Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression

Bipolar Disorder is also known as Manic Depression. Children living with Bipolar Disorder suffer from extraordinary changes in their moods (from the manic to the depressed), energy levels (again, from the manic to the depressed), thinking and behaviour. Until recently there were few diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder made in children, but today’s mental health professionals recognise that even very young children can suffer from Bipolar Disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The marked characteristic of Bipolar Disorder is changes in both mood and energy levels from the manic (high energy and elation) to the depressed (low energy and sadness). Children often experience these changes quickly so that their moods, energy levels and behaviours all seem to fall into chronic cycles. Children may also engage in rages of anger, apathy or disinterest in play, cravings for sweets, bed wetting, nightmares and/or night terrors, impulsivity, hallucinations and more. Not all children affected by Bipolar Disorder will display all of these signs and symptoms, and some may display a mixture.

Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder must be officially diagnosed by a qualified child mental health professional. There are no separate criteria for diagnosing Bipolar Disorder in children, so for a formal diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder children must meet the adult criteria. These criteria include that an episode of mania must last for at least one week, though some professionals accept four days. It can be very difficult to distinguish manic and depressive episodes in children, so often a consistent cycle of greater and lesser moods and energy levels is observed instead.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

There is no cure for Bipolar Disorder, but a solid treatment plan can help manage the symptoms to the point that daily life is minimally or undisturbed. Counselling and family counselling may be advised, and medicine may be offered as well. In children, monitoring symptoms and reactions to a treatment plan as they grow and develop is essential. Bipolar Disorder is an extremely disruptive disorder, so treatment plans often take a holistic approach and take into account the input of the child, parents and other involved adults such as teachers and tutors.

Living with Bipolar Disorder

Relatives and friends of children diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder can have a major impact on the continued success of treatment for this disorder. Providing love, support and acceptance, offering verbal encouragement, serving a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise are all things that others can do to support children with Bipolar Disorder. Keeping regular bed times and sleeping hours are also important for children, though children with Bipolar Disorder may not feel tired during manic episodes and may feel overly tired during depressive episodes. With such support at home, the effects of Bipolar Disorder on daily family life should be reduced.

Bipolar Disorder, or Manic Depression as it is also known, is a disorder characterised by highly energetic manic episodes and low energy depressive episodes. Bipolar Disorder affects both adults and children, but there are not set guidelines for diagnosing Bipolar Disorder in children so they must meet the adult diagnostic criteria. Parents interested in learning more about Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression, should consult with a GP or qualified child mental health professional for further information that pertains to their specific situation.

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