Fri. Feb 28th, 2020

Parenting Tips

From Parenting Coach Dr. Clarity

Does Your Teen Have Bipolar Disorder?

8 min read
Female Teen by river in fog

Bipolar disorder was a disease that only adults could have before the nineties. Doctors assumed that there was no possibility that teens could have depression or mood swings. If a teen had any of the bipolar disorder symptoms, doctors associated them with another condition. In 1990, doctors learned that the adults that have bipolar disorder had symptoms when they are a child. Teens are starting to have bipolar disorder symptoms at six years of age. In the United States approximately ten percent of teens have bipolar disorder. Teens that have bipolar disorder, but hasn’t been diagnosed could possibly self-harm themselves along with making choices that are dangerous.

Bipolar Disorder is Placed into Four Different Bipolar Disorder Types

  1. Bipolar Disorder I
  2. Bipolar Disorder II
  3. Cyclothymic Disorder
  4. Bipolar Disorder (Not Specified)

Teen Bipolar Disorder

It can be very challenging for teens to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, because their body, brains, and other life areas is changing for teens. If a teen has excessive stress, had a traumatic occurrence, or a parent has bipolar disorder or a mental illness, the teen is at a higher risk for having bipolar disorder. If a parent believes that their teen may have bipolar disorder, then you should seek immediate treatment. Treatment for teen bipolar disorder will provide your teen with the ability to manage any symptoms, and it will also lower substance abuse and suicidal action risks.

How is Teen Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?

A psychiatrist or psychologist can diagnose teen bipolar disorder. Many teens with bipolar disorder can live a normal and healthy life. Unfortunately, many teens are not diagnosed. The teen bipolar disorder will only get worse if there isn’t proper diagnosis, then treatment. Sadly, there are some teens that have bipolar disorder, but were never diagnosed have been placed in a psychiatric facility or a treatment facility. Some teens start using and abusing drugs, then end up in the juvenile system or they commit suicide.

A mental health professional will have to watch a teen’s behavior and monitor their symptoms before they make a diagnosis. Teen bipolar disorder doesn’t have the same symptoms as an adult with bipolar disorder, which makes their diagnoses harder. ADHD, schizophrenia, and posttraumatic stress disorder are just a few disorders that teens with bipolar disorder are diagnosed with first. There isn’t any blood tests or brain scans that will diagnose teen bipolar disorder.

Teen Bipolar Disorder Treatment Options

Teen bipolar disorder treatment options usually involves therapy and medication. A mental health provider will determine treatment for your teen’s bipolar disorder as there is not just one treatment option. Treatment will be based upon:

  • Age of your teen
  • Medical history
  • Overall health
  • Medications
  • Teen therapy
  • Family therapy

Medication for teen bipolar disorder could include a mixture of different medications such as: antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anxiety, and antipsychotics. The teen and family must be very patient, because there will be trial efforts. Some medication may work great for other teens, but not for your teen. The doctor will want to provide your teen with medication that has very little side effects.

Professional Therapy
Professional therapy may be one of the most beneficial and important treatment for teen bipolar disorder. Professional therapy will teach a teen how to deal with different symptoms, medication side-effects, negative thoughts, and providing the teen with a place where they can be heard and understood.

Support at School
Having support at school is very important. Parent’s should talk with the counselors and teachers so they can understand what their teen is dealing with, and be supportive for the teen.

Parent’s Supporting Their Teen
Parent’s will need to monitor and document their teens moods and symptoms. This will assist their doctor and therapist in providing the proper medical help for their teen. Parent’s should also go to counseling and support groups. This will help parents understand teen bipolar disorder. If you as a parent isn’t anxious and nervous, your teen will have empowerment to control their mental issues.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms at Home

One of the downfalls with pediatric bipolar disorder is the diagnosis were specifically designed for adults. The main bipolar disorder symptoms are an elevation bad mood, and an increase in thinking and activities. Bipolar disorder has two very distinct phases. The first distinct phase is the bipolar mania or also called the hypo-mania, and intense depression.

The two distinct bipolar disorder distinct phases include:

  1. Bipolar Mania
  2. Increased energy
  3. Self-esteem is inflated
  4. Irritable
  5. Talking excessively
  6. An unusual spike of energy
  7. Impulsive
  8. Gratification Pursuits (Major shopping sprees, driving fast, and promiscuous sex)
  9. Increased Depression Symptoms
  10. Low self-esteem
  11. Sad
  12. Lonely
  13. Depressed
  14. Fatigue
  15. Speech is slow
  16. Insomnia
  17. Very little concentration
  18. Thoughts of suicide
  19. Stop activities

Teen Bipolar Disorder Signs at School

Teen bipolar disorder signs at school is different than it is at home. Your teen at school is around teachers, other adults, and friends that they are not related too. Symptoms signs during a manic phase at school is different as well.

