Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn about bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a condition in which an individual experiences extreme shifts in mood and energy. Bipolar disorder is episodic, characterized by periods of depression and mania that alter an individual’s mood, energy, self-confidence, and well-being. There are several types of bipolar disorder, and the symptoms vary depending on the type of disorder. These include major depressive episodes, manic episodes, and hypomanic episodes.

  • Major depressive episodes are experiences of deep and intense sadness. These episodes are often characterized by low energy, diminished self-confidence, and lack of desire for social interactions.
  • Manic episodes occur when an individual experiences bursts of energy, a happier mood, and a heightened sense of confidence.
  • Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes, though the symptoms have a shorter duration.

Both the frequency and the intensity of these episodes depend upon the type of bipolar disorder the individual lives with. The three most common types of bipolar disorder are bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder.

  • Bipolar I: Manic episodes with bipolar I disorder last for at least seven days. During a manic episode, an individual may experience increased self-esteem, euphoria, or feelings of invincibility. This might cause the individual to have bursts of energy and an influx of ideas, with a decreased need for sleep. The individual may talk excitedly or excessively, and they might also participate in risky behaviors such as gambling, excessive drinking, or sexual activity. Mania may also be marked by psychosis. It is important to note that manic episodes may or may not be followed by hypomanic episodes or major depressive episodes.
  • Bipolar II: Someone who lives with bipolar II disorder will experience depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not manic episodes. Similar to mania, during hypomania an individual may be overly energetic and hyper with a decreased need for rest, along with an inflated self-confidence and involvement in risky behaviors. Yet, unlike mania, hypomania is not severe enough to affect daily life or cause psychosis. When experiencing a depressive episode, the individual often feels sad, has little interest in activities or hobbies, and may experience an increase or decrease in appetite. They might also feel tired and unable to concentrate. To be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, a person must experience one or more episodes of major depression, along with one hypomanic episode.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: A person who lives with cyclothymic disorder has symptoms of hypomania and depression, but the symptoms of both are not intense enough to warrant individual diagnoses for either type of episode. What’s more, an individual must experience hypomanic and depressive symptoms multiple times over a period of at least two years in order to be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder.

If you believe that your adolescent or teen may have one of the above types of bipolar disorder, please seek professional assistance. Trained clinicians can evaluate their symptoms and provide them with a diagnosis.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

There are certain signs and symptoms that will help you determine if your teen or adolescent struggles with bipolar disorder. The symptoms can vary depending on a lot of different factors, including their life experiences and which type of bipolar disorder your adolescent may have, so note that this list is not prescriptive. Nevertheless, the following are some of the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder:

Manic and hypomanic episode symptoms:

  • Inflated ego or self-confidence
  • Irritability
  • Rapid or excessive speech
  • Racing thoughts and/or influx of ideas
  • Increased energy or feelings of euphoria
  • Restlessness, shakiness, and/or being fidgety
  • Little need for sleep or rest
  • Inability to focus
  • Participation in risky sexual behavior, gambling, or overspending

Depressive episode symptoms:

  • Extended periods of depression
  • Lack of interest in activities or hobbies
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Fatigue and/or loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Decreased ability to think
  • Acts of self-harm
  • Recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicide

Effects

Effects of bipolar disorder

Short-Term Effects

If left untreated, adolescents or teens with bipolar disorder can experience the following short-term effects:

  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Failure to fulfill basic self-care tasks, such as bathing, grooming, etc.
  • Strained relationships with family or friends
  • Debt due to excessive spending
  • Poor social, physical, or financial consequences due to impulsive or reckless behaviors
  • Substance use experimentation
  • Loss of job
  • Onset of co-occurring disorders
  • Social withdrawal
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts of suicide

Please note that just because these effects are considered “short-term” does not mean that they are necessarily temporary or not worthy of treatment. If you believe your adolescent may suffer from a few or more of these short-term effects, please consider professional treatment immediately.

Long-Term Effects

If further left untreated, adolescents or teens with bipolar disorder can experience long-term, or chronic, effects. The longer the delay in treatment, the greater the risk for such long-term effects:

  • Loss of relationships with family or friends
  • Social isolation
  • Academic failure and/or dropping out of school
  • Addiction
  • Worsening symptoms of co-occurring disorders
  • Health complications due to lack of self-care
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Excessive debt
  • Self-harm
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness
  • Thoughts and/or attempts of suicide

It is important to note that this list of long-term effects is not extensive. If you believe your adolescent or teen may be experiencing bipolar disorder, please seek professional treatment.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Bipolar disorder and co-occurring disorders

If your teen or adolescent lives with bipolar disorder, they are at a greater risk for other co-occurring disorders. “Co-occurring disorders” refers to multiple mental health disorders occurring at the same time. It is not uncommon for someone with bipolar disorder to also struggle with one or more of the following mental health disorders:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Substance use disorder (addiction)

At Southstone Behavioral Health in South Boston, Virginia, adolescents who live with bipolar disorder receive evidence-based treatment and outstanding care. The staff at Southstone Behavioral Health is dedicated to helping your adolescent manage their bipolar disorder and have a more stable future.