Bipolar Disorder Signs, Symptoms & Effects In Children

Little Creek Behavioral Health offers residential treatment for children and adolescents ages 12-18 who are experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions. Located in Conway, Arkansas, Little Creek is proud to provide personalized care to address the needs of young people. 

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn about bipolar disorder 

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes significant changes in mood, energy, and behavior. This condition was previously called manic depressionas children living with bipolar disorder may experience manic, depressive, and hypomanic episodes that typically last for several months. Many children struggling with bipolar disorder experience one to two cycles per year, but may suffer from them more frequently. 

Manic and hypomanic episodes cause young people to display impulsive behaviors and experience elevated mood with high energy levels, but hypomania is less intense and shorter form of mania. Depressive episodes are periods characterized by low energy, hopeless mood, and difficulty participating in daily tasks. There are several types of bipolar disorder that cause a variety of temperament changes in children and adolescents 

Bipolar I disorder causes young people to experience a manic episode for at least one week, though some will experience them for a longer period of timeSome children will suffer from hypomanic or major depressive episodes shortly afterChildren who are struggling with bipolar II disorder experience cycling major depressive and hypomanic episodes. These episodes were once considered milder than those of bipolar I disorder. However, due to the extended period of these depressive episodesmental health professionals now view bipolar II as equally severe. 

Another type of bipolar disorder is cyclothymic disorder, which causes several hypomanic episodes followed by several depressive episodes. Children suffering from cyclothymic disorder experience depressive episodes that are not as severe as major depression. To be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder, children must display hypomanic and depressive symptoms for at least one year. Young people who are struggling with cyclothymic disorder may experience symptoms of hypomania without fully entering a hypomanic episode. 


Statistics about bipolar disorder

The National Institute of Mental Health has recorded the following statistics regarding bipolar disorder in the United States: 

  • Adolescent girls are diagnosed with bipolar disorder more frequently than adolescent boys.  
  • Approximately 2.9% of adolescents are living with bipolar disorder. 
  • 2.6% of adolescents living with this condition are severely impaired. 

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder results from a combination of causes, both genetic and environmentalWhile there are certain factors that increase a child’s chances for developing bipolar disorder, the presence of one or more of these factors does not guarantee that symptoms of this condition will develop. Examples of these risk factors include: 

  • Family history of bipolar disorder 
  • Changes to brain structure during development 
  • Stressful life events, such as being the victim of abuse or neglect 
  • A history of head injury or brain damage 
  • Substance use, including the use of recreational drugs and alcohol 

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of bipolar disorder 

Adolescents may experience a variety of symptoms resulting from bipolar disorder. These symptoms can cause drastic changes in a young person’s mood, behavior, and overall temperament, and will vary depending on the type of episode that the adolescent is experiencing. Symptoms include: 

Manic symptoms: 

  • Racing thoughts 
  • Fast and pressured speech 
  • Starting several activities and leaving them unfinished 
  • Minimal sleeping 
  • Impulsive behaviors, such as substance use, hypersexuality, and engaging in illegal activities 
  • Irritability or aggression with no known trigger 
  • Paranoia 
  • Difficulty remembering or focusing on daily tasks 
  • Elevated self-esteem 
  • High energy 

Depressive symptoms: 

  • Constant fatigue 
  • Excessive sleeping 
  • Isolating and not interacting with other people 
  • Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and making decisions 
  • Significant changes in appetite and weight 
  • Thoughts of suicide 
  • Engaging in self-harm or suicidal behaviors, such as suicide attempts 


Effects of bipolar disorder

If a child or adolescent is living with unmanaged bipolar disorder, they can potentially experience the following adverse effects: 

  • Poor performance in school 
  • Difficulty with interpersonal interactions, including friendships and relationships 
  • Legal troubles 
  • Development of a drug or alcohol addiction 
  • Personal injury due to self-harm, suicidal behaviors, or recklessness 

Untreated bipolar disorder has the potential to negatively impact many areas of your child’s life. Comprehensive care is key to your child’s well-being and increases their chances of living a healthy life while managing the symptoms they experience. 

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have bipolar disorder 

If your child is experiencing more than one mental health condition, it is important to receive care for each diagnosis. Young people who are suffering from bipolar disorder may also experience some of the following mental health concerns: 

  • Anxiety disorders 
  • Substance use disorders 
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) 
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) 
  • Conduct disorder 

If these conditions go untreated, they may make it more difficult for your child to function in school, at home, and in social environmentsIt is beneficial to seek individualized services that fully address each mental health condition that your child is struggling with. At Little Creek Behavioral Health, your child will receive the personalized attention and care they need to cope with bipolar disorder. 

Marks of Quality Care
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval