Bipolar Disorder in Children: Piecing together the puzzle

As a mom who has suffered from bipolar disorder for over 20 years, I know what the symptoms look like. I know how it feels to suffer with this disorder and deal with the affects it has on family friends. So when the time came and my young son of six years old was diagnosed with Early Onset Bipolar Disorder in Children, well let’s just say I had a hard time piecing together the puzzle that as an adult I’m still working hard to put together for myself.

Signs & Symptoms for children with Bipolar Disorder

Kids have mood swings that resemble rocket ships. One moment they can be angry, irritable, upset and moody. And those are all normal emotions for kids.  Depression that is usually linked to bipolar disorder isn’t always present in children, not the way it is in adults.  There are red-flag symptoms that are linked to bipolar disorder in children, such as:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Easy irritability
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Distraction
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsive
  • Racing thoughts
  • Carb cravings
  • Risk behavior
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Social anxiety
  • Sensitive to environmental triggers
  • Bed-wetting (more common in boys)
  • Obsessive behavior
  • Poor short term memory
  • Fascination with gory details or morbid thoughts
  • Destructive behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

Now just because you may see one or more of these symptoms on the list that your child may exhibit, that does not mean your child has bipolar disorder. If you feel worried about your child and these symptoms on the list, always speak with your pediatrician and ask for your child be assessed.

Take my son for instance.  From the moment Trace was born, my son had a history of explosive behavior. He used to bash his head against the wall, have violent outbursts, bite until he drew blood, hit and punch and all before the age of two. Trace is bright and funny, he is a fast learner.  He is very matter of fact, has a hard time understanding joking, developed extremely low self-esteem (hating himself, worried how others felt about him and thoughts of suicide) from age two and onward. And he’s as unpredicable as a hurricane!  Many people have said, Trace is just a boy with boy behaviors. Many have told me it’s a phase, something he’ll outgrow. Many have said he needs more discipline, a firmer hand and more guidance.

Did you know?

More than 80% of all kids who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder come from a family with mental illness and depression. So when Trace was diagnosed, I knew right away. He was a candidate, as are all my children for having bipolar disorder because I have bipolar disorder.

The bottom line is that understanding the symptoms of Bipolar disorder in children can lead to an easier adaption for all family members and friends with a bipolar child, and can help parents who are struggling raising their child in a safe, healthy and loving environment, without being put down, mis-understood, frowned upon and judged.

Bipolar disorder can be a great teacher. It’s a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do almost anything else in your life.
– CARRIE FISHER (1956- )

Comment (1)

  • Bipolar disorder (also known as bipolar affective disorder, manic-depressive disorder, or manic depression) is a psychiatric diagnosis for a mood disorder. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience episodes of a frenzied state known as mania, typically alternating with episodes of depression.”:“

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