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An adolescent may undergo the usual ups and downs of being a teen, however, in some cases, one might observe that the behavior displayed by the teen is erratic. A teen may exhibit a long period of mania followed by a long period of intense sadness. Such a teen could be suffering from bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a serious and chronic debilitating disorder afflicting at least 2.6 percent American adults. It usually develops in the late teens or early adulthood. Typically, a person might display a period of immense happiness, energy and activity. Such a phase is known as a manic episode. Before or after such an episode, a person may show a phase of intense sadness, fatigue, and depression. This is known as a depressive episode. Even though there is no cure for this disorder, there are treatment strategies which can help a person with bipolar disorder to live well.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Teens

In bipolar disorder, the symptoms of a manic episode are very different from that of a depressive episode. While teens may suffer from the same mood disturbances as adults with a bipolar disorder, in teens, the depressive phase lasts longer than the manic episode.

A teenager having a manic episode may show the following symptoms:

  • Extremely short temper
  • Talking quickly and excitedly about a lot of stuff, at times unrelated
  • Inability to focus on something for long
  • Hopping from one task to another
  • Not feeling tired and unable to sleep
  • Feeling immensely happy and acting silly
  • Indulging in risky behaviors like drinking while driving
  • Displaying compulsive behaviors like binge shopping
  • Becoming sexually hyper

On the other hand, during a depressive episode, the symptoms may be:

  • Feeling sad and down
  • Feeling guilty, empty and worthless
  • Headache, stomachache and other unexplained pains
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Having little or no energy
  • Loss of concentration
  • Being indecisive
  • Loss of interest in activities and socializing with friends
  • Eating too much or too less
  • Thinking about death and suicide

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Till date, the exact causes of bipolar disorder have not been established, however, it is hypothesized that a combination of factors like genes, brain structure, and environment could be responsible.

Genes

Teens with a family history of bipolar disorder are at an increased susceptibility of developing the disorder. If a parent or a sibling has the disorder, they are also likely to develop it. However, most people with relatives who have bipolar disorder usually do not develop it.

Brain Structure

Even though doctors have not been able to detect bipolar disorder using brain scans, scientists have found minor differences in the brain activity and size of the brain in people grappling with the disorder. Additionally, scientists also believe that traumatic head injuries and concussions also increase a person’s susceptibility to develop the disorder.

Environmental Factors

According to doctors, traumatic or a stressful events can predict the first onset of bipolar disorder. In addition, stress hormones and how a teen handles stress also play a role in disease development.

Overlapping Conditions

Teens struggling with bipolar disorder may also be struggling with other conditions and behavioral problems which may overlap with mood episodes. These disorders or behavioral problems could be:

  • Substance abuse disorder (SUD)
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Conduct disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Separation anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Social anxiety disorder

Suicide

Teens struggling with bipolar disorder are at an increased probability to commit suicide. Warning signs could be:

  • Being excessively obsessed with death
  • Giving away cherished possessions
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Losing interest in activities once loved
  • Having intense feelings of hopelessness and sadness

It is important that parents talk to their teens and identify the warning signs of suicide ideation. If a parent feels that their teen is at an increased risk of committing suicide, they should

  1. Call the local emergency number or 911
  2. Stay with the teen till the time help arrives
  3. Remove all substances, such as medications, guns, knives, etc., that may cause harm
  4. Encourage the teen to keep talking while listening to them without threatening or judging them

Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

A physician will carry out a physical examination, interview and laboratory tests for a teen suspected to be struggling with bipolar disorder. Even though there are no laboratory tests that could confirm the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the physician will be able to at least rule out the possibility of other medical illnesses such as hyperthyroidism. Once they rule out other medical illnesses, the physician might ask the parents to take the teen to visit a psychiatrist for the diagnosis of mental illnesses. The psychiatrist would carry out a mental assessment to determine which type of bipolar disorder is afflicting the teen.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), there are six types of bipolar disorders.

  1. Bipolar I disorder – In this, a teen may have at least one manic episode. He may have a depressive episode before or after a manic episode, however, bipolar I disorder does not always cause a depressive episode.
  2. Bipolar II disorder – In this, a teen experiences at least one depressive and one hypomanic episode. However, the hypomanic episode is less intense than a manic episode.
  3. Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia) – In this, the affected individual suffers brief periods of depressive episodes alternating with brief periods of hypomanic episodes. None of these are as long-lasting or intense as a full-fledged depressive or hypomanic episode.
  4. Substance/medication-induced bipolar and related disorder – In this type, a manic, hypomanic or a depressive episode results after one has used a substance for intoxication.
  5. Bipolar and related disorder due to another medical condition – Here the symptoms are produced by another medical condition and not a mental health condition.
  6. Unspecified bipolar and related disorder – In this type, the psychiatrist does not have enough information to make a specific diagnosis.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be managed through the use of therapy, medications or both, depending on the severity and time period of the disorder.

Therapy – A teen may benefit immensely from therapy sessions. Different types of therapies include:

  • Psychotherapy – Also known as talk therapy, this helps teens express their feelings. They can attend these sessions solo or in groups.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT helps a teen recalibrate their negative feelings and behaviors into positive ones.
  • Interpersonal therapy – This can help teens manage their discord with their friends and loved ones which might have triggered an episode.
  • Family-focused therapy – Participating in this type of therapy helps families deal with the immense emotional upheaval attached to the disorder.

Medication – To begin with, a doctor usually recommends the smallest dose with the least frequency possible to manage the disease. Gradually, the dose is increased depending on the way an individual reacts to the medications. Mostly mood stabilizers and antipsychotics are recommended. As a parent, one must ask the doctor why they are prescribing a particular medicine, what are the possible side effects, how the medication should be taken, what are the expected results, and which drugs should not be taken alongside the prescribed medicines. An understanding of all these would enable an individual to be able to manage their or a loved one’s condition better.

Why Choose ADEONA Healthcare for Bipolar Disorder Treatment?

ADEONA Healthcare of Rancho San Diego offers residential treatment for the management of bipolar disorder in teens. We are the leading providers of treatment for substance use disorder (SUD), mental health problems and dual diagnosis for adolescents and teens aged 12-17. We provide the latest and cutting-edge treatment plans in a safe and secure environment conducive to healing. Our compassionate and skilled staff takes care of the teens and makes them feel at home so that they do not feel threatened and are able to focus on their health and getting well.

If you wish to know more about our treatment plans for bipolar disorder or for any other mental illness, call our 24/7 helpline (888) 997-3966. You may even chat online with our representative for immediate assistance.

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