Children with Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms and Diagnosis

Most parents with children who suffer from bipolar disorder find themselves at their wits end as to how to help their child cope with the condition. While bipolar disorder may affect your child’s emotions, it can be controlled and the child can live a normal life. This article focuses on the main symptoms and diagnosis of the condition.

Background Information
Bipolar disorder, commonly known in medical circles as manic-depressive illness, is a condition, actually more of a brain disorder, that disrupts a child’s interpretation of their emotions. Studies of children with the condition have found that they tend to be moody, extremely happy at times or, in some cases, a combination of both. These children often have difficulties in certain areas of their childhood. This includes school and schoolwork, as well as relationships with family and friends. This may be due to their frequent mood swings, which may last up to a week.

The National Institute of Mental Health categorized the symptoms into two main groups: mania and depression.

Symptoms of Mania
Children with bipolar disorder may exhibit different signs of mania. These include having an unusual happiness that makes the child look silly, short fiery tempers, constant need to attempt risky things, inattentiveness, as well as talking very fast on a mixed topic of subjects.

Symptoms of Depression
Bipolar children often have bouts of depression which, as mentioned, may last for a week sometimes. These symptoms, although commonly noticed, may not necessarily point to the child having the condition. The symptoms include prevalent sadness, frequent pain such as headaches and stomachaches, and preoccupation with death or suicide.

Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder
Medical researchers have been unable to find any blood or brain indicators that reveal that a child has bipolar disorder. The currently used method to diagnose the condition involves a comprehensive review of the child’s family mental health history, the sleep patterns, and energy levels.

Categories of Bipolar Disorder
Children with Bipolar I Disorder often have manic moods/symptoms that last up to seven days. The moods can be mixed with depressive and manic moods and the mixed episodes can last up to two weeks.

Those with Bipolar II Disorder often have depressive moods as the main characteristic. Although they may at times experience manic moods, these are not full blown. These moods may last up to four days.

Cylothymic Disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder that affects the child for a period of around one year. It is mainly characterized by mania with slight depression.

Lastly, Bipolar Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified) refers to the form of the condition that does not fall into any of the other three categories.

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