Mood swings among children, most especially adolescents, are a regular part of their growing up but if this affects their performance in school or relationship with their peers, probably it is bipolar disorder. Also known as manic-depression, bipolar disorder is a severe brain illness in which symptoms can occur in early childhood but usually visible in adolescence or adulthood. This type of illness can be dangerous to adolescents because some of them try to hurt themselves or even attempt suicide.
Sometimes, bipolar children feel extreme happiness or “up,” and display incredible energy than other kids their age. This is referred to as a manic episode. Sometimes they feel very lonely and “down,” and do not want to be involved in any activity. This is called a depressive episode or depression. The unusual change in mood can be irritable with periods of wellness between episodes, or both episodes may occur at the same time. Children with bipolar disorder often fall to anxiety disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Until now, there is no known direct cause of the bipolar disorder, but there are several elements that are implicated in the evolution of this condition. Genetics can be a significant non-modifiable factor because bipolar disorder can occur in a familial lineage. Nonetheless, some studies negate this theory, describing that it is not a high probability of getting the bipolar disorder if one family member is already having one now. External factors need to be considered too, like having strain ed family relationships, abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol, and at times, personal perspective on how to handle everyday struggles in life. A person with low self-disposition and a pessimistic outlook on life are more likely to develop bipolar disorder compare to their counterparts.
Medication. “The first line of intervention for bipolar disorder is medication,” says Simon Rego, PsyD, chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.There are many types of drugs used in treating bipolar disorder. The choice of drug will depend on the response of the person to the medicine. Some of them may use multiple medications because their symptoms are so complicated. These drugs can be taken for years or decades, even after a long time since the last manic or depressive episode. Mood stabilizers are usually given to treat and prevent “up” and “down” and help control moods from interfering school, work or social life. As psychologist John Preston, PsyD, has noted: “Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential. I’ve had people ask me if there’s any way to do this without medicine. My answer is absolutely not.”
Examples of these medicines include:
- Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
- Carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Epitol, Equetro, Tegretol)
- Divalproex sodium (Depakote)
- Valproic acid (Depakene)
Therapy. There are many types of psychotherapy (“talk” therapy) that can help treat bipolar disorder. Its primary purpose is to help individuals manage their daily routines and change their behavior if necessary. Some of these therapies include family members and friends to help young people get along with them.
Help From the Family
“A family member can help to identify when a person with bipolar disorder is about to go into a new episode before it happens,” David Roane, MD, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says, “The family members can tell when a patient is not taking medication, so it’s critical for the family to be involved.” The first help that a family could do is to bring the child with the possible bipolar disorder to his/her pediatrician for proper diagnosis and treatment. A referral to a child or adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist is made after that for further evaluation and the start of treatment as soon as the disorder is identified. Simultaneously, here are some necessary things that a family can do:
- Carefully listen to your child and encourage him/her to talk.
- Have patience.
- Understand mood episodes.
- Explain to your child the benefits of treating the disorder.
- Help your child have fun.
Children and teens with bipolar disorder must receive immediate treatment. They should be supported entirely by their families and peers. Through helping them, they can manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and they have higher chances of successful lives in the future.