Bipolar disorder can feel distressing for those who live with the condition. It is often characterized by ups and downs in mood, called depression, mania, and hypomania.
Children and teens can be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. If you suspect you may be experiencing symptoms related to this condition, reaching out for support from a licensed mental health practitioner could be beneficial.
If you are a teen, you can learn more about bipolar symptoms by reading about the condition and asking your parent if you can meet with a provider. Online bipolar tests may also be useful, though they should not replace professional advice or diagnosis.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition resulting in extreme mood shifts. These shifts may include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). The disorder was formerly called manic depression but has since been updated to distinguish it from other mental illnesses.
Periods Of Depression
During bouts of bipolar depression or low points, those with bipolar disorder may experience feelings of sadness, helplessness, and a loss of interest in activities, including those that used to be enjoyable.
Mania And Hypomania
When one’s mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), one may feel energized, euphoric, or irritable. These mood swings may seriously impact one’s life, affecting sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior, and the ability to think clearly. People with bipolar disorder may have trouble managing everyday tasks at work, school, or maintaining relationships.
Mood swing episodes may occur multiple times a year. Bipolar depression may last two weeks or more, and mania may last a few days to a few months. In some cases, those living with bipolar disorder experience mixed episodes where mania and depression rapidly cycle throughout the days or weeks.
How Common Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is common. About 2.9% of American adolescents have been diagnosed with the condition, which amounts to about 12 million teens in the US. Often, symptoms of bipolar disorder show up during adolescence or childhood. The average age for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder is 25 years old.
Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, it may be possible to manage mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In many cases, bipolar disorder is successfully treated by psychological counseling (psychotherapy), medications, or a combination of the two.
Why Take A Bipolar Test?
If you suspect you may have bipolar disorder, further exploring your symptoms can feel validating. Taking a bipolar self-test or an official diagnostic exam might give insight into how bipolar disorder impacts your life.
Online self-tests may help you become familiar with various symptoms associated with bipolar disorder and reflect upon how your experiences have affected your well-being. When you meet with a doctor or mental health professional, you may feel better able to list your symptoms.
Process Of Bipolar Diagnosis In Adolescents
In some cases, teens may be referred to an official psychoanalysis test to be completed by a psychologist or psychiatrist. In this case, your official test results can show an accurate diagnosis.
A screening test is often done to detect potential mental health conditions in teens or adults. A child or teen may seek the support of an adolescent psychologist or neuropsychologist to complete the screening test.
Often, screening goals include early detection and lifestyle changes or surveillance. They are not considered diagnostic but are used to identify a potential need for further diagnostic screening or testing.
For bipolar disorder, a standard test is the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ), though there are many other tests that mental health providers use. Often, a bipolar disorder screening test may ask the participant various questions to determine if they are experiencing symptoms of manic or depressive episodes.
Consult a licensed mental health professional regarding the appropriate timing and frequency of the screening test based on age, overall health, and medical history. Additionally, answer each question carefully and thoroughly. Before your appointment, you may want to make a list of the following:
Any symptoms you have had, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment
Key profile, including any significant stresses or recent life changes
Questions to ask the doctor
Ruling Out Other Medical Conditions And Disorders
When evaluating an adolescent for bipolar disorder, a professional may first rule out other conditions.
To understand your symptoms better, the healthcare provider may:
Perform a physical exam
Order tests to check blood and urine
Order a psychological evaluation to understand moods and behaviors
If the healthcare provider does not find a medical issue or cause, they may refer the patient to a mental health professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist. A mental health professional may prescribe a treatment plan to treat the condition. A psychologist may also teach behavioral techniques for managing mood shifts.
Getting a diagnosis could take multiple sessions or examinations. The symptoms of bipolar disorder may overlap with those of other mental disorders and mental health issues, so professionals may observe your mental health history over time.
If you’re a teenager or child, your practitioner may also speak to your parents about symptoms or mood changes they have observed.
Common Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder
Understanding any symptoms you’re experiencing may assist you in receiving an accurate diagnosis. Please let your doctor know if you relate to any of the following symptoms.
Mania And Hypomania
Mania and hypomania are two distinct episodes related to bipolar disorder. Mania is more severe than hypomania and causes more noticeable problems at home, work, school, or related social activities. Mania lasts one week or longer, while hypomania may occur for a few days.
Individuals experiencing mania may also face difficulties maintaining and managing personal and professional relationships. Mania could also trigger psychosis, delusions, or feelings of grandeur and require hospitalization in some cases.
Mania and hypomania may include the following symptoms:
Feeling abnormally upbeat, elated, or jumpy
Heightened activity, energy, or agitation
An exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence or a feeling of euphoria and intense optimism
Difficulty making sound decisions
A feeling of not needing to sleep/insomnia
A major depressive episode may include severe symptoms that cause noticeable day-to-day difficulties. Depression symptoms may last two weeks or more. These symptoms can affect almost all areas of life, including work, school, social activities, or relationships.
