Despite the fact that bipolar disorder is more common in older teens and young adults, it may present in children younger than seven years old. In the past years, it has become a provocative diagnosis. Some scientists believe that it is very uncommon and just over-diagnosed, while others would suggest the opposite. Currently, it isn’t easy to know for sure how rare or common it really is.
Another illness referred to as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, or DMDD, has also been considered to describe kids from 6 to 18 who manifest with extreme and insistent irritability and temper flare-ups that do not have concrete definitions for it to be considered bipolar. Hence, it is vital not to jump into conclusions. If a child in your family has bipolar disorder, it is wise to get another opinion prior to deciding on what treatment plan to utilize. Be sure that you are confident of the healthcare professional that your child will be dealing with.
Bipolar Disorder in Children
Making a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children is not easy at all, as several of the symptoms are comparable to that of ADHD and other behavioral conditions. One concern is that prescription medications that are indicated for ADHD are usually stimulants that could possibly induce mania in kids with bipolar disorder. Young children that present with mania may be more aggressive and short-tempered compared to adults, and they have a higher likelihood of having psychotic symptoms as well. When they are experiencing a depressive episode, on the other hand, they are most likely to complain of body aches and pains.
A remarkable difference is that bipolar disorder in the young has more quick cycles compared to that of the adults. While depressive and manic episodes might present separately by months or years in young adults, they can also occur within one day in children.
Helping Your Child With Bipolar Disorder
As parents of a bipolar child, there are things you can do to help your child maintain his mental and emotional well-being.
- Monitor strict medication instructions. You definitely must be sure that your bipolar child takes the medication that she needs. Utilize pillboxes, timers, or notes to help you remember the schedule. If she must take a pill at school, communicate with her teacher or the school nurse to assist your child in taking the medication – that is their responsibility.
- Keep track of the side effects. Most prescription medications for bipolar disorder – which include antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants – were previously experimented on adults, and only very few were studied on young kids and adolescents. Some children are more susceptible to getting side effects from these drugs, like weight gain and alterations in cholesterol and blood sugar due to some antipsychotics. Talk to your child’s doctor and discuss what symptoms you should be watchful for.
- Communicate with your child’s teachers. There are bipolar cases where your child might require special support and allowances at school. They may require more breaks or fewer assignments during their manic or depressive episodes. Discuss and develop a plan with the teachers of your child. There will be times when your child may need to be taken out of the school premises for a while, just for the bipolar symptoms to be pacified and controlled.
- Maintain a routine. Bipolar children do benefit from keeping a routine. Please help your child get up from bed, eat her meals, do some physical activity, and go to sleep at similar times every day as possible. Try your best to lessen the stress in the family.
- Talk about family therapy. Having a bipolar child can be problematic and disrupting the entire family. It places extra stress on a couple’s marriage, and your other kids might not be able to understand the condition of their sibling. They may even feel annoyed because of the attention that their sibling is getting. Consulting a family therapist can certainly help everyone acknowledge and manage the effects of bipolar disorder on the family.
- Do not ignore suicidal threats. Parents do not want to think that their children can hurt themselves. Sadly, things like this could happen even with your young child. So if your beloved child starts expressing the desire to hurt herself or presents with deadly behaviors, do not in any way neglect it. Get rid of all dangerous pills or weapons inside your house. And don’t forget to seek help immediately.
The symptoms and management for older teens with the disorder are more or less the same as with the adults, although a bipolar teen manifests with more definite problems. As they grow older, teens may feel resentful if they notice that you are trying to impose treatments on them. You can try to prevent this by allowing them to join your conversations regarding their management. Talk freely – together with your child’s healthcare provider – about their treatment preferences. Avoid creating a confrontational relationship with your teen because of their treatments or medications.
As for the adults, it is vital to let your bipolar teen avoid drugs and alcohol, as these will adversely react with the medications that he is taking. They have a higher likelihood of developing problems such as substance abuse. It is also crucial to keep the usual routines associated with sleeping and waking and to be able to learn efficient coping skills for dealing with stress, anxiety, and other problems arising from bipolar disorder.