Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents and Stabilization

Your teenage daughter is an enigma. One day she is exuberant, joyful, and loving, full of intense productivity and rapid chatter. The next day she is sullen and sad, sitting in her dark bedroom alone, even refusing to come down for dinner. What to make of these unpredictable and extreme mood swings, you might wonder. After all, maybe this strange and somewhat disturbing behavior is simply the result of hormonal fluctuations combined with the drama of the teen years.

While the behavior described above may indeed be indicative of hormones and drama, if it persists for a period of months and becomes increasingly more intense, then it is more likely to be a sign of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder in adolescents is not that common, affecting about 2.9% of adolescents, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But when bipolar disorder affects your teen, it is important to recognize the symptoms of this mental illness and get your son or daughter timely professional treatment.

About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic-depression, is a serious mental illness that falls within the mood disorder category. The disorder is difficult to manage and requires ongoing interaction with a mental health professional. If the symptoms become extreme or the teen becomes a danger to self or others, acute stabilization at a residential or inpatient mental health center is appropriate.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme shifts in mood between manic episodes and depressive episodes. There is usually no forewarning, so the mood swings are highly unpredictable. There are different types of bipolar disorder. They include:

Bipolar I Disorder. Bipolar I features more severe manic episodes, or mixed episodes, where the mania and depressive emotions alternate within the episode. Teens with Bipolar I will also experience depressive episodes, but manic episodes are more dominant in bipolar I.

Bipolar II Disorder. Bipolar II is characterized by more depressive features, with at least one episode of hypomania occurring between depressive episodes. Hypomania is a milder form of mania.

Cyclothymia. Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorders with multiple hypomanic episodes alternating with milder depressive episodes.

Not Otherwise Specified (NOS). NOS is the catch-all diagnosis for those whose extreme mood swings do not fall into one of the above categories.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents

Generally, parents and teachers may become aware of a teen who displays unusual and extreme mood swings, each episode lasting for two weeks or longer. While an manic or depressive (or mixed) episode is occurring, the symptoms can persist for the better part of the day, rendering the teen unable to participate normally in school or other activities. The teen will struggle with relationships, exhibit irrational behaviors, and be very temperamental. Symptoms of the episodes include:

Manic episodes

  • Have rapid speech
  • Be extremely energetic
  • Display intense happiness
  • Sleep less
  • Eat less
  • Have a short temper
  • Become irritable
  • Participate in risky behaviors
  • May obsess about sex

Depressive episodes

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Eating more or less than normal, weight gain or loss
  • Lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed participating in
  • Low energy, fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Headaches, stomachaches
  • Obsessed thinking about death or suicide

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

It is not yet totally understood how someone develops bipolar disorder. Some of the factors that are recognized as potential causes include a family history of bipolar disorder or mental illness, a problem in brain chemistry that affects mood regulation, a history of trauma or abuse, and substance abuse. Ongoing research is getting closer to understanding the genetic link or brain regulation issue that can cause bipolar disorder.

What Are the Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents?

When parents initially suspect their teen is struggling with a mental health disorder like bipolar disorder they will usually begin their effort to get them help at the primary care provider’s office. The doctor can conduct a physical exam and order blood-work that can rule out a medical condition causing the mood swings. If no indication of a physical cause is found, the doctor will refer the teen to a psychiatrist.

A psychiatrist will undertake a psychological evaluation that involves several diagnostic tools to arrive at a diagnosis. Once it is determined that the teen is dealing with bipolar disorder, the psychiatrist will likely prescribe medications to help regulate moods, as well as psychotherapy.

If these outpatient services are not effective in stabilizing the teen, a residential mental health program would be the appropriate next step. In a residential setting, the teen will receive a more intensive level of care that can provide very focused interventions where they will participate in a full schedule of therapies each day. The adolescent will complete the residential program with better coping skills, more effective interpersonal skills, and a supportive family plan.

BNI Treatment Centers Provides Residential Treatment for Teens With Bipolar Disorder

BNI Treatment Centers is a leading residential mental health provider for teens, providing intensive treatment of bipolar disorder in adolescents. Teens who suffer from bipolar disorder are often misdiagnosed, delaying their ability to manage the disorder, sometimes for years. At BNI Treatment our psychiatric professionals will conduct a thorough review of mental health history, medical history, and utilized various diagnostic tools to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. From that point, a customized treatment plan will be designed for your son or daughter specific needs.

BNI Treatment has crafted an integrated program that truly resonates with teens. Our core treatment elements, namely psychotherapy and medication management, are complimented with experiential activities that feel relevant to teens. These include surf therapy, yoga classes, equine therapy, art, music, and drama therapy, and mindfulness meditation. This residential program provides the sense of safety and support that allows teens with bipolar disorder to truly focus on becoming well and high functioning once again. For more information about the program, please contact BNI Treatment Centers today at (888) 522-1504.

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