Bipolar Disorder in Teens

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Symptoms of bipolar disorder most often appear in a person's early twenties, but it isn't uncommon for a person to begin showing signs of bipolar during their teenage years. While the core characteristics of bipolar disorder are the same in adults and teens, bipolar disorder in teens often has slightly different behavioral patterns and symptoms than that found in adults. For example, episodes of mania or depression are often shorter in adolescents with bipolar disorder, compared to the weeks or months typically found in adults with bipolar. Teens can even jump between mania and depression over the course of a single day. Mixed episodes, or periods with both manic and depressive symptoms, are often more common in teens with bipolar disorder.

Diagnosis

Bipolar disorder often manifests differently in teens than it does in adults, and making an accurate diagnosis can be difficult. The disorder can be mistaken for other illnesses, such as schizophrenia, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and unipolar depression. Some of these illnesses are common co-existing conditions with bipolar disorder in teens, further confounding a diagnosis. Careful observation, a complete mental and physical health history, family history of mental illness, and information from friends and family can all help a mental health professional arrive at a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in a teenager.

Symptoms

Symptoms of mania in teens may include:

  • being unusually happy or silly, or unusually irritable, angry, or aggressive
  • excessive talking, often at high speeds
  • feeling all-powerful
  • inability to concentrate; easily distracted
  • sleeping very little but maintaining high energy
  • risk-taking behavior

Symptoms of depression in teens may include:

  • frequent sadness, crying, or irritability
  • suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death
  • low energy, fatigue
  • trouble concentrating; complaints of boredom
  • loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities

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