The incidence of bipolar disorder has increased quite a bit over the last decade, especially in the case of children and adolescents. Until recently, it was unheard of for children as young as six years old to display symptoms of bipolar disorder. Although some mental health experts state that the diagnosis is used too often, others believe that it is not used enough.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition, it is typical for sufferers to experience periods of mania interchanging with periods of depression. That's why bipolar disorder was previously called manic-depression. It is not as easy to diagnose bipolar disorder in children because some of the symptoms are quite similar to the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In fact, one particular medicine used for ADHD actually acts as a stimulant, which can mimic a manic state.

An interesting note about bipolar disorder in children is that the manic and depressive cycles are much shorter than adults. It is common for weeks, months, or years to go by between the cycles for adults, but for children the cycles can happen within a day or two.

What do I do if my child is bipolar?

If your child or adolescent is diagnosed with bipolar, there are certain things that you can do to help your child cope with it.

Have a routine at home. Children tend to cope with life and changes much better if there is a routine at home. Bipolar children tend to benefit from knowing what to expect from day to day, so do your best to have a routine when it comes to things like getting up, meal times, activities, and a bedtime routine.

Be consistent with medicine. It is very important that you administer your child’s medicine as directed. You may want to purchase a pillbox so that you do not forget to give medication daily. You can also send the meds to school and talk to your child’s nurse or teacher about administering them.

Keep track of side effects. There are side effects from the medication for bipolar disorder, so be sure to monitor regularly for them. Common side effects include changes in weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Feel free to discuss with your physician what side effects are associated with the type of medication your child uses.

Get family counseling. If your child has bipolar, it can sometimes disrupt family life. There may be extra strain on your marriage or other siblings may have a difficult time adjusting. It is a great idea to go to family counseling to learn how to recognize red flags and issues and cope with them in positive ways.

Monitor for suicidal thoughts. Even though you may think that your child may never think a suicidal thought, some children with bipolar do have such thoughts. Take every suicidal threat very seriously and seek professional help immediately.

It is possible for children and teens diagnosed with bipolar to live healthy and happy lives. Through the use of medication, counseling, patience, and understanding, such children can thrive at home and at school. Should you be concerned about your child, contact a medical professional today.

Author's Bio: 

Clinical psychologist Dr. Tali Shenfield has been working with children for over 15 years. She is very well known for her clinical work, educational and research articles. Dr. Shenfield is an author of multiple online tests incl. child anxiety and child ADHD screening tests.