Bipolar disorder in children: Is it possible?

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Bipolar disorder in children: Is it possible?


Is bipolar disorder in children possible? Most of what I've read says bipolar disorder develops in adults.



Bipolar disorder in children is possible. It's most often diagnosed in older children and adolescents, but bipolar disorder can occur in children of any age. As in adults, bipolar disorder in children can cause mood swings from the highs of hyperactivity or euphoria (mania) to the lows of serious depression.

Emotional upheaval and unruly behaviors are a normal part of childhood and adolescence, and in most cases they aren't a sign of a mental health problem that needs treatment. All kids have rough periods — it's normal to feel down, angry, hyperactive or rebellious at times. However, if your child's symptoms are severe, ongoing or causing significant problems, it may be more than just a phase.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder in children:

  • Sudden mood swings that may occur several times a day — for example, your child may be giddy and talkative one minute, explode in anger the next, and then cry for hours
  • Hyperactive, impulsive, aggressive or inappropriate behavior
  • Sexual promiscuity, alcohol or drug abuse, and reckless behavior in older children and teens

Keep in mind, a number of other childhood disorders cause bipolar-like symptoms, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, anxiety and major depression. To make diagnosis even more complicated, these and other mental health conditions often occur along with bipolar disorder. It may take years to pinpoint the cause or causes of your child's extreme moods or behaviors.

If your child has serious mood swings, depression or behavior problems, consult a mental health provider who specializes in children. Mood and behavior issues caused by bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions can lead to major problems. Early treatment can help prevent serious consequences and decrease the impact of mental health problems on your child as he or she gets older.

Last Updated: 2010-11-05
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