symptoms of cyclothymia are pretty different from complete manic or depressive episodes. Their condition usually results from chronic smoking, drinking, or another medical condition.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents

Symptoms of bipolar disorder in adolescents can be difficult to diagnose because they often look like normal teenage behavior. Some symptoms of bipolar disorder in adolescents are


Besides the extremely high energy level patients face during manic episodes, patients also have several other underlying symptoms. They include:

  • Abnormally euphoric and displaying silly behaviors.
  • Carefree attitude. They may indulge in activities that may have harmful results, like reckless driving or alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Speaking very fast and changing topics quickly. They are easily distracted.
  • Hallucinations and delusion.
  • Extremely low self-esteem.


This is a mental disorder characterized by recurring feelings of sadness. Depressed people typically feel indifferent about activities around them. The depressive disorder affects the thinking pattern and behavioral response to their activities. Other associated symptoms include:

  • The feeling of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Nursing suicidal thoughts and comments
  • They are easily fatigued and lose their appetite.
  • Poor sleeping habits

The episodes of mania and depression that characterize bipolar depression can be regular or irregular. However, they occur for a shorter time in adolescents and children than in adults. In adults, the episodes last for a few weeks or months, while adolescents and children can last for a few days.

When people experience more than three episodes of bipolar disorder in a year, doctors refer to Rapid Cycling. In this case, the victims switch from one mood to another or enter into remission within two months.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents

There is no known cause of the bipolar disorder. However, researchers reveal some biochemical, genetic, and environmental factors may predispose people to manic disorders.

Biochemical Factors

The biochemical factors refer to an imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that transmit signals from the nerve cells to different human body parts. When this imbalance occurs, the sufferer may get into an episode. Also, some attribute the extreme levels of release of noradrenaline hormone to causing manic or depressive episodes.

Hereditary Factor

The bipolar disorder could also run in the family. A child has a high chance of having bipolar disorder if another family member has a history of this condition. There have been twins where one had bipolar disorder and the other did not.

Having a family member with this condition only increases your chances of contracting it. Scientists are putting in enormous effort to discover if specific genes transmit the disorder within a family.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are the third probable cause of bipolar disorders. Traumatic experiences like accidents, death, and divorce could trigger episodes of bipolar disorder in children.

In some cases, consuming alcohol and drugs may also trigger manic and hypomanic situations. These factors may also trigger a bipolar patient into manic or depressive episodes.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents


A bipolar patient at a therapy session

The best approach to treating bipolar disorder is to treat it at its early stages. Get to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment once you notice any of the above symptoms.

To diagnose bipolar disorder in adolescents, a psychiatrist needs to observe the individual for a while properly. This is necessary because it can be difficult to distinguish between development problems and bipolar disorder in adolescents.

A reputable teen bipolar treatment center will examine the person's family medical history and even speak to both family and friends before concluding. They may also require you to undergo thyroid tests to ensure that you do not merely have a physical or hormonal disorder.

Some approaches to treating bipolar disorder include.

  1. Drugs. Physicians usually recommend lithium or antipsychotic drugs that stabilize the mood and treat the main symptoms–depression and mania.
  2. Psychological Therapy. This approach helps the patient to recognize and avoid triggers. It also helps them come out of depression and build better interpersonal relationships.
  3. Lifestyle Changes. Patients may have to develop a certain lifestyle, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and proper sleeping habits. They should also avoid drinking alcohol and

Tips for Caring for A Bipolar Patient

Adolescents with bipolar disorder are often stigmatized in school, at home, and among friends. In every other way, they find themselves. If you have anyone suffering from this condition, here are some tips on how to care for patients with bipolar disorder:

  1. Love and support them always.
  2. Ensure that they take their medications at the right time and make regular medical checkups.
  3. Join a bipolar support group, where you can get encouraged by other people's experiences.

Final Words

Bipolar disorder can be a difficult condition to diagnose in adolescents. This article provides a comprehensive guideline for identifying bipolar disorder in adolescents and offers treatment options. If you think that your adolescent may be struggling with bipolar disorder, follow this guideline to get them the help they need.


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Isreal Olabanji DST RN
Isreal Olabanji DST RN
Am Isreal olabanji a dental assistant and public health professionals and has years of experience in assisting the dentist with all sorts of dental issues. We regularly post timely and trustworthy medical information and news. My goal is to enlighten everyone in all aspects of health towards participating in fitness, Dental care, healthy recipes, child health, obstetrics, and more.
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