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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorders in Teens

At one point, experts thought that bipolar disorders only took hold in adults. Unfortunately, new evidence suggests that very young people can develop bipolar disorders. In fact, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy reports that between 1 and 5 percent of all children and adolescents could have bipolar disorder. That seems to suggest that bipolar disorders in kids aren’t just possible, but that they’re common within this population.

The most important thing to do, when a bipolar disorder is in play, is to provide appropriate mental health care. Parents who take this vital step can help their children to deal with the difficulties this disorder can cause. Parents who don’t take this step can inadvertently push their children into looking for their own solutions. And often, teens looking for help turn to drugs and alcohol.

Diagnosis Difficulties

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme shifts in mood. People with the disorder may move from feelings of overwhelmingly happiness one day to feelings of deep depression the next day. The shifts can be triggered by an outside source, but often, they come with no warning and no preventable cause. They seem to sweep in and sweep back out, regardless of what the person with bipolar disorder might do or want.

It can be difficult for parents to spot adolescent bipolar disorder as the average teenager has intense mood shifts on a regular basis. Living with a teen can be chaotic even if there’s no mental health issue at play. However, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that mood shifts with bipolar disorder tend to be much larger and much more intense than the mood shifts seen in an average teen. The changes are drastic, and they seem unusual and out of control. Those are changes that are possibly caused by bipolar disorder.

Drugs can be attractive to people with bipolar disorder for a variety of reasons. To some teens, the drugs represent an opportunity to shift a mood back to normal. When they’re in the midst of a low mood, using a drug like cocaine can provide energy and positivity the teen might need in order to get through the day. Or, when in the midst of mania, drugs like heroin can seem soothing and they might allow for deeper sleep.

Addictive drugs can also play a role during mania, as these episodes tend to come with feelings of power and invincibility. Where a teen in a normal state of mind might think of drugs as dangerous and even life-threatening, a teen in the throes of mania might be absolutely positive that drugs just can’t cause harm. These teens might use huge amounts of drugs due to the changes the mania can cause.

Medscape reports that 60 percent of people with bipolar disorders have a substance abuse issue. It’s not a problem that’s limited to teens. But youth drug abuse could be even more damaging than adult drug abuse.

The adolescent mind is still very much under development, with new growth and new connections happening every single minute of the day. Substances of abuse can interrupt this important process, making the teen brain just a little weaker. Teens can take this weakness with them into adulthood, and they might find it hard to resist the allure of drugs due to that damage. It’s vital to get the addiction handled when people are young, so they can learn to handle bipolar disorder without drugs, and so they don’t do more damage to a brain already impacted by mental illness.

Treatment Choices

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that bipolar disorder tends to run in families, so it’s possible that the parents of a child with bipolar disorder are aware of the treatment steps required to bring the mental illness under control. But the steps an adult might take in order to handle bipolar disorder can be slightly different than those needed for adolescent bipolar disorder.

Since teen bipolar disorder can look like a variety of other illnesses, including social disorders and anxiety disorders, it’s vital for experts to spend time with the child and come up with a firm diagnosis that’s based on intensive testing, says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Teams need to perform a number of physical and mental health screenings before they can make a firm diagnosis in a child, and that sort of testing might not be required in an adult.

With that firm diagnosis in hand, teams can develop a treatment plan that could help the teen to manage bipolar disorder for the rest of life. The disease can’t be cured at this point, although researchers are working on vaccines and medical treatments that might one day amend the brain changes that cause bipolar disorder, but there are a number of therapies that can provide a great deal of relief to teens in need.

Treatment might focus on helping the teen to develop a healthy, protective life that involves:

  • Good sleep habits
  • Good nutrition
  • Medication management
  • Stress relief
  • Open communication

Teens with orderly lives like this tend to have lower levels of stress and smaller natural mood fluctuations. That can help these teens to avoid a full-blown bipolar crisis. And should difficulties come along, teens with lives like this will know what to do to get back on track and avoid future issues and concerns.

Medications are of vital importance in treating bipolar disorder, as these therapies can soothe the electrical and chemical impulses inside the brain and help to reduce the risk of a wavering, fluctuating mood. Teens will need to take these medications for the rest of life, even if they’re feeling better, and they’ll need to stay in touch with treatment teams to ensure that the dosages don’t need to change as the teen’s body grows and changes.

The family plays a key role in the treatment of bipolar disorder, according to Medscape, as the family works like a support system for someone with this disorder. The family might, at times, need to step in and provide additional support during a bipolar crisis. But the family might also need to hone communication skills, so the entire group can share information, talk openly, and support one another in the midst of the challenges that bipolar disorder can bring.

Drug therapies can be interwoven with these bipolar therapies. And in fact, that’s the best way to handle a co-occurring addiction and bipolar disorder. While mental health experts think of these issues as separate but equal, people living with both conditions might think of them as intermingled parts of the same disease process. They both cause distress, and they both seem to stem from the same causes. Handling them at the same time seems reasonable.

But it’s not always easy to find mental health therapies that address both addictions and mental illnesses at the same time. That’s where Next Generation Village comes in. This facility was designed specifically to help teens with mental illnesses compounded by addictions. Everyone working in this facility has the passion and knowledge teens need in order to look these complex issues head on and walk away with real relief.

Every therapy is tested on adolescents. And every inch of the facility is made to appeal to teens and their needs. Enrollment is easy, and clients are welcome now. Call the number at the top of the page to speak with an admissions specialist about the help provided and the solutions available.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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