Teen Bipolar Disorder Signs at School

  • Makes friends very easily
  • Charming with adults
  • Sometimes the teen is bossy with their friends 
  • Gets angry when friends don’t listen to them
  • Excessive hyperactive
  • Doesn’t obey teachers and adults
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Doesn’t do good with any changes
  • Unable to sit still
  • Difficulty with focusing
  • Dangerously impulsive
  • Angry
  • Aggressive

Teen Bipolar Disorder Depressive Phase at School

  • Sits alone often
  • Loss interest with friends
  • Antisocial
  • Tells the teacher they are sick so they can go home
  • Fixated with death
  • Zoned out
  • Can’t focus on schoolwork

For most teens, the mania and depression cycles happen more often than with adults. Teens can go through different symptoms with bipolar disorder mania and depression in one day while adults it may happen in months or even years.

Bipolar Disorder – Who is Affected?

Each year, nearly 3% of Americans are affected with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder equally affects males and females. Teens (thirteen and older) that have bipolar disorder symptoms are usually diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) first until serious symptoms occurs. Bipolar disorder is now starting to be recognized in teens, and the diagnosis is harder to see. Bipolar disorder is believed to run in families. There is research that is currently be done to see if there is a bipolar disorder gene. People that doesn’t understand bipolar disorder makes it very frustrating for those teens that are dealing with teen bipolar disorder, because many people think the teen can just “snap out of it”, which is never going to happen. Teen bipolar disorder doesn’t mean they are weak. Just like with any other health condition, it requires medical treatment.

What Causes Teen Bipolar Disorder?

Currently, there is no known cause of teen bipolar disorder. Scientists and doctors have been researching this and many scientists and doctors think that it could be genetic and environmental factors are involved. Teen bipolar disorder causes an imbalance with brain chemicals (Neurotransmitters). The mood regulator in the brain isn’t working like it is supposed to.

If someone in the family has bipolar disorder, a teens risk is increased. It doesn’t mean a teen will automatically develop teen bipolar disorder. Scientists and doctors are continuously researching genes. A death in the family, a divorce, or any traumatic event could be the start of bipolar disorder. These environmental factors could start the symptoms.

5 Tips for Living with Teen Bipolar Disorder

Currently, there is no cure for teen bipolar disorder, but many teens live a healthy, productive, and happy life. Teen bipolar disorder affects every aspect of one’s life, which include their attention, behavior, and moods. The 5 tips will help teens living with bipolar disorder.

  1. Don’t Isolate Yourself

Teens with bipolar disorder should never isolate themselves. If you isolate yourself, your will increase mood changing risks. It could also cause depression. Teens need to stay connected with school counselors, doctors, friends, and family members. These people will provide support when you need it.

  • Keep a Mood Log

Teens with bipolar disorder need to keep a mood log. The mood log will document all your moods, behaviors, and thoughts. Teens will be able to spot a mood change, conflict at school, and other things that trigger them.

  • Start a Daily Routine

Teens need to start a daily routine. The daily routine can prevent mania or depression. Teens should make sure they go to bed at a decent time every night, take their medication at the right times daily, and set some time to spend with your friends or family members.

  • Utilize Coping Techniques

Teens need to start utilizing coping techniques, because they can control any bipolar disorder symptoms and lower mood episode risks. There are numerous coping techniques that can be uses, because every teen has a coping technique that works for them personally. Some great coping techniques include social activities, time with family and friends, and having healthier habits. Teens can write a list of coping techniques that they would like to use, then refer to them when needed.

  • Create a Written Crisis Plan

Sometimes, no matter what coping skills a teen may have could still not work in stopping a mood episode, which is why it is vital that when a teen is having a great day to create a written crisis plan that the teen can use when they feel a mood episode coming. The written crisis plan should have the people that you want contacted in case there is an emergency occurring, and the teen should make sure that all medications that they are taken are listed on the crisis plan too. The written crisis plan can be changed as the teen feels it is needed. Having a written crisis plan will allow the teen to feel empowered with their bipolar disorder.

Parents Helping a Teen with Bipolar Disorder

Parents can help their teen with bipolar disorder by being there to talk about what is going on with them daily, document all behavior problems, and health concerns. Parents should never judge their teen. This is a serious illness. It isn’t anyone’s fault, and it isn’t a life sentence of heartache.


A popular question asked by teens with bipolar disorder is, “Can bipolar disorder be cured”? Teen bipolar disorder is a chronic condition. It is not something that can be cured. This condition will last for the rest of their lives. Teens need to remember that bipolar disorder is treatable, and with the right medications and therapy, a teen can live a very happy and productive life. There is not a standard treatment as each person may have different symptoms. Teens should never stop taking their medication without talking with their doctor. This is very dangerous.

If you think your teen has bipolar disorder, then you should immediately contact a mental health professional to have your teen diagnosed properly. Teens that don’t receive proper treatment can usually turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with their bipolar symptoms. Teenagers can develop bipolar disorder symptoms as early as thirteen. If your teen has been diagnosed, parents should encourage the teen to join a teen bipolar disorder support group. Many teens find comfort in knowing that there are other teens out there dealing with the same symptoms that they are.

Teens that need to talk to someone can do so 24/7 at (800) 855-HOPE or teens can text “TEEN” from 6:00pm-9:00pm daily. All calls and texts are never shared.

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