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Child & Adolescent Bipolar Disorder & Medications

by Ray Dallas
  • Overview

    Bipolar disorder affecting teens and children is called "early onset" bipolar disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (see References 1), and it often hits with greater severity and more frequent mood swings than in adults. This can be a difficult disorder for anyone to handle, even more so for young people.
  • Prevalence

    According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, early onset bipolar disorder is not as rare as once thought and accounts for 7 percent of diagnoses of children seen at psychiatric facilities.
  • Rapid Cycling

    A common difference in early onset bipolar disorder is that the patient tends to cycle through manic and depressive cycles more rapidly, maybe several times a week, or maybe even multiple times throughout the day.
  • Symptoms of Mania

    The child may act unusually excited and may have grandiose ideas about his own abilities. Decreased need for sleep is another common symptom, as is hypersexuality. Irritability and distractibility are symptoms of the much more common childhood disorder ADHD.
  • Symptoms of Depression

    Intractable sadness, complaints of aches and pains, too little or too much sleep, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, overeating and under-eating, lack of energy or joy, and lingering thoughts of death and suicide are all notable symptoms of depression. If you notice swings from mania to depression, it may indicate bipolar disorder.
  • Medication

    Treatment should always involve therapy, but medications also help. The most common medications are Lithium, anticonvulsants (e.g., Depakote or other valproate products) and atypical neuroleptics (e.g., risperidone, olanzapine, ziprasidone, aripiprazole and quetiapine).
  • Prognosis

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that children generally experience more severe symptoms and have a more difficult time functioning over the long term than patients who experience the disorder later in life.

    References & Resources