Our Latest Blogs

Bipolar Disorder in Teens: A Guide for Parents

mother and troubled teen

Parenting has always been a challenge, but times have changed, and although we have more technological tools than we could ever have dreamed of, it seems as though raising teens has become even harder.

In recent years, the number of teens diagnosed with bipolar disorder has increased dramatically. Previously, it was rare for young people to show signs of the disorder before their early twenties. Now, more and more teens are being diagnosed.

As a parent, dealing with bipolar disorder in a teen can be difficult, and in many cases, family relations are on the line. The good news is that your relationship with your teen can grow stronger if handled properly.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is one of several mental health problems that can affect a person’s brain functions and behavior. People who experience bipolar episodes tend to have extreme mood swings in relatively short spaces of time.

A person might experience a period of extreme happiness or high energy, which is also known as a manic episode. However, shortly before or after the episode, the person can also experience a period of extreme sadness or tiredness, which is known as a depressive episode.

These changes in moods are sporadic and erratic and can happen at any time. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but it can be managed.

How will I know if my teen has bipolar disorder?

Teenagers are naturally moody, and it might be difficult to spot the signs of bipolar disorder in them. Their hormones are all over the place, and this can cause them to behave in unreasonable ways.

However, when teens have manic episodes, they tend to be more irritable than elated. They might show signs of a short temper, talk excitedly about topics, lack focus, go without sleep for long periods, take excessive risks, and behave in ways that are overly sexual or inappropriate.

During their depressive episodes, they might show signs of feeling worthless, apathetic, down, and sad. They can also complain about stomachaches, headaches, or other inexplicable pains.

Teens in the depressive phase of bipolar disorder tend to sleep more than usual and, at the same time, display a lack of energy. Their concentration levels are also low, and they do not feel like socializing. In extreme cases, they might even have suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

What causes bipolar disorders?

There is currently no consensus about the cause of bipolar disorder, but there are broad indicators that have been identified. Doctors believe that family genes, brain structure, and the environment or a combination of all three are the leading factors that cause bipolar disorder.

In terms of the familial aspects, research has shown that teens with a family history of bipolar disorder have a tendency to develop it as well. However, it is interesting to note that this only applies to the immediate family.

When a sibling or parent has bipolar disorder, the teen is more likely to develop it, whereas when an uncle, aunt, or other relative has it, the teen is not more likely to develop it.

Although brain structure is cited as a factor in the development of bipolar disorder, doctors cannot pinpoint the exact cause of the problem. They have noticed some minor abnormalities in brain activity and size in people with bipolar disorder. They also theorize that concussions or other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can be a cause, but hard evidence is lacking.

Lastly, the environment of the teenager can also contribute to the disorder’s occurrence. Death or other traumatic and stressful events can trigger the first episode.

How is it diagnosed?

If you suspect that your teen has bipolar disorder, a doctor can perform a physical exam and interview and run other lab tests. Blood work will not indicate whether a teen has the disorder, but it will indicate if other illnesses that mimic bipolar disorder, such as hyperthyroidism, are present. If the doctor rules out other diseases that resemble bipolar disorder, he or she might refer you to a psychiatrist.

At this point, your child will undergo a mental health assessment to determine if he or she has it. After the evaluation, your teen could be diagnosed with any one of six different types of bipolar disorder, as recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).

Depending on the results, an action plan can be formulated that includes the doctor, teen, and parents.

What to do when it is diagnosed?

As mentioned, bipolar disorder cannot be cured; it can only be managed. The doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to manage the symptoms. The teen may also undergo therapy to develop skills to manage and control depressive episodes.

The therapy can include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, or family-focused therapy. Each form of therapy has its benefits, and the doctor will suggest the type that best suits the symptoms that your teen is displaying.


Dealing with bipolar disorder is challenging and will require parents to provide extra support for their teen who has it. The most important thing to remember is that it is a long process, and there will be difficult times. The key is to do something about it early on and not to let the disorder sow division in the house. Early internvetion makes a difference. The more you delay getting help for your teen, the harder it is to treat and manage. If your teen shows signs of having bipolar disorder, it is best to consult a professional as quickly as possible.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

Contact a Resource Specialist

About the Author: Vendy Adams is a writer for EduBirdie, a popular academic writing site known for the best essay maker for unique papers. She loves to spend her time helping students learn the art of writing. She loves to play tennis, watch the latest flicks on tv and read autobiographies.

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.

Recommended for You

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *