Defining Adolescent Bipolar Disorder
Defining Adolescent Bipolar Disorder

Defining Adolescent Bipolar Disorder

Defining Teenage Bipolar Disorder 

Bipolar disorder, also known as, manic-depression, is a severe neurological illness that affects roughly 2.6 percent of teens - just one percent shy to that of adults (3.9).

Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is characterized by dramatic mood changes that range from energetic (manic) to intensely sad (depression). While most children experience occasional mood swings, teens with bipolar disorder experience chronic, intense mood swings that detrimentally affect their everyday lives. These mood swings may last anywhere between a couple of minutes to months at a time. Teens who experience daily mood swings suffer from what they refer to as, rapid cycling - a cycle of moods (from sad to happy, then happy to sad) occurring several times throughout every day.

Teens who experience rapid-cycling mood changes are especially in danger of committing self-harm. For these teens, depressive cycling occurs with daily frequency. Consequently, experiencing depression this frequently dramatically increases an emotionally immature teen's chances of committing suicide. 

FACT: Bipolar Disorder Affects Nearly the Same Amount of Teens as it Does Adult

A National Institute of Mental Health,(NIMH)-funded study published in the online Archives of General Psychiatry recently disproved the notion that only adults can be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. What’s worse, not only did the NIMH’s study prove that adolescents are capable of meeting bipolar diagnosis-standards, they discovered that bipolar affects teens (ages 12-18) at nearly the same rate as that of manic-depressive adults.

Specifically, the nationally recognized study concluded that roughly 3.9% of adults meet bipolar diagnosis requirements in their lifetime. Although they admit there is limited data on adolescent-manic depression, the researchers find that as many as 2.6% of American adolescents meet the clinical requirements needed for a bipolar diagnosis. 

In other words, the NIMH-study all but proves that psychiatric books, which until recently concluded that bipolar disorder could only be diagnosed during adulthood, need to be updated to include the findings of their groundbreaking study. In a sense, the NIMH-funded study rewrote the history books by proving our entire understanding of the bipolar disorder, namely who it can affect, is at least somewhat flawed and needs revisiting.  

Why do Teens Develop Bipolar Disorder?

While psychiatric experts are not sure about how or why it manifests, they do know what could contribute to the development of manic depression. Among these contributing factors is genes. Experts are quick to point out that having bipolar disorder does not guarantee the offspring will also suffer from the same neurological illness. However, experts also state that a person is highly more likely to develop manic depression if it runs in their family

Other bipolar-contributing factors include the structural makeup and functionality of a person’s brain.

While these studies do not definitively tell us about how bipolar disorder is caused (again, most experts suggest that there are several different factors that could contribute to the development of manic depression, rather than there only being one possible cause), they do provide us with more knowledge and opportunities for doctors to better treat their adolescent patients in the future.

What’s more, psychiatric professionals also believe they will one day be able to prevent manic depression in some people.

For further information in regards to how we can assist you and your troubled teen today, please call our child-placement specialists any time at(561) 328-7370.