Bipolar Disorder in Teens

A teenager’s life is full of ups and downs. Of course, much of this is a normal part of growing up. In some cases, it may be early signs of bipolar disorder. With this illness, there are rapid, prolonged mood changes involving excessive emotional highs and intense emotional low points.

The condition can wreak havoc on a teen’s relationship with family and friends. In severe cases, teens may harm themselves or attempt suicide. Although bipolar disorder can only be diagnosed by a medical professional, there are signs indicating your teenager may be experiencing something more than growing pains.


Signs and Symptoms

Bipolar disorder is also referred to as manic depression or manic-depressive illness. This means that teens suffering from this condition have extreme mood swings. Manic episodes include bouts of hyperactivity. At the other end, they display depressive episodes marked by sad behavior. These mood changes often disrupt normal sleep, activity, behavior, or thought patterns. The episodes can last for a week or more. The following are common symptoms of bipolar disorder in teens:

Depressive Symptoms

  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • No interest in fun activities
  • Little energy
  • Feels worthless and guilty
  • Sleeps too much or too little
  • Complains of pain, such as headaches and stomach aches

Manic Symptoms

  • Engage in risky activities
  • Thinks and talks about sex often
  • Unable to remain focused
  • Trouble sleeping but isn’t tired
  • Talks very fast about multiple topics
  • Short temper
  • Acts silly or feels very happy in a manner that’s unusual

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

The scientific community has not identified a specific cause of bipolar disorder. However, there are experts who suggest that the illness is linked to genetics and the environment. Teens are nine times more likely to suffer from this illness if there’s a family history of it.

Aside from genetic influences, environmental or biochemical factors can play a role. These factors can disrupt the brain’s neurotransmitters, which regulate mood. Bipolar illness typically starts between the teen years and early 20s.

Lakeside Academy Treatment and Programs

Lakeside Academy works with teens that have mild bipolar disorder symptoms, called cyclothymia. This is when teens are not getting too high, in terms of mania, and not getting too low, in terms of depression, and have more mild to moderate symptoms. Teens who fall into this category can be treated through our programs and therapy, while those who are more actively manic are outside of our reach and require the highest level of care.

We take a holistic, integrated approach to treating teen boys suffering from mild bipolar disorder. We understand the condition can impact various areas of a young man’s life. Often the illness is accompanied with problems such as substance abuse, anger issues, and other behavioral problems. This is why we have a professional staff that can address the mental, physical, emotional, and academic needs of your son. Our primary theory of change, the way we approach treatment for teen boys who have mild bipolar disorder, involves working with your son in all of the following areas:

  • Motivational stage and direction
  • Environment/situational antecedents
  • Thoughts, knowledge, attitudes
  • Emotions and emotional regulation
  • Behaviors, skills, and behavioral self-management
  • Relationships and relational patterns
  • The set of all these patters across time and situation: character
  • Life narrative and identity

During your son’s time with us, he can engage in a wide range of positive activities. For instance, we encourage students to participate in religious groups and volunteerism as a way of nurturing their emotional and spiritual health. Other activities include:

  • Individual and group counseling sessions
  • Mentoring sessions
  • Redirection of problematic or self-destructive behavior
  • Improved self-control
  • Communication and self-advocacy
  • Character development
  • Faith formation and spiritual growth
  • Physical health and activity
  • Academics and project-based learning

Create a Better Life

Bipolar symptoms in teens, even mild to moderate ones, are not easy for families to handle alone. Fortunately, if you need effective, faith-based care for your teenage son, reach out to us. Our staff is well qualified to work with you and your son to get him back on the road to living a fulfilling life.