How To Manage Bipolar Disorder in Children

Bipolar disorder in young children is very rare. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that presents two extreme moods.  There are periods of high moods, where a person is extremely happy and energetic. Then there are periods of low moods, depressed, sad, hopeless, and sluggish.  In between those moods a person’s behavior can appear very normal.  The opposite emotions are referred to as “two” poles, thus the word, bipolar.  Bipolar disorder is also called manic depression because of the alternating high and low moods.

Children

Bipolar disorder generally develops in older teenagers and young adults.  However, there are cases where children 6 years of age develop bipolar disorder.  It is important to note that bipolar diagnosis in young children can be over diagnosed. It is important to get a second opinion especially If medicine is suggested.  

This is vital because many symptoms of bipolar disorder are similar to those of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD.  Medicine administered for ADHD can trigger mania in a child with bipolar disorder.  It is important to get an accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms

Children will be more irritable than an adult in a manic or bipolar phase.  They may experience psychotic symptoms and hear or see imaginary things.  In a child, manic phases occur more often than in an adult , where manic phases are spread out.  For example, children can experience bipolar disorder phases on a daily base in contrast to an adult cycle of weeks, month or years .

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Medicine

It is very, very important to make sure your child takes their medicine .  Talk your child’s teacher or the school nurse.  Children cannot take medicine on their own in school.

In addition, talk to your child’s health provider.  Anti-depressants and mood stabilizers, originally tested on adults , have not been tested on adolescents . Consequently, it is important to look for side effects. Some medicines may increase the risk of suicide. Some parents may want to do some careful research about homeopathic remedies.

School

Communication with your child’s school is paramount.  Your child may need some special allowances. Perhaps, homework should be reduced during rough times.  Maybe your child may need to take some time off from school until the bipolar symptoms stabilize.

Family Therapy

Bipolar disorder can be very disruptive in the home.  Siblings may resent things said or done or the extra attention during manic episodes. Bipolar episodes can also cause marital stress.  It would be good to get family therapy.

Take Threats Seriously

If your children speaks about hurting themselves.  Take that threat very seriously.  Get help right away.  Start with your child’s health care provider.

EDUCATION STAFF WRITER