Signs of Bipolar Disorder in Teens

“I remember the first time I went to the doctor for my bipolar symptoms. I was 18 and experiencing signs of depression and self harm. My parents, unsure of what to do, took me to the family physician. When I tried to explain that I wasn’t always depressed, that sometimes I felt full of energy and couldn’t sleep, he told me that there was no way I was bipolar. After all, I wasn’t trying to dig a hole to China or jump off a roof. It was only a few weeks later when I saw my first psychiatrist that I learned about hypomania and was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.” -Anonymous

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also called manic depression, is a mood disorder characterized by swings between major depression and mania, or extreme elation. The mood swings vary depending on the type of disorder. In Bipolar I, there are extreme states of both mania and depression. The mania is severe and teens may experience hallucinations, psychosis, paranoia or delusions. Some symptoms may result in the need for hospitalization or medication. Bipolar II features the same severe depression, but the mania isn’t as intense. This is called hypomania.

Manic depression is much more common and much more severe in the US than in other countries like Europe and Canada. It’s much more likely to occur in troubled teens under 19 years of age. In fact, 2/3 of all adults with bipolar experienced their first symptoms as a teenager, while only 1/3 of adults in Europe can say the same.

The cause of bipolar disorder has not been deduced by scientists as of yet, though one of the main risk factors is genetics. If you or someone in your family have a mood disorder, your teen is nine times more likely to have it as well. Neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain may also be the cause.

Symptoms to Look For

There are several symptoms of manic depressive disorder you should look for in your teen if you’re worried they may be bipolar. All individuals will experience mania (extreme highs) or hypomania (mild highs) and major depression. It’s important to note that mania isn’t the same thing as being outgoing or having a lot of energy. At the same time, depression is more than just being sad for a little bit.

Some mania symptoms include:

  • Excessive irritability, aggression or anger
  • Hypersexuality
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts and speech
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Reckless behavior

Symptoms of hypomania include:

  • Elated moods
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Extreme focus
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved creativity
  • Increased confidence
  • Improved libido
  • Excessive anger or irritability
  • Reckless behavior

Depression Symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Overeating
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping too much
  • Fatigue or energy loss
  • Prolonged sad mood
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Thoughts of suicide

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder in Your Teen

A psychologist or psychiatrist is necessary for diagnosing bipolar disorder in a teen. Most often, medication is needed to help stabilize the mania and lift the depression. It might take more than one attempt to get the right mix of medication for your daughter.

Bipolar Disorder at Our Therapeutic Girls School

At Greenbrier Academy for Girls, we have a unique program in that we are a non-acute residential treatment center that also specializes as a school. We work with students who are now experiencing non-acute symptoms that may be threatening her future, but not putting herself or others at high risk. Greenbrier is a great program for students that are transitioning out of a traditional acute residential treatment center and are ready to get their futures back on track.

We work extremely hard to help your daughter succeed, even if her mood disorder has previously hindered her success. We have therapeutic programs to help with her depression and manic episodes. We can also help her catch up on her academic studies. Our 4 Month Semester Forward Program gives students the opportunity to earn up to a semester’s worth of academic credit in just four months.  Our full-time medical coordinator will distribute your daughter’s prescription medications daily as well. We make sure your daughter has a “home away from home” while she is with us. Come visit our beautiful campus and see for yourself the unique experience we offer at our therapeutic girls school.