Bipolar disorder - more like a title that’s given to any person who shows signs of severe mood swings. But it’s more than that. Let’s not little of this disease. It’s a mental disorder that many teenagers are diagnosed with. Cases of bipolar disorder in children (also known as the pediatric bipolar disorder) are rare but that’s not to say that they don’t exist. Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children especially is difficult because bipolar disorder symptoms are quite generic. Yet, that’s the challenge that the doctor has to overcome. Myths have exaggerated the effects of bipolar disorders and hence, it’s one of those disorders that people know about without really knowing too much about it. Everyone’s heard of it. Some people belittle it, while other exaggerate it- all without having adequate knowledge of the subject matter. Although this article focuses on pediatric bipolar disorders, it can be read from a generic point-of-view as adults too suffer from this disease. The objective here is to make you a more informed reader.
Table Of Contents
1. What Is ‘Bipolar Disorder’?
2. Causes Of Bipolar Disorder In Children
3. Bipolar Disorder Symptoms In Children
4. Bipolar Disorder Treatments For Children
5. Ways In Which Parents Can Help Their Children Who Are Suffering From Bipolar Disorder
What Is ‘Bipolar Disorder’?
A bipolar disorder is a serious disease that’s characterised by an illness that lies in one’s brain. Apart from bipolar disorder, this disease is also known as “manic depression”. Anybody who suffers from bipolar disorders experiences severe mood swings. There are times when patients are extremely happy, more than what warrants their happiness- such episodes are called manic episodes. On the other end of the spectrum, there are times when patients feel extremely sad for no reason whatsoever- such episodes are called depressive episodes.
Yes, the illness is just characterised by severe mood swings. But don’t take it lightly. There’s more than what meets the eye here. The mood swings that the patients experience aren’t normal. They are extreme. The mood swings aren’t alone. They are generally accompanied by other disruptancies such as low energy levels, sleep-pattern disturbances etc. When children suffer from a bipolar disorder, it’s treated as a case of pediatric bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder in children is extremely serious. It’s a mental-disease hence, it has stigma enveloping it. Children who suffer from bipolar disorders may find it hard to socialise. Loneliness may speak to them which may show itself in suicidal tendencies. Therefore, as soon as a child is diagnosed with bipolar disorder-start treatment immediately before the situation gets worse!
Causes Of Bipolar Disorder
So far, studies conducted on this disease have been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the disease. With that being said, research has led to some conclusions. Two main causes of pediatric bipolar disorder or bipolar disorder in children are:
Genetics: According to some studies, bipolar disorder has a genetic component to it because of it’s possible that the disease passes from one generation to another.
Biological Factors: Patients who suffer from bipolar disorders show certain changes in their brain structure & brain functions. Brain-chemical imbalances, hormonal imbalances & other external environmental factors are possible causes of bipolar disorders in children.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms In Children
As explained above, the severe mood swings that are characteristic of bipolar disorder in children come in two phases. Manic & depressive episodes. Another important thing to remember here is that there’s no particular ‘time-periods’ that are attached to these episodes. They could go on for weeks, months or even years. Often some pediatric bipolar disorder patients suffer from both the ‘episodes’ at the same time- the state that these children find themselves in is called the mixed state.
Symptoms of ‘Manic Episode’:
‣ Behaving in a very ‘silly’ manner. ‘Silly behaviour’ can be defined as actions that are unusual or not really age-appropriate.
‣ Poor judgement.
‣ Extreme cases of boredom or irritation.
‣ Speak extremely quickly in an incoherent manner.
‣ Having difficulty sleeping because of irritation or angst.
‣ Inability to stay focused for even short periods of time.
‣ Shows an increase in the tendency to do or try risky things.
‣ Underperforming when compared to normal performance standards.
‣ Unwarranted excessive self-confidence, self-belief etc.
‣ Unwarranted aggressive behaviour.
Symptoms of ‘Depressive Episode’:
‣ An inexplicable feeling of extreme sadness and despair.
‣ An increase in the number of complaints- stomach aches, headaches, body aches etc.
‣ Inability to sleep properly-case of insomnia.
‣ Extreme angst surrounding trivial subjects.
‣ Unusual eating patterns-excessive eating or eats too little.
‣ Loss of interest in everything that once upon a time seemed exciting.
‣ Self-hurt & suicidal tendencies.
‣ Unwarranted guilty feelings.
‣ Extreme cases of fatigue & tiredness.
‣ Fall in attention span coupled with an inability to remember things.
‣ Fall in performance levels when compared to normal standards of performance.
‣ Easily irritable.
Bipolar Disorder Treatments For Children
It’s hard to diagnose bipolar disorder in children. Not only are the symptoms so generic, it’s a mental disease and with all mental diseases, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it is that the patient is suffering from. To determine whether your child is suffering from the pediatric bipolar disorder, the doctor will need to carefully examine your child first. The examination is primarily oral. The doctor will ask you various questions related to your child’s mood swings, sleep patterns, family’s medical history all that. No tests, no scans, nothing. However, some doctors would ask you to run some tests to eliminate other mental diseases. If a child is suffering from manic or depressive episodes for more than seven days, please make sure to take him to a doctor.
Technically, there’s no ‘cure’ as such for bipolar disorders in children. Pediatric bipolar disorder treatment is mainly concerned with limiting the effect or impact of the symptoms that the patient faces during each episode. Doctors recommend to follow the treatment for longer periods of time. Short-term treatments are considered to be fruitless. The two main methods of bipolar disorder treatment are:
‣ Medication: The medication that will be given to your child depends on a number of things. The complexity of the disease, allergic reactions, the age of the child and so on and so forth. Children shouldn’t get dependent on the medicines and hence, doctor’s try to prescribe them with a minimum amount of medicines. After the doctor prescribes the medicine, as parents, it’s your duty to see that the medicines do not have an adverse effect on your child. If the side-effects are intolerable, tell your doctor. Your doctor will then prescribe your child with new medicines. One more thing. It’s extremely important to complete the course of the medicines- stopping it between is harmful and if you do, do so let your doctor know!
‣ Therapy: In addition to medication, the doctor may ask your child to undergo some kind of therapy. Or maybe, no medication and only therapy. Children who suffer from bipolar disorders may need to undergo ‘talking therapy’ or psychotherapy. Therapy has little side-effects & can sometimes work miracles!
Ways You Can Help Their Children Who Are Suffering From Bipolar Disorder
Any mental disability is hard to overcome. Manic & depressive episodes are extremely stressful & torturous. Children burdened with pediatric bipolar disorders need all the help that they can get from their parents to get through this disease together and unscathed. While dealing with such children, there are a few things that parents should always keep in mind.
‣ Practice patience. Don’t get irritated too quickly for small things.
‣ Encourage dialogue with your child. Speak to them & listen to what they have to say.
‣ Adopt a completely empathetic attitude over their ‘mood-swings’.
‣ Go out of the way to ensure that your child is loving life and having fun.
‣ Stress on the importance of treatment. Let your child know that there’s a solution and one that you are working towards.