What Is Pediatric Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder is a highly inheritable illness that is is now diagnosed in children.
By 2003, nearly 1000 out of 100,000 children were diagnosed on the Bipolar spectrum. The Pediatric Bipolar Spectrum includes diagnoses of Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Bipolar Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) and Cyclothymia.
Researchers have identified Bipolar Disorder cases in every age group, including preschoolers.
A proper diagnosis of Pediatric Bipolar Disorder and subsequent treatment helps the mentally ill child, rather than labeling them a "bad kid" or a "child the parents can't control."
What are Signs and Symptoms of Pediatric Bipolar Disorder?
- Symptoms of mania: inappropriate silliness and euphoria, grandiosity, overly talkative, excessive distractibility, involvement in risky behavior, decreased sleep with no daytime exhaustion, poor judgment, hallucinations and psychosis.
- Symptoms of depression: lack of joy or pleasure, agitation, irritability, withdrawal from activities, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or helplessness, change in weight, drop in grades, thoughts of death or suicide.
- Cycling: Depending on which part of the Bipolar spectrum the pediatric bipolar patient is on, these children may cycle rapidly or slowly. The Pediatric Bipolar cycles may be extreme or mild. In children, sometimes the cycling is hard to identify because they may have cycled their entire life, since infancy.
How Do I Know If My Child has Bipolar Disorder?
The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation has a wonderful checklist of signs, symptoms and questions you can review. If your child shows more than a few of the signs, you can follow their First Steps program to find a doctor and get a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Treatment for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder:
More often than not, a Pediatric Bipolar diagnosis means that medication will be necessary. A Pediatric Bipolar diagnosis often includes therapy for the mentally ill child and their family, accommodations at school, proper monitoring of other health concerns, good nutrition and exercise.
Early diagnosis of Pediatric Bipolar Disorder and proper treatment will lead to better outcomes than leaving your child untreated.
Just as you would treat your diabetic child or your child with a heart condition, you should treat your mentally ill son or daughter.
In more extreme cases, hospitalization of your mentally ill child, whether in elementary school or high school, may be necessary to regulate medications or to keep them from harming themselves or others.
Relapses or becoming resistant to a particular medication can cause upheaval in the treatment of your child.
If you believe your child is suicidal, please get help.
National Hopeline Network: (800) 784-2433
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
Suicide hotline, 24/7 free and confidential.
National Youth Crisis Helpline: (800) 442-4673
Additional Resources for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder:
Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation - The most complete authority on Pediatric Bipolar Disorder around. This site offers libraries of knowledge, podcasts, areas for specific groups of teens (called Flipswitch), chats and a comprehensive list of resources.
Navigating the First IEP Meeting at School - Information on how to approach the school system's Individual Education Plan meetings.
About Our Kids - NYC Child Study Center's site devoted to helping families navigate the treacherous waters of coping with mental illness in children.
NAMI Child and Adolescent Action Center: works to improve the lives of children and adolescents living with mental illnesses and their families through advocacy, support and education.
National Institute of Mental Health: information for parents about child and adolescent mental health as well as links to many other resources about mental illness.