What is a Bipolar Disorder?

A bipolar disorder is a highly complex mood disorder, characterized by a dysfunctional pattern of extremeBipolar Disorder mood fluctuations. Those with bipolar disorder experience manic episodes of abnormally extreme emotions, both excited and depressive episodes, often separated by periods of relatively normal mood. Bipolar disorders are so complex that doctors categorize them as such: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cyclothymic Disorder, and Dipolar Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified). Each category is characterized by varying mood patterns or varying severity.

What are some symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Manic episodes–periods of abnormally elevated or irritable moods–last at least one week and include at least three of the following seven symptoms: grandiosity, reduced need for sleep, increased talkativeness, racing thoughts, distractibility, increased activity and/or excessive pleasure-seeking (to a potentially self-destructive extent). An individual experiencing a manic episode may likely display dramatic emotional expression, loud speech, promiscuity, hostility, anger, aggression, and an unreasonably high energy level. It is important to note that an individual in a manic state often appears more goal-focused, productive and cheerful than he normally would; however, this behavior during the manic state is considerably exaggerated and any racing thoughts or ideas he may have quickly lead to irritability and disrupted concentration.

Depressive episodes in a bipolar individual closely resemble typical depression with one significant difference: a person in the midst of a depressive episode associated with bipolar disorder sleeps quite often, which results in the slowing of his motor skills, a quality seen less frequently in those with clinical depression.

How does the condition develop if left untreated?

Manic episodes can cause serious personal, and even legal, consequences.

Adolescents with bipolar disorders often have personal and academic problems and can be misdiagnosed as having ADHD, which only further delays their healing and treatment options. They may also experience delusions of importance, impulsivity and impaired judgment, which can all lead to serious run-ins with the law.

Depression associated with bipolar disorder often results in increased suicide rates, as well as psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.

How do I help treat my child’s bipolar disorder?

The most highly recommended method of treatment is a collaborative care model involving a psychiatrist, therapist and the patient’s family. Research suggests that the combination of psychotherapy and medication may be more beneficial than medication alone.

Treatment goals generally include alleviation of acute symptoms, ensuring client safety and remediation of occupational, interpersonal and other lifestyle problems that have resulted from the disorder. The nature and severity of the episodes of dysfunctional mood, as well as the level of impairment that follows, will guide the specific direction of treatment.

Our Approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy

At North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we know that medication is the primary mode of treatment for Bipolar I and II. Once a client is stabilized on medication administered by a psychiatrist, psychotherapy can begin. Our neuropsychologist and psychotherapist work together to teach your child how to cope with stress triggers, troubling life events and family disturbances.