Bipolar Disorder in Children

Bipolar disorder or manic depression, as defined in the medical dictionary, is a mood disorder that causes radical emotional changes and mood swings. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience alternating episodes of mania and depression.

Mood swings were assumed to be normal in children because they have not yet developed the skills to control their feelings. However, researchers are now reporting the occurrence of early signs of bipolar disorder in young children. Kids suffering from mood shift of mania and depression are becoming common.

Early Onset Bipolar disorder and its Symptoms

Early-onset bipolar disorder happens at an early age. Adult with bipolar disorder usually experience abnormal intense moods for weeks or months at a time. It is worse in children because they can experience rapid mood shifts many times within the day.

A child with bipolar disorder may be bossy, hyperactive and gets easily frustrated. They are also extremely oppositional and uneasy with transitions. These traits may be easily mistaken for attention-deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD) but it is important to note that children with bipolar disorder tend to display the symptoms much more often. Some of the symptoms to watch for are extreme irritability, rapid mood shifts, hallucinations, and sleep disturbance which is usually coupled with nightmares.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of bipolar disorder should be performed by an experienced doctor. There are a lot of competent doctors in Portland that can perform a test. The testing is done through evaluation of the mood, behavior, level of energy, and sleep patterns of the child. Tracing family history for depression and alcoholism is an important part of the diagnostic process.

Although there is no treatment for bipolar disorder, it will ease the child to assist him in stabilizing his mood shifts and treat his sleep disturbances. Psychotic symptoms should also be addressed, if present. Once the child is stable, therapy should be offered to help the child understand the illness and how it affects his emotions and behaviors.

Helpful Parenting Strategies

It is challenging and frustrating for parents to deal with children with bipolar disorder but they have to understand that children suffering from this illness don’t have the ability to control rapid shifts in their emotion and behavior. The following tips may help parents to care for their child with bipolar disorder:

  • Maintain structure and routine activities – Children with bipolar disorder becomes irritated with unexpected changes to their activities. It is best to schedule the activities to establish routines and give ample time to smoothly transition to the next activity. Communicate and involve the child in planning your activities to help manage their expectations and avoid melt-downs.
  • Write a mood log – Make a record of your child’s activities and moods to track down possible mood shift triggers and patterns.
  • Avoid stressful situations – Family conflicts and stressful situations negatively affect everyone. Be aware of the situation and always choose to handle stress in a calm manner. The children model their actions from their parents so it is important to teach the kids constructive ways to handle stress and solve problems.
  • Take care of yourself -Be kind to yourself. Get enough rest and connect with your family and friends. You will have a clearer mind and stronger body if you give yourself time to recharge.


Aside from your family and friends, you can join a Bipolar Disorder support group here in Portland to connect with families that share the same experience with you. They can give your valuable advice to better understand the illness and how to manage it. Continuous research is needed to find out more about bipolar disorders in children. Currently, the treatment being done is patterned from adults, even the medications. We know that children is physiologically and mentally different from grown-ups. So, it is a goal to find out ways to address the illness specifically for children. We want to thank the Natural Pest Management company for supporting this cause.