Bipolar in teens: What are the early signs?

People with bipolar disorder can experience mood shifts between depressive and manic episodes.

It is important to note that many teenagers go through mood swings during puberty as their bodies adapt to changing hormones. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, is a condition that disrupts a person’s daily life and requires treatment.

It is important for caregivers to understand bipolar and how it relates to teens so that they can look out for the early signs and differentiate bipolar from normal mood changes.

Understanding bipolar

Bipolar is a long-lasting condition that causes drastic changes in a person’s mood and energy levels.

This radical change is usually between two states called manic and depressive. However, some people will experience only mania and not depression.

During a manic episode, a person feels unusually energized or excited and may be more active than usual.

They may describe themselves as feeling extremely happy or as though they are high on life. They may also engage in impulsive behaviors during these times.

During a depressive episode, a person feels sad, down, or hopeless. They may be much less active than usual and have little or no interest in the things that would usually excite them.

Between these stages, people may return to a relatively normal mood and behavior.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but people can manage their symptoms using a range of treatments, such as medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Bipolar disorder is a complex condition, and doctors do not fully understand what causes it.

However, they believe that genetics, environmental factors, and brain chemistry may all play a role in causing bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorders may also accompany other disorders. As a study that featured in Child and Adolescent Mental Health pointed out, there is between a 20 and 80 percent chance that a person with bipolar disorder will also experience another disorder, such as:

  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • anxiety disorders
  • disruptive behavior disorders
  • substance use disorders

These accompanying disorders can make diagnosing bipolar disorder quite challenging, as some symptoms of these disorders overlap and may appear to be symptoms of bipolar disorder.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but people can manage their symptoms using a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Treatment in teens is usually the same as treatment in adults.

Doctors may prescribe a few different types of medication to help teens manage their symptoms, and more than one drug may sometimes be necessary.

Doctors may recommend the following medications:

  • antidepressant drugs, under special circumstances
  • mood stabilizers
  • antipsychotic drugs
  • anti-anxiety drugs, in small amounts

The right medication may change from person to person, and finding the right combination and dosage is critical to managing the condition.

Therapy is the other important part of treatment. Forms of talk therapy may help teens cope with the disorder and understand what they are going through. Therapy may also help teens understand their behavioral patterns and manage their routine more effectively.

Therapy techniques for teens with bipolar include:

  • psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy
  • family-focused therapy
  • interpersonal therapy

Bipolar disorder may change as the person matures, and their treatment plan will need to change along with it. Anyone noticing unwanted side effects should talk to their doctor about changing the type or dosage of their medications.

As a guardian, it is essential to support a teen with bipolar disorder and help them find effective treatments. Be patient with them and try to understand how difficult it is for them to deal with this condition. Encourage teens to talk about their feelings, and then listen to what they have to say. Help them keep track of their symptoms to discuss with a therapist later.

Encourage teens with bipolar disorder to maintain a healthful lifestyle. Overall, as a guardian or friend of a teen with bipolar, be supportive and help them have fun and enjoy life.


Catching bipolar early on in teens is helpful for giving them the treatment that they need and allowing them to understand what they are going through.

Working directly with their healthcare provider and therapists, many people with bipolar disorder can manage their symptoms and control the disorder using a combination of medication and therapy.

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