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Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes severe or unusual shifts in mood, energy level, thinking, and behavior. People with bipolar disorder experience episodes of mania where they have overly happy or extremely irritable moods and increases in energy. They can also have episodes