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How to Tell If a Teenager Is Bipolar

Signs of bipolar disorder in teenagers can easily be overlooked or attributed to the pains of growing up. Since the teenage years are usually characterized by wide mood swings and unpredictable behavior, when a teenager starts exhibiting irritability, depression or extreme highs and lows, parents often assume that what’s going on is just part of adolescence. But there are some behaviors that may indicate a bigger problem.
signs of bipolar disorder

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder characterized by drastic shifts in mood and energy level. There may be periods of extreme sadness or lack of energy followed by periods of insomnia, elation and extreme energy. During a manic episode, a teen may seem abnormally giddy and excited. Quickly he or she may fall into a depression and want to sleep all the time.

Some signs of bipolar disorder are very difficult to ignore. In the depressive phase, a teen may feel hopeless or even suicidal. In a manic episode, a teen may talk very fast or complain of racing thoughts. His or her behavior may become very reckless, leading to speeding tickets or aggressive behavior.

How Bipolar Disorder in Teens Differs from Bipolar in Adults

A key difference between bipolar disorder in teens and bipolar disorder in adults is that in a teen, mood swings may happen very quickly. He or she may shift from depression to mania in a matter of hours or days, which is noticeably different than bipolar disorder in adults. In adults, episodes of depression may last for months.

If your teen is showing signs of bipolar disorder, he or she should be evaluated by a doctor. The doctor can rule out possible physical causes of dramatic mood swings and determine what treatment would be most effective. A teen that does have bipolar disorder can be treated with a combination of therapy and medication such as mood stabilizers or antipsychotics. Untreated bipolar disorder is likely to get worse and may lead to other problems such as alcohol or drug abuse.


National Institute of Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder

WebMD: Teens and Bipolar Disorder

Posted on February 28th, 2017

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