Bipolar Disorder in Children

Bipolar disorder in children was one of the most common, yet neglected issue among the health problems of modern times. The fact, that children too suffer from depression has led to advanced research in finding solutions to this problem.
PsycholoGenie Staff
One of the category of mood disorders, the bipolar disorder, is a serious health problem today. Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder causes abnormal elevation in the mood of a person, a state referred to as 'mania'. The term 'bipolar' indicates that the person exhibits two types of behaviors, the one in which he is depressed, while in the other in which he displays an abnormal mood - mania. Childhood bipolar disorder is a far greater and complex problem, than was predicted earlier. The disorder may have significant and far-reaching effects in children, if it goes undetected or remains neglected. Depression can create a dent on the self-esteem of a child if it is not treated early; poor performance in school and impaired communication skills are some of the numerous problems that may follow depression.

Diagnosis
Since it shows two extreme behavioral types, bipolar depression and mania, it is necessary to understand the symptoms of bipolar disorder separately.

Depression
  • Often aggressive and argumentative, the child also gets irritated easily and sometimes resorts to crying and whining.
  • Children with bipolar disorder lack the motivation to do their tasks and are not curious.
  • The child encounters problems in getting enough sleep.
  • Lack of concentration is one the major problems in children suffering from bipolar disorder. In the course of time, they get impulsive. Their behavior and the way they work is highly disorganized.
  • The child lacks enthusiasm and is not able to carry on with any particular activity for a longer time.
  • Negative thinking is another symptom of bipolar disorder.
  • The child feels insecure and fears for his safety.
  • Suicidal thoughts may engulf the mind of children with bipolar disorder. It may get reflected through their comments which come out of frustration, for example, "I wish I was dead", or "I wish I was never born".
Manic Phase
  • In the manic or highly excited phase, the child feels extremely happy. He seeks attention and also feels excessively confident about himself.
  • Spending a lot of time playing, helping parents in their chores are a few symptoms exhibited by children.
  • Children tend to speak more than normal. However, their conversation is one-sided and they are not interested in how others respond to their speech.
  • The child doesn't need much sleep and is in the excited phase constantly.
  • It becomes difficult for them to concentrate on the routine tasks they have to do.
  • Impatience, along with inability to tolerate frustration are commonly observed symptoms during this phase.
  • Aggression and temperamental behavior might be seen in this phase.
Treatment
The treatment of bipolar disorder demands overall thinking on various aspects of the mentality of children. The first thing to do is to thoroughly understand various disorders of the child. It helps distinguish these problems from bipolar disorder. The minor disorders can be sorted out by providing him with proper medication; these medications include antidepressants, stimulants, neuroleptics, antianxiety medicines and mood stabilizers. The actual treatment for bipolar disorder starts after medication. It includes therapies for reducing stress, controlling anger and moods. Improving the communication skills, enhancing the self-esteem and relaxation therapies are also a part of the treatment.

The school environment where children spend most of the day's time should be evaluated. The causes of bipolar disorder in children can have their roots in the school environment. Interaction problems with peers and frequent fights with them may have a negative impact on a child's mind. Teachers and parents should jointly plan and take efforts to create a better atmosphere for children in schools. They should take the help of the school principal and psychologists to look into the matter. Some of the therapies for children with bipolar disorder can be incorporated in their school timetable. Few of these activities or therapies include the speech and occupational therapy, psycho educational testing, in-school counseling and behavioral modification systems.

Therapies for bipolar disorder in children can also be started at home. These include parental modeling, behavioral reward system and better communication. Home therapies can impact the behavior of a child to a great extent. This is because the child feels relaxed, secure and open to instructions at home in comparison to schools.

One of the prominent personality with bipolar disorder is Kay Redfield Jamison. Born on 22nd June, 1946, she, was a psychologist at John Hopkins University School of Medicine and did the task of profiling and documenting the facts related to her own bipolar disorder in the memoir, 'An Unquiet Mind'. Thus, we can say that people with this disorder too have tasted success in life.