An episode may include the following symptoms:
Depressed mood: feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or tearful (in children and teens, a depressed mood can appear as irritability)
Marked loss of interest or feeling no pleasure in all or almost all activities
Insomnia or excessive sleepiness
Restlessness or slowed behavior
Fatigue or loss of energy
Significant weight changes; in children and teens, difficulty gaining weight as expected for the age group can be a symptom
Feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness, or excessive and inappropriate guilt
Decreased ability to concentrate
Decreased memory capacity
What Are The Potential Results Of Screening For Bipolar Disorder?
There are four types of bipolar disorder an individual may be diagnosed with, and each has slightly different criteria, as outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
For these to be diagnosed, the criteria must be filled for at least one episode of mania or hypomania. The psychiatrist, therapist, or psychologist may help identify the type of bipolar disorder based on their psychological evaluation exams.
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I Disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days or manic symptoms that are so severe that a person needs immediate inpatient care.
Often, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least two weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depressive and manic symptoms simultaneously) are also possible.
Bipolar II Disorder
Bipolar II Disorder is often defined by a pattern of depressive and hypomanic episodes, but not full manic episodes. Hypomania may last less than a week in some cases.
Cyclothymic disorder is defined by periods of hypomanic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years in adults and one year in children and adolescents.
However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode or a depressive episode in its entirety.
Other Specified And Unspecified Bipolar And Related Disorders
At times, an individual might experience symptoms of bipolar disorder that do not match the three categories listed above, which is referred to as an “other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorder.”
The symptoms of the episodes should not be attributable to schizophrenia or other mental health problems falling under the category of a psychotic disorder or schizophrenia spectrum disorder.
What Is The Treatment For Bipolar Disorder?
Long-term treatment is often recommended for those with symptoms of bipolar disorder. Healthcare providers often prescribe a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counseling, can involve psychological methods to support a person in changing behavior and overcoming distressing symptoms. It may be practiced in an individual, family, couple, or group setting.
There are many types of psychotherapy. Some of the most popular are included below.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often utilized to identify unhealthy negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. CBT can help identify what triggers your bipolar episodes. You may also learn practical strategies to manage stress and cope with emotions.
Psychoeducation may teach the patient and their loved ones more about bipolar disorder symptoms to help them make decisions about care and treatment.
Interpersonal And Social Rhythm Therapy
Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy may help one create a consistent daily routine for sleep, diet, and exercise. A consistent routine may allow for mood management. Those with bipolar disorder may benefit from establishing daily rhythms and routines in relationships and other areas of life.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
DBT is a therapy often used to support those with a mood disorder in controlling emotions, creating healthy relationships, and managing symptoms through mindfulness. DBT is an approved treatment for adolescents, and you may be able to participate in it with your family or a group of other adolescents.
Several medications are often prescribed to aid in the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Medication may include mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. Anti-anxiety medications may also be prescribed in some cases, as anxiety can be a symptom of the condition. Consult with your healthcare professional before starting or stopping a medication.
Teens may benefit from lifestyle changes for bipolar disorder, including the following.
Avoid Substance Use
Risk-taking behaviors can be common in bipolar disorder. Taking steps to avoid substances or peer pressure can be beneficial. If you are struggling with substance use, reach out to a parent, caregiver, or school counselor for support.
Form Healthy Relationships
Keep people who are a positive influence close to you. Friends and families may provide support and help you watch for warning signs of mood shifts.
Create A Healthy Routine
Having a sleeping, eating, and physical activity routine may keep your mental health in check. Studies show that a healthy diet may also benefit your mental health.
Consider Keeping A Mood Diary
Keeping a record of daily moods, treatments, sleep, activities, and feelings may help identify triggers, effective treatment options, and when treatment needs to be adjusted.
Many teens and their families seek support from a counselor when experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder. If you feel you may have this condition, you might ask your caregivers to make an appointment for a mental health referral evaluation.
In addition, counseling can be beneficial in managing daily symptoms or stressors. For teens and families looking for an affordable and accessible alternative to traditional counseling, online therapy may be an option. Researchers have proved online therapy to be as effective as in-person therapy. Additionally, 71% of participants in a recent online counseling study found internet-based interventions preferable to those that were not online.
For teens seeking online counseling, you might decide to sign up on a platform such as TeenCounseling. Ask your parent for permission and have them support you through the signup and payment process. For those over 18, sites like BetterHelp can be valuable.
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or hope to find support with any mental health-related symptoms, you may also consider therapy. Reach out to a counselor to get started.
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