Bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic depressive illness, is a mental illness that causes significant shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. While bipolar disorder can affect people of all ages, it is particularly challenging for teenagers. Adolescence is already a tumultuous time of change, but when teens are also dealing with bipolar disorder, it can be overwhelming for them and their families.
In this blog, we will explore the symptoms and treatment options for bipolar disorder in teens.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Teens
Bipolar disorder has two main phases: manic episodes and depressive episodes. During a manic episode, a person may be predominantly happy, predominantly depressed, or predominantly manic for extended periods. They may be more talkative and have racing thoughts. During a depressive episode, a person may feel sad, hopeless, and tired. They may have difficulty sleeping and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
For teens with bipolar disorder, these symptoms can be particularly intense. They may also have difficulty with impulsivity, which can lead to risky behaviour such as substance abuse or promiscuity.
Some common symptoms of bipolar disorder in teens include:
- Feeling persistently sad, hopeless and lethargic
- Increased energy and decreased need for sleep
- Racing thoughts or difficulty focusing
- Engaging in risky behaviour, such as reckless driving, drug use, or unprotected sex
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviours
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy
- Struggle with feelings of worthlessness
It’s important to note that all teens can experience mood swings and intense emotions from time to time. However, the episodic mood swings in bipolar disorder are more severe and the condition can interfere with daily life.
Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in Teens
Diagnosing bipolar disorder in teens can be challenging because it’s often mistaken for other mental health conditions, such as depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, getting an accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. Your health care provider will typically conduct a comprehensive assessment that includes a medical evaluation, family history, and psychiatric evaluation.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder in Teens
Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options for bipolar disorder in teens. The treatment of bipolar disorder in teens typically involves a combination of medication and therapy. The specific treatment plan may vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and the individual’s unique needs. Here are some common treatment options for bipolar disorder in teens:
1. Medications: Mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants are commonly used to treat bipolar disorder in teens. These medications can help regulate mood and reduce symptoms of mania and depression. It’s important to work closely with a doctor to find the right medication and dosage.
2. Therapy: Various types of therapy can be effective for treating bipolar disorder in teens. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can be particularly helpful for teens with bipolar disorder. It helps teens recognize and manage negative thoughts and behaviors. Family therapy is another essential aspect of treating bipolar disorder in teens. The therapy encourages families to work together to solve problems, improve communication, set boundaries, and provide support for everyone involved.
3. Lifestyle changes: Self-care strategies, such as getting enough sleep, staying active, and avoiding drugs and alcohol, can help manage bipolar disorder symptoms.
4. Hospitalization: In severe cases of bipolar disorder, hospitalization may be necessary to stabilize the teen’s mood and ensure their safety.
Self-Care Strategies for Teens with Bipolar Disorder
In addition to medication and therapy, there are several self-care strategies that can help teens manage their bipolar disorder. Here are some suggestions:
- Develop a routine: Having a predictable routine can help reduce stress and provide a sense of stability.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep is essential for mental health, and teens with bipolar disorder may need extra rest.
- Stay active: Exercise can help improve mood and energy levels.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol: Substance use can worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder and interfere with treatment.
- Practice stress-reducing activities: Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress and promote relaxation
If you suspect your teen may have bipolar disorder, do not panic. Get a professional diagnosis and start treatment right away, since early treatment can favourably impact the course of bipolar disorder. It is also recommended to keep an eye on your teen’s symptoms. Mood journaling, or jotting down intense emotions or feelings as they happen, can enable your doctor to track aspects of your child’s mood and behavior.