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How To Deal With A Bipolar Child

How To Deal With A Bipolar Child

Almost 130,000 adults in Texas have a mood disorder like bipolar. A mood disorder is different from just feeling sad – it regularly impacts a person’s emotional state. Depression is also considered a mood disorder. As an adult, it might be easier to manage something like this, especially once you’re aware of it. When a child has a mood disorder, however, it can be a lot more challenging as they’re already trying to learn to navigate the world and understand how to properly express their thoughts and feelings. If you’re a parent who has a child with bipolar disorder, you might be wondering how to help your child. 

Bipolar disorder, like any mood disorder, is manageable with the right steps and treatments. Here at SUN Behavioral Health, we offer those treatments and want to also provide you with educational information about the disorder in order to better our community. Let’s dive in to find out more about bipolar disorder. 

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar is a mood disorder that comes in three different forms. It consists of mood swings, behavioral changes, and sudden or unexplained shifts in energy and activity levels. There are also three primary forms of “episodes” that come with bipolar disorder. Manic episodes are elevated, high-energy episodes. Depressive episodes are extreme lows with sadness and hopelessness. The last form is mixed episodes, which consist of both forms being experienced at the same time. 

The three main types of bipolar disorder are:

  • Bipolar I - primarily involves manic episodes that last 7 days or longer or are severe enough to require hospitalization. Depressive episodes can also occur and often last at least two weeks. Mixed episodes can occur as well.
  • Bipolar II - involves depressive episodes, but not manic episodes. Instead of experiencing manic episodes, a person may experience hypomania, which is a less severe version of mania.
  • Cyclothymic disorder - this involves both hypomanic and depressive symptoms. They’re not as intense, however, and don’t last as long so they aren’t considered “episodes.” 

At the moment, the exact origins of bipolar disorder aren’t clear. However, there are many leading theories and factors that can contribute to its development. As with most mood disorders, managing trauma is a big contributor to bipolar disorder, as well as brain structure, life stressors, and the environment around you. 

If you have a family member with bipolar disorder, it’s also believed that you are at greater risk for developing or having it yourself. 

Can Children or Teenagers With Bipolar Disorder Have Other Problems?

Some people may have more than one mental health concern that they are dealing with at a given time. This rings true no matter what age you are. Having more than one medical condition, such as a mental illness, occurring in your body at a given time is called comorbidity. In the case of bipolar disorder, it’s found that nearly ⅔ of patients who’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder also have another comorbid condition. 

If bipolar disorder is caused by trauma, a child could also develop other trauma-related mental illnesses. Trauma can come with its own symptoms, such as insomnia, being easily startled, and difficulty concentrating. While not all trauma exposure can lead to PTSD, that could be a development as well.

Studies show that nearly 20% of adults with Bipolar Disorder also have ADHD. ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. This means your odds of a child with bipolar disorder also having ADHD are fairly decent. 

Having more than one mental health condition at a time isn’t something to be worried about, however, with proper treatment and professional medical advice involved. Medical professionals, like those you’ll find here at SUN Behavioral Health, are equipped to help you and your child manage mental health. We want everyone in our community to have access to the right information and treatments in order to live the lives they want. 

Bipolar Disorder in Teens

As children grow up and reach their teenage years, they can start to go through many changes that might seem similar to mental health concerns. Mood swings and low self-esteem can come hand in hand with the life stage they’re in. These symptoms don’t always mean they’re managing a mental condition like bipolar disorder, however. Here are some signs you can look out for in your teen that could be indicators of bipolar disorder:

Manic Episodes in Teens

Manic episodes are noted by extreme, elevated emotions and actions. In your teen, this might come across as intense happiness or excitement for periods of time. They might also have additional difficulties involving focusing and sleeping. They could have quickened speech when talking, normally bouncing from topic to topic or speaking much faster than normal. Other common symptoms of manic episodes include an increased interest in risky activities, as well as higher impulsivity and reckless behavior.

Some of these behaviors can be common throughout teenage development. Since their brains aren’t fully developed yet, they don’t have the same capability to process actions before enacting them as adults do. This leads to impulsive decisions. It’s important to know that changes happen in all teenagers, but if you see a sudden increase or shift towards the above symptoms, they might be managing bipolar disorder.

Depressive Episodes in Teens

Depressive episodes can have some similarities with manic episodes, but overall, they tend to go in the opposite direction emotionally. These episodes can include increased sleep, difficulty concentrating, a change in appetite, and lower energy levels — especially regarding activities they used to enjoy. You might also notice symptoms such as increased stomachaches and headaches, increased anger or hostility, difficulties communicating, and expressing feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or mentions suicide. 

How to Manage Bipolar Rage in Children?

It’s important to remember that bipolar rage comes from something out of your child’s control, so don’t be quick to anger when you’re helping them navigate these moments. There are steps you can take to help them better manage their emotions over time and set up solid boundaries for the future. Talk with your child about things that are and aren’t appropriate. It’s not uncommon for children to break things in anger, for example. When they’re in the right state of mind, have a calm chat with them about what the consequences are for things like breaking other people’s property. If they have a moment of rage, wait until they’re calmer to follow through on the consequences. Being firm but loving is an important part of growing with your child as they learn to manage their bipolar disorder.

What Can Children Expect From Treatment?

Here at SUN, we offer programs for children ages 6-12 and adolescents who are 13-18. Our bipolar disorder treatment programs work with the specific needs of those age groups with licensed professionals who know how to best help them and understand their developmental stages. We strive to work with children and their families to help them learn how to manage mental illness and find the happiness they want in their lives. 

If your child is managing a mental illness and you want to get started on a path to health treatment and recovery, SUN Behavioral Health is here to help. We can answer questions about anything from treatment plans to specific questions on mental health. Just give us a call at (713) 796-2273 and our team will be happy to help.


Frequently Asked Questions

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

While bipolar disorder can’t be seen on a blood test or body scan, these might be performed anyway to rule out other conditions first. Once these tests are cleared, a doctor might recommend a consultation with mental health specialists.

What to do when a child is in crisis?

It’s important to remain calm in these situations, as your child is just as nervous as you are. Help ensure they don’t harm themselves, but wait until they’re calm to discuss more actions and future behaviors. Be firm but loving. 

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