Mood swings are natural in both adults and children, especially during the teenage years. However, parents should distinguish between the emotional instability inherent in growing up and severe psychological disorders which require specialist attention. One of these may be bipolar disorder, which is crucial to identify and help the child overcome. Bipolar disorder is a chronic illness that belongs to the group of mood disorders. Its course consists of alternating episodes of depression, mania, hypomania, separated by differently long asymptomatic periods.
Bipolar disorder is most commonly diagnosed in young people. However, the first symptoms may already be present in children and adolescents. In them, bipolar disorder may look slightly different: mood changes are more frequent, and mixed episodes are more common (Duffy et al. 345). In the mania phase, irritability pushes elevated mood into the background. In the depressive phase, health complaints such as headaches, abdominal pain, and fatigue are typical. Lack of desire to go to school, falling grades, relationships with peers deteriorate. These fluctuations contribute to general irritability in the periods between these episodes. Parents usually note their children’s unpredictability but often attribute it to personality traits and adolescent behavior.
As with depressive disorders, the causes of bipolar disorder are complex – they involve the interaction of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. In the treatment of a bipolar disorder, a set of measures is prescribed. When this diagnosis is made, medication in conjunction with psychotherapy and psychoeducation will be necessary. Treatment for bipolar disorder takes time and requires systematic and precise adherence to all the doctor’s recommendations. It is a mistake to stop taking medication when the child is feeling mentally stable. In such a situation, symptoms will return quickly. It may be more difficult and time-consuming to stabilize the mental state again.
An essential element in the treatment of the bipolar disorder is psychoeducation. The family of a child with bipolar disorder needs to participate in treatment according to the FFT method (Meyers 1). Parents need to be involved, understanding, and caring towards their children. For example, the first help a parent can offer to a child with bipolar disorder is to trust them. Listen and do not question that they are going through a tough time and that it is not their fault. When a person has someone close to them who understands what is going on and does not judge, it is much easier to cope with the illness. Most people with bipolar disorder have to spend much energy maintaining a decent appearance during the depression and convincing relatives that the symptoms are not a whim of theirs.
To summarise, bipolar disorder is a chronic illness that often begins in adolescence and even in childhood. There is a risk of relapse throughout life. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can occur in children aged seven years and above. However, in most cases, the onset of the illness coincides with a period of intense puberty. Children and adolescents who are depressed should be treated with particular caution. Typically, young patients with bipolar affective disorder move very quickly from a phase of morbidly elevated mood to a marked decrease in the general emotional background. Nevertheless, proper treatment and following the doctor’s instructions allow the symptoms to be well controlled and enable the child to develop to their full potential.
Duffy, Mary E., Gai, Anna R., Rogers, Megan L., et al. “Psychotic symptoms and suicidal ideation in child and adolescent bipolar I disorder”. Bipolar disorders, vol. 21, no. 4, 2019, pp. 342– 349.
Meyers, Seth. The Bipolar Child. Psychology today, 2008.