Some children may show severe temper tantrums when denied what they want. These tantrums can continue for several hours, making the child violent and unmanageable. Such temperamental behaviors should not be ignored as it can be the first signs of bipolar disorder.
It was assumed for many years that children are devoid of any mood swings or mania, but researchers studying bipolar disorder have highlighted that early temperamental features are much more common than it was perceived before. In fact, pediatric bipolar disorder is one of the most significant categories of psychiatric ailments in children, even though it came into existence as a diagnosis only in the mid-1990s.
The Wall Street Journal, in a 2012 article, highlighted the case of 11-year-old Max. Since infancy, Max threw severe tantrums when said “no” for the minutest of things. He even sent one child to the hospital during a play session, and has drawn blood a few other times. At the age of four, Max was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, his mother is of the view that he has not been treated successfully.
Children like Max – suffering from pediatric bipolar disorder – are often characterized by abrupt and irritable mood swings, periods of hyperactivity followed by lethargy, intense temper tantrums, frustration and defiant behavior. They may experience a drop in grades, refrain from taking part in extracurricular activities, get into brawls with classmates, stay lonely, engage in drugs or talk about suicide. This rapid change of moods and behaviors can be chronic and produce irritation with only a few spaces of periodic peace and require medical evaluation.
Causes of pediatric bipolar disorder
The National Alliance for Mental Health describes the factors that can contribute to pediatric bipolar disorder. Here are some:
- Genetics: Children with parents having a bipolar disorder are more likely to suffer than other children.
- Stress: A stressful event such as a death in the family, an illness, family or parental feuds can trigger bipolar disorder.
- Brain structure: Researchers have identified subtle differences in the average size or activation of some brain structures in people with bipolar disorder. While brain structure alone may not cause it, there are some conditions in which damaged brain tissue can predispose a person. In some cases, concussions and traumatic head injuries can increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary from child to child. In fact, sometimes symptoms may appear gradually or suddenly, which can make the illness difficult to diagnose. Some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder in children are:
- an expansive or irritable mood
- elevated mood and exaggerated optimism
- rapidly changing moods lasting a few hours to a few days
- hyperactivity, agitation, and distractibility
- sleeping little or, alternatively, sleeping too much
- bedwetting and night terrors
- excessive involvement in multiple projects and activities
- daredevil behaviors (such as jumping out of moving cars or off roofs)
- inappropriate or precocious sexual behavior
Need of a nurtured treatment procedure
Many of these behaviors or symptoms in a child are a part and parcel of his normal growth and development trajectory, and may not be signs of a disorder. However, repeated occurrence of such behaviors should not be ignored.
The initial goals of bipolar disorder treatment are to relieve the child’s suffering by alleviating the severest symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts and actions, aggression, destructive behavior, psychosis, and sleep disturbances. The long-term goals of treatment are to stabilize mood and extend the period of wellness so that the child is less impaired and may resume developing on a more typical path. However, one must also keep in mind that children are vulnerable and no single therapy or medication works in all cases. Parents should maintain a healthy and stress-free environment at home.
If you notice irregular symptoms and behavioral traces your child, you must seek immediate help from a specialist for progressive treatment options as he might be suffering from bipolar disorder.
Sovereign Mental Health Services prides itself on using cutting-edge, evidence-based techniques to treat a wide assortment of mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders, which can tip the scales back in the child’s favor and make him chirpy as ever. For more details, call our 24/7 helpline at 866-954-0529.