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What Are Some Symptoms of Juvenile Bipolar Disorder?

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Kid Companions- Chewelry: What Are Some Symptoms of Juvenile Bipolar Disorder?

May 12, 2010

What Are Some Symptoms of Juvenile Bipolar Disorder?

When Bipolar Disorder is finally diagnosed in an individual, parents will most often confess that since their child was a toddler, they KNEW something was not just right.  Since toddlerhood, their child had had a very difficult time to settle for the night, had extreme difficulty sleeping through the night, experienced severe separation anxiety and had always had lots of sensory issues.

The visits to their professional support had probably been in vain as all the above complaints could be attributed to many causes. These parents are not alone because it is a fact that Bipolar Disorder is often misdiagnosed or overlooked.

The Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation website states that Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) affects close to 1 million children and adolescents in the United States at any given time. Recent studies have found that from the time of initial manifestation of symptoms, it takes an average of ten years before a diagnosis is made. This is due in part because its symptoms overlap those of other disorders, including ADHD, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What is different between adult and juvenile bipolar disorder?
In adults, the mood cycles of mania and depression can last several days or weeks. In children, the cycling pattern is called ultra-ultra rapid. Their moods fluctuate multiple times in a day. These children seem to have problems getting going in the morning and have more active moods in the afternoon and evening.

The following are other Red Flag signs of juvenile bipolar disorder:

*Children appear hyperactive, fidgety, frustrated, inattentive, restless …these symptoms are much like ADHD but add to this the following symptoms.

*Children have decreased need for sleep, will sleep only 4-6 hours and are not tired the next day. Bipolar kids tend to experience a range of sleep disturbances that include night terrors and nightmares - often with images of gore and mutilation and themes of bodily threat and parental abandonment - sleep-walking, teeth-grinding, and bed-wetting.
*Children have grandiose behaviors ~an inflated self-esteem or think they have special powers, like Superman. Children act as if rules were not made for them and take unbelievable, dangerous risks.

*Children will suffer high levels of frustration. The word “NO” will make them throw a temper tantrum that lasts a long time. These tantrums may even be accompanied with aggression. All these negative behaviors may never be shown outside the home. Or for some children, it is the exact opposite where parents see their good sides and the school sees their violent side.

*Children have flight of ideas and jump from topic to topic becoming unusually talkative and talk faster than usual.

*Children may be unreasonably silly, giddy or happy.

* Children have sudden shifts in mood making them bored, withdrawn, wishing they were never born. And yes, children can even be suicidal.

*Children may be bossy to their peers and even to adults. Some children can be insolent but other children are well-liked and want to make friends. Some will have difficulty making transitions and become argumentative.

*Children develop social phobia and want to be alone. They loose interest or pleasure in activities they normally enjoyed. They feel tired, worthless and guilty about unreasonable things.

*Some children even have hallucinations, they see insects or snakes, hear voices, or hear satanic figures. Some have delusions (irrational fears or beliefs).

In another post I will tell you about the Fear-of-Harm phenotype (FOH). This group of children have a more severe form of pediatric bipolar disorder with higher frequency and severity of manic and depressive symptoms, greater rates of hospitalization and greater likelihood of school performance difficulties.

If any of these RED FLAGS make you think your child has bipolar disorder DO NOT WAIT. Seek professional help immediately and do not stop until the right care has been found for your child. The first line of treatment is usually to stabilize the child's mood and to treat sleep disturbances and psychotic symptoms if present.

The following sites are a wealth of information for parents…use them, arm yourself with knowledge to advocate for your child. When my child was struggling through undiagnosed bipolar disorder, none of this was available.


National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)

Mental Health America a change of name from (National Mental Health Association (NMHA)

Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF)

Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation (JBRF)

Depressive & Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)

Bipolar Children Newsletter

Parenting Bipolars: A Survival Guide for Parents

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