You have probably heard of bipolar disorder, but the stigma and misinformation surrounding it could mean that you aren’t quite sure what it is. Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that may present as early as childhood but often presents and is diagnosed in the late teens or early adult years. Although it affects both boys and girls, bipolar disorder in teenage boys is more common.
Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Although people joke about “feeling bipolar,” the medical definition is quite complicated. The long-lasting condition causes a person’s mood and energy to change drastically.
These changes, which are commonly known as mania and depression, can last for days, weeks, or even months, although it is important to note that some people only experience the mania. There are also usually periods where people feel “normal” or “even” between mania and depression.
Causes of Bipolar
People of all ages, all genders, and from all walks of life can develop bipolar disorder and, once diagnosed, the condition is usually a lifelong one. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes the disorder, but research has shown that several factors may contribute to someone developing manic depression.
Sometimes, the disorder appears to run in the family, although this doesn’t mean that a child will develop it just because a parent has it. A much more common factor is the structure of the brain. Researchers show differences in the brains of people who have bipolar disorder. Those differences allow them to predict if a person may develop the disorder and learn how to treat it more effectively.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Teens
Symptoms of bipolar disorder vary depending on whether the patient is feeling mania or depression. Additionally, it is important to note that not every person will show every symptom, and some may not show any at all (or the symptoms may be mistaken for their average personality traits). If the patient is feeling manic, he may:
- Get angry more easily
- Have insomnia or not feel tired at all
- Talk faster than usual
- Take more risks or have more impulsive behavior
- Seem to be much happier or sillier than normal
- Be unable to focus
- Engage in sexual behavior more often
- Feel more self-important
On the other hand, someone who is feeling depressed will have many different symptoms:
- Feel sadder than usual
- Have more headaches or stomach aches
- Feel worthless or have lower self-esteem
- Eat more or less than usual
- Lose interest in favorite activities
- Cry more easily
- Isolate from friends and family
- Have little energy and sleep more often
- Feel suicidal
In fact, it is important to know that teenagers with bipolar disorder are more likely to attempt or commit suicide. Therapy and regular medication are extremely important for people with the disorder.
Diagnosing and Treating Bipolar in Teens
The process of diagnosing bipolar disorder in teenage boys can take some time and may be difficult. Blood tests and brain scans cannot confirm the disorder, so diagnosis requires discussions about medical history, including mood changes and sleeping patterns. As a parent, you may be asked to answer the same types of questions about your teenager’s habits and behaviors. In addition, diagnosis often requires a period of monitoring by a psychiatrist or psychologist that can determine the difference between average teenage moodiness and bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for bipolar disorder. Fortunately, symptoms can be managed. Doctors and psychiatrists often use a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and therapy to help teenagers manage the disorder and live life more easily. In addition to antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic drugs are typical parts of treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, personal therapy, and family therapy are also essential components of most treatment plans.
Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder does not need to feel like the end of the world. If you or your child shows symptoms of the disorder, a diagnosis and treatment plan can help you live a thriving and successful life, often with few symptoms. Talk to your doctor for more information.
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