Childhood Bipolar Disorder

2013 Bipolar Update

Although Bipolar Disorder is usually diagnosed in adults it is increasingly being detected in adolescents and pre-teens. Studies have been done in children as young as six years and about 7% of diagnosed psychiatric cases are of pediatric bipolar disorder. It is a young field in terms of scientific research and conclusive facts.

One of the challenges in defining the symptoms has been the similarity between attention hyperactivity ailments and bipolar disorders. Symptoms can be broadly divided into two kinds: manic and depressive. It is not unusual for the child to go through several different stages of symptoms in one day.

Manic Symptoms include:

Drastic mood changes, anywhere from excessively happy and on top of the world to agitated, irate or violent.

High levels of energy coupled with decreased need for sleep. They may sleep for less than 5 hours, engage in lots of activity and show no signs of fatigue.

Excess confidence and self-esteem to the point of feeling and acting like a superhero with supernatural powers.

Poor attention span

Engaging in risky behavior such as reckless driving, drugs, excess drinking, and risky sexual activities – including premature sexual tendencies in young children.

Talking too much, too quickly, dominating conversations and changing topics very frequently.

Depressive Symptoms of Childhood Bipolar Disorder

Some of the depressive symptoms of child bipolar are similar to those of other illnesses such as schizophrenia, drug abuse and attention-deficit disorders.

Decreased energy levels, tiredness and limited ability to concentrate

Lack of interest in favorite pastimes but grumbling about boredom

Sadness, melancholy, frequent crying or irritable

Considerable change in normal sleeping and eating patterns – either excess or minimal

Suicidal thoughts and tendencies

Causes of Bipolar Disorders

To some extent the disease is linked to family history whereby if one or both parents have the disorder then the child may be at greater risk. A complete research of the family history is therefore critical for its diagnosis. Certain addiction behaviors may also trigger bipolar; for example alcohol abuse or recreational drugs.

Treatment for Childhood Bipolar Disorders

A number of medical treatments have been approved by FDA specifically for a short term basis. Studies on their long term impact and effectiveness is as yet conclusive. Therefore, it is extremely vital to rule out all other possibilities before beginning bipolar treatment. Furthermore, the effects of the treatment on the child must be closely observed. Currently no medication has been approved for children below the age of 10. Anticonvulsants used to treat adult cases have not been approved for teenagers.

Anti-psychotics: Different ones are suitable for pre-teens, young teens and older teens.

Anti-depressants: Lithium and Valproi: These are mood stabilizers and help prevent depression and severe manic incidents. Side effects noted include kidney and thyroid ailments, weight increase coupled with increasing risk for diabetes and high cholesterol.

Non-medicated treatment can also be quite effective in tackling the underlying psychological and environmental conditions in childhood bipolar. Psychotherapy is highly recommended because it enables the child to better understand himself, equips him to deal with stressful situations or poor relationships and also fosters greater self-esteem.