Bipolar disorder is defined as a condition in which a patient alternates between periods of mania and periods of depression. Mania is described as an episode of increased energy, decreased need for sleep, possible hallucinations or delusions, and a propensity toward reckless behaviors. The majority of cases of bipolar disorder are diagnosed in teen or adults, but the condition can be documented as early as age 6. However, this diagnosis in children is difficult to confirm as the symptomatology overlaps with both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). The main difficult in diagnosis is due to altered disease presentation in children versus adults (Children, 2017). It is key to note that the timeframes between mood changes can be significantly shorter than in adults. In adults, manic or hypomanic episodes are separated by weeks or longer. In contrast, children can switch between these states within the same day. As these time periods are relied on in adult diagnosis, it results in confusion and misdiagnosis in children. Additionally, adults are diagnosed with bipolar disorder after the onset of their first manic episode. In children, this first episode may be missed and excused as a typical childhood temper tantrum. Also, children are more likely to have short episodes of mania while spending the majority of their time in a depressive state (Differences, 2017). The treatment of bipolar disorder in children is similar to treatment in adults, adding increased requirements to educate parents on their child’s situation. Long-term treatment involves the usage of mood-stabilizing medications, as this condition is expected to be life-long. Children should be educated in an age-appropriate way as to understand their symptoms. Additional family therapy can be useful in these patients as focused group care could lead to decreased stressors at home, potentially decreasing the lability of the child (Bernstein, 2017).
- Bernstein, B. (2017, May 02). Pediatric Bipolar Affective Disorder Treatment & Management. Retrieved February 27, 2018, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/913464-treatment
- Children and Teens With Bipolar Disorder. (2017). Retrieved February 27, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-children-teens#1
- The Differences Between Childhood and Adult Bipolar Disorder | bpHope. (2017, March 5). Retrieved February 27, 2018, from https://www.bphope.com/kids-children-teens/the-differences-between-childhood-and-adult-bipolar-disorder/