Bipolar Depression in Teens: Recognizing the Symptoms
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As a parent, seeing your teen experience emotional ups and downs can feel like a roller coaster ride that never seems to end. Teenagers are known for going through mood swings, but sometimes the changes can be more extreme and long lasting. You may have come across the terms “bipolar depression” and “bipolar disorder” and wonder what the difference is:

  • Bipolar disorderBipolar disorder is a broader term for a mental health condition that can cause extreme mood swings. These swings can involve intense highs, or mania, and lows, or depression. 
  • Bipolar depression — This specifically refers to the depressive episodes that can be experienced in bipolar disorder. It focuses on the sad, hopeless feelings and doesn’t capture the entire picture, which can also involve manic episodes.

Bipolar disorder commonly manifests in two main ways:

  • Bipolar 1 disorder — Bipolar 1 is the more extreme type of bipolar disorder. It can have manic episodes that last a week or more. Depressive episodes last at least two weeks. 
  • Bipolar 2 disorder — Bipolar 2 is a less severe type of bipolar disorder. The manic episodes are not as severe and are called hypomania. Hypomania lasts for several days, followed by depressive episodes that can be similar to those in bipolar 1. 

Around 1% of teens in the U.S. experience some form of bipolar disorder. 

Recognizing the symptoms of bipolar depression in teens

Teens naturally experience mood swings. How do you know if it’s something more serious like bipolar depression? Some things to watch out for include:

  • Extreme mood swings — Your teen may go from feeling super happy and energetic for weeks at a time to suddenly crashing into sadness or irritability. These mood swings can be dramatic and last longer than typical teenage ups and downs. 
  • Self-esteem changes — During a manic episode, your teen may have an inflated sense of self-importance. They may believe they can achieve anything. During a depressive episode, they may experience feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.
  • Sleep pattern changes — During manic episodes, your teen may have trouble sleeping. They may also stay up all night due to racing thoughts and boundless energy. During a depressive episode, they may sleep excessively, struggling to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Energy level shifts — Manic episodes may be marked by boundless energy. Your teen may feel like they can do anything. Depressive episodes may leave your teen feeling drained and lacking the motivation to participate in activities they usually enjoy.
  • Difficulty focusing — Your teen may struggle with schoolwork and hobbies due to difficulty concentrating. They may have racing thoughts or feel constantly on edge. They may forget assignments or lose interest in things they were passionate about. This can impact on their academic performance, social interactions and overall functioning.
  • Risk-taking behavior — Manic episodes can lead your teen to impulsive behavior. They may make risky choices without thinking about the consequences. These behaviors may include reckless driving, unsafe sexual activity or spending sprees they can’t afford. 
  • Speech pattern changes — During a manic episode, your teen may talk very fast and jump from topic to topic without finishing their thoughts. They may also be easily distracted or have trouble listening to others. 
  • Appetite changes — Some teens may experience a significant decrease in their appetite during manic episodes, while others may eat excessively. During depression, they may lose interest in eating completely. These appetite changes may cause weight loss or weight gain. 
  • Personal hygiene changes — During a depressive episode, your teen may neglect their personal hygiene. They may also lose interest in taking care of their appearance. 
  • Interest loss — Teens may have a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable. They may withdraw from friends, hobbies and extracurricular activities. This may be due to a lack of motivation or a sense of emptiness.
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors — In severe cases, bipolar depression can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors in teens. It’s essential to take any mention of suicide seriously. Seek immediate help from a mental health professional or emergency services if your teen is in crisis. 

Recognizing the symptoms of bipolar depression in your teen can feel overwhelming. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Early intervention is key for effective treatment. If you’re concerned about your teen showing several of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to talk to their doctor or a therapist. A professional can help provide an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan to help your teen manage their bipolar depression. With the right support system and professional help, your teen can lead a fulfilling life. A mental health professional’s guidance can make a world of difference for your teen’s future.

Lightfully Teen can help support your teen on their bipolar depression journey

At Lightfully Teen, we understand that the journey with bipolar depression can be a challenging one for your teen. Our unique approach goes beyond just managing symptoms; we are dedicated to providing your teen with compassionate, whole-person-centered care. Our framework, consisting of components of evidence-based modalities, helps us to target the drivers behind mental health conditions and their symptoms. In our supportive and understanding environment, we can help empower your teen to develop long-term tools and strategies for managing their bipolar depression. We also offer resources and support to help you understand bipolar depression and how to best support your teen.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, contact us. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of your teen.

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