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Early Signs of Bipolar Disorder

teenager holding stylized white theatre mask over her face as a symbol of the early signs of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is among the most common mood disorders, but it is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Bipolar disorder is characterized by severe mood swings between periods of mania and clinical depression. Adolescence is a turbulent time, and teens are generally prone to rapid mood swings, extreme emotions, and poor impulse control. Many teens also struggle with coping and communication skills. Therefore, recognizing the differences between typical teenage behavior and symptoms of a deeper issue, like bipolar disorder, can be challenging.

Imagine Nampa is a day treatment program for 12-17 year-olds offering a wide variety of treatments and services to teens and families. Through bipolar disorder treatment in Idaho, your teen receives comprehensive treatment in a safe, welcoming environment. Our expert staff understands the sneaky nature of bipolar disorder in teens and the importance of early, accurate diagnosis. If you are concerned about your teen’s mood swings and behavior, we can help. Contact Imagine Nampa at 888.503.4604.

Recognizing Bipolar Disorder in Teens

The average onset of bipolar disorder is usually in the mid-20s, but for many, early signs and symptoms emerge in the late teenage years. Bipolar disorder in teens is often more severe than in adults, mainly because teens are still developing and don’t yet have solid coping skills, impulse control, and emotional regulation. Teens with bipolar disorder are at high risk for suicide, so accurate diagnosis and treatment are critical.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 2.9% of teens ages 13-18 will be diagnosed with bipolar disorder in their lifetime. In addition to bipolar symptoms mimicking typical teenage behavior, they can overlap with other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD, further complicating the diagnosis.

Following are typical signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder in teens, for both manic and depressive episodes:

Manic Episode

  • Inability to focus
  • Rapidly jumping from task to task
  • Inability to sleep but not feeling tired
  • Engaging in risk-taking behaviors
  • Impulsive or compulsive behaviors
  • Grandiosity, overconfidence, or inflated sense of knowledge and ability
  • Acting incredibly happy or overly silly in unusual ways
  • Rapid speech and changing topics frequently

Depressive Episode

  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Having little to no energy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Persistent feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and guilt
  • Loss of interest in activities or socializing with friends or family
  • Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches, or other body aches and pains
  • Thinking or talking a lot about death or suicide

A significantly notable difference between bipolar disorder in teens and adults is that, in teens, manic and depressive episodes are often marked by extreme irritability rather than extreme elation or depression. The best way to recognize the often subtle differences between typical teenage behaviors and early signs of bipolar disorder is to look for patterns over time and how symptoms impact overall functioning.

Treating Bipolar Disorder in Teens

Diagnosis of bipolar disorder begins with a thorough medical exam to rule out any physical illnesses that can mimic the symptoms of bipolar. Suppose no physical diseases or medications are causing your teen’s symptoms. In that case, they will have a full psychological assessment to determine if they meet the criteria for bipolar disorder, as outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5.

Treating bipolar disorder in teens typically involves a combination of medications and therapy. At Imagine Nampa, your teen’s individualized bipolar disorder treatment may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Co-occurring disorders treatment
  • Family therapy
  • Trauma therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Art and music therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy

Our outpatient adolescent mental health treatment programs allow your teen to receive the best of both worlds: comprehensive, integrated treatment in a safe, supportive environment during the day and the care and support of their family on nights and weekends.

Learn More About Bipolar Disorder Treatment in Idaho at Imagine Nampa

A bipolar diagnosis can initially feel scary for teens and their families. While bipolar disorder is a serious mental health disorder, safe, effective treatment is available. At Imagine Nampa, we encourage teens and their families to recognize that having a proper diagnosis brings answers, understanding, and opportunities for healing, growth, and a productive and fulfilling future. If you feel that your teen needs mental health support, Imagine Nampa can help. Contact us at 888.503.4604 to learn more about bipolar disorder treatment for teens in Idaho.