Childhood Bipolar

What is Childhood Bipolar?

Childhood bipolar is marked by bouts of extreme and impairing changes in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior.

Bipolar mood changes are called "mood episodes." Sometimes children with bipolar disorder feel very happy or "up," and are much more active than usual. These are manic episodes. Sometimes they feel very sad and "down," and are much less active than usual. These are depressive episodes. There can also be mixed episodes which has both manic and depressive symptoms. However, bipolar disorder is not the same as normal ups and downs that children go through, the symptoms are more intense and erratic.

What are the causes and symptoms?

Most people with bipolar disorder develop it in their late teen or early adult years. When children develop the illness, it is called early-onset bipolar disorder. This type can be more severe than bipolar disorder in older teens and adults. Also, young people with bipolar disorder may have symptoms more often, and switch moods more frequently than adults with the illness.

The causes of bipolar are still unclear but genes, abnormal brain structure, and anxiety disorders have been recognized as contributing factors.

Because the current diagnostic manual of mental disorders doesn’t recognize childhood bipolar disorder, there is no official symptom criteria. However, children with bipolar disorder may present with the following symptoms;

Manic episode symptoms

  • Feel very happy or act silly in a way that's unusual
  • Have a very short temper
  • Talk really fast about a lot of different things
  • Have trouble sleeping but not feel tired
  • Have trouble staying focused
  • Engage in risky behavior

These symptoms may occur at the same time as, or rapidly switch to depressive episode symptoms such as;

  • Feeling extremely sad for no apparent reason
  • Complaining about pain a lot, like stomach aches and headaches
  • Feeling guilty and worthless
  • Having little energy and no interest in fun activities
  • Sleeping or eating too much/too little
  • Irritable mood
  • Thinking about death or suicide


There are no blood tests or brain scans that can diagnose bipolar disorder. Instead, a thorough assessment of about your child's mood, behaviour, energy levels, thoughts, emotions, and sleeping patterns will provide a clearer picture of possible appropriate treatment. Currently, there is no cure for bipolar disorder but treatment can help control symptoms.

As well as medication different kinds of psychotherapy can help children cope with bipolar disorder. Therapy can help children manage their behaviour, emotions, and routines. It can deal with depressive elements of bipolar and provide coping strategies for these episodes. It can also help young people get along better with family and friends leading to better emotional and psychological wellbeing.