There’s been a significant rise in the reported number of cases of bipolar disorder in children and teens, as well as new insights into the ways it can be treated. Parents deserve to know ways in which they can cope and parent their child or teen with sensitivity, empowering themselves with the right knowledge.
The detection of mood disorder symptoms and the importance of ruling out the similar signs and aspects of Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP) vs. Bipolar Disorder are key in knowing how to understand and cope with bipolar disorder in children. Early detection has been identifying the illness occurring in the younger years now and is known to affect children, not just teens and adults.
What is Bipolar Disorder in Children?
Similar to adults, bipolar disorder in children and teens is indicated by severe moods and episodes of mania and depression. Manic episodes are marked by extreme highs in energy, a decreased need for sleep, excessive talkativeness, and hyper amounts of energy. It then ensues into depressive episodes, denoted by changes in sleep patterns and appetite, irritability, sadness, and possible suicidal ideations.
Luckily, there are ways parents can help their children suffer less. Psychiatric assistance, psychotherapy, and bipolar medication may be needed lifelong, but when you treat bipolar disorder early, symptoms can be managed and their quality of life can be sustainably positive. Parents in turn can learn how to cope with this life-threatening illness through family therapy and working with a psychiatrist.
Bipolar Diagnosis and the Differences from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Borderline personality vs bipolar symptoms are important to distinguish, as the two disorders look like they can overlap but still be starkly different. First of all, BDP is a personality disorder as bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. Careful detection and the ruling out of subsequent alcohol and drug abuse, ADHD, and anxiety disorders in teens is also important.
The most frequently seen symptoms found in children with bipolar disorder can look like the following:
- Extreme swings in mood
- Much more excitable and irritable than other kids
- Cyclical highs and lows
- Problematic behaviors in home and school
- Unusual shifts in energy level and functioning.
However severe, early treatment with bipolar medication can prevent the disorder from getting worse.
People with BPD have characteristically intense, unstable emotions that are hard for them to regulate. Once a stressful emotion is triggered, they may have a hard time calming down, which contributes to conflictual and unstable personal relationships. A child or teen with BDP often possesses a pronounced fear of abandonment, self-doubt, insecure self-image, and extreme mood swings. The mood swings felt with BPD are yet different than a full-blown mood disorder.
BPD and bipolar disorder need to be distinguished from the normal hormones of the teenage years and puberty, as the pervasive feelings of emptiness and extreme moods that children and teens with BPD experience need to be treated in a precise manner as opposed to chemical imbalance such as in a mood disorder.
People with BPD feel a sense of fragility, depression, and are known to have unstable interactions in relationships, which require a different set of therapy skills to treat. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is known as the most effective treatment for people with bipolar disorder.
How Parents Can Cope with Bipolar Disorder in Their Children
The main way to cope with bipolar disorder in children and teens is to seek psychiatric help. Get an evaluation at the first signs of your child’s extreme mood swings. If they show an inability to regulate the effects of stressors that other children may not experience as extremely, it is important to seek the proper diagnoses and rule out borderline personality disorder vs bipolar. Ask questions, learn all about the diagnosis, and make sure they stick to the prescribed bipolar medication.
Taking medication for bipolar disorder can be the most effective way to manage it and needs to be taken consistently. In as little as two weeks to two months, medication can prevent tremendous long-term suffering in children and teens.
It is key to note that with early-onset bipolar disorder, children require medication adjustments over time and need to be consistent to be effective and help the child feel better. It is important to be aware of the stressors that create a crisis. The smallest incidents can result in trauma for a child with bipolar more than for an average child, contributing to the experience of stigma. It is important to be an actively involved caregiver and investigate what types of support are in place at school.
Get your children into therapy that can employ Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and skill-building for maintaining routines and learning self-regulation of intense emotions.
Social skills learning can provide for forming supportive relationships. Form a multidisciplinary support network that includes a psychiatrist, therapist, teachers, and the support of family and other parents. Learn to understand triggers and practice open and frequent communication. Most importantly, learn about your own style of parenting.
Bipolar Treatment for Teens in Southern California
It is important for parents to stress the requirement of their children to continue taking the prescribed medications and stick to a regimen, as bipolar medication can be necessary lifelong. Without it, there is the risk of relapse and trauma, where mood swings cycle rapidly and disruptions can occur in school and at home.
Bipolar medications prescribed are most commonly mood stabilizers. Antidepressants can be combined as well as mood stabilizers to balance depressive symptoms while avoiding the onset of mania. Medication is suggested even when the child is feeling better to avoid damage to the brain if left untreated.
For children and developing teens, treating their brains and knowing more about what’s happening with the emotions that go on within them can help parents mitigate the stresses that are going on around them. The child with bipolar may not be able to put into language the feelings they are feeling. They are expressing themselves in a different way entirely. Listening to them patiently, attentively, and encouraging communication can help both parent and child cope with this mood disorder.