Bipolar disorder in teenagers
The Daily Record - 5/19/2019
May is Mental Health Month. At one time it was thought children could not suffer from mental illness. However, it is illogical to believe a child cannot have a mental illness until they reach 18 years of age, but at 17 years and 364 days old had no illness.
Bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic-depressive illness, can cause teenagers to have extreme moods. Their high (manic) states may alternate with extremely low (depressed) states, or they may be experienced close together.
Bipolar disorder usually manifests itself before age 35. While rare in young children, it does affect a significant number of teens. The illness affects both sexes. If one or both parents have bipolar disorder the chances their child will develop bipolar disorder is greater than that of the average population.
Bipolar disorder may start with either manic or depressive symptoms. Manic symptoms may include:
1. Severe mood changes. They may be unusually silly/?happy or very irritable. This is not the giddiness that lasts a few minutes when asked to the prom. It is also not the irritable when a sibling borrows a CD without asking. This is nothing is right; leave me alone; bursting-into-tears-for-no-reason irritable.
2. Unrealistic highs in self-esteem. Believing they will be the highest basketball scorer in school history, when they have never handled a basketball. Another manifestation is when children feel they are so special they are connected to God. I am not saying a child cannot feel connected to God. However, when the child feels God talks only to him/?her, no one else, and only they know what God wants, everyone else is wrong.
3. Great energy where they can go without, or with very little, sleep for days. They feel I-don’t-need-to-sleep-it’s-a-waste-of-time.
4. Increased/?unusual, speech. The teen talks constantly; too fast — you can hardly understand; changes topics so quickly the thread of the conversation is lost; the child cannot be interrupted.
5. Their attention moves from one thing to another in a matter of minutes (not AD/?HD). The manic child bounces from one topic to another like the careening ball in a pinball machine.
6. High risk-taking behavior due to believing they can’t be harmed. Especially high-risk sports without appropriate gear because they believe they don’t need protective gear.
Equally notable are depressive symptoms. They may include:
1. Persistent sadness; frequently crying and appearing depressed without a loss or setback in the child’s life that can be identified as the source of their sadness.
2. Loss of enjoyment in activities they previously enjoyed.
3. Frequent complaints of physical illness without medical cause. This is a child who feels miserable, but no physical cause can be discovered.
4. Low energy, poor concentration, boredom. The child wants to do something but can’t find the energy to do it.
5. Dramatic changes in sleeping and eating. Children start to oversleep, to the point it interferes with what they want to do. They can’t seem to wake up. Others will go on food binges eating a whole cake or box of cookies. Eating becomes their major activity.
Since some of the manic and depressive symptoms also are symptoms of other conditions, such as AD/?HD, diagnosis must be made by a trained professional.
Teens with bipolar disorder can be effectively treated with education of the teen and his or her family; medication; and psychotherapy.
Mrs. Theil is a child advocate in Wayne and Holmes counties. She can be contacted at BeverlyVT@aol.com.
CREDIT: BEV THEIL