What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder in teens?
Bipolar disorder is a condition that can impact both the individual who is diagnosed and their families. In fact, as many as 3% of all Americans will experience symptoms of bipolar disorder at least some point in their lifetime. Though bipolar disorder is something that can make many day-to-day activities particularly difficult for both teens and their parents alike, once it is properly diagnosed, their lives can certainly be improved.
It is not unheard of for teens with bipolar disorder to begin demonstrating symptoms when they are children. However, symptoms of bipolar disorder will most commonly begin to appear when the individual is either a teenager or in their early twenties. For parents who are confused by their teenager’s “sudden change”, it is important to know that what you are witnessing is fairly common.
Effective treatment for any serious psychological condition can only begin once you have obtained a proper diagnosis. If you believe that your teenager might be suffering from bipolar disorder, it is important to speak with a trained professional before jumping to any dramatic conclusions. But if are considering seeking professional help, here are some common symptoms of bipolar disorder in teens:
1 – Prolonged periods of depression followed by prolonged periods of mania
This is the textbook symptom that most psychologists look for before diagnosing anyone with bipolar disorder. Clinical depression is characterized by an individual suffering from a consistently low-mood, lack of motivation, and a generally negative outlook on life.
However, experiencing symptoms of clinical depression alone is not enough to receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Depression is just one of the two “poles” that people with bipolar disorder experience. The other “pole”—for the lack of a better term—is known as mania. Mania is characterized by an elevated mood, difficulties sleeping, excessive talking, and spontaneous decision making.
Bipolar disorder is a chemical, psychological, and physiological condition that is characterized by changes in these two polar opposite states of mind over time. It is a condition that can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors, and it is also a condition that exists along a spectrum (as opposed to a “binary”).
2 – Rapid cycling of moods
Within the relatively broad diagnosis of bipolar disorder, there are multiple different varieties. One of these varieties is known as rapid cycling, which—as the name might imply—is characterized by experiencing comparatively rapid mood changes.
An individual who is suffering from rapid cycling might go from feeling incredibly enthusiastic about a given idea one minute to feeling completely uninterested in everything around them the next. These changes in moods can be entirely unrelated to what is happening in the individual’s environment around them. There is not always a clear “cause” to why their mood might change, but it still rapidly changes, nevertheless.
3 – Increased difficulties pursuing long-term goals
There a number of reasons that individuals who are suffering from bipolar disorder might have trouble pursuing long-term goals. When they are experiencing symptoms of depression, it can be incredibly difficult to find the motivation to do something that will not “pay-off” for a long period of time. For example, doing homework might seem impossible because the apparent “pay-off”—a high school or college diploma—is something they may not be able to experience for years.
Additionally, when your teenager is experiencing symptoms of mania, they will also have trouble with delayed gratification. Mania causes individuals to act spontaneously and often not think about the consequences of their actions. Though it is certainly possible for individuals with bipolar disorder to succeed in almost any field, there are a unique set of challenges that can make things more difficult.
4 – Substance abuse, self-harm, and other sorts of self-destructive behavior
Though neither substance abuse and self-harm alone is enough to constitute bipolar disorder, both of these things are complications that are unfortunately commonly associated with the condition. Individuals who experience bipolar disorder are statistically more likely to use various illicit substances as a reactionary coping mechanism. If your teenager has, in fact, been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, substance abuse is something you ought to be looking out for.
Furthermore, because one of the key components of bipolar disorder is depression, individuals who suffer from the condition are also statistically more likely to hurt themselves or even commit suicide. Though bipolar disorder is something whose burden can be lessened with proper treatment, if left undiagnosed and ignored, it is a condition that can result in a tremendous amount of individual harm.
Like all psychological conditions, bipolar disorder is something that nobody should have to suffer from in silence. There are a number of excellent treatment options available that can improve the lives of both teens and your parents. But in order to begin trekking the path towards a better life, it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a licensed professional. If your teenager has been demonstrating these symptoms mentioned above, consider reaching out for professional care. Contact the experts at Polaris Teen Center. Our primary therapists are certified in a wide range of treatment modalities. For more information on our programs, or to speak to an admissions specialist, contact us here.
Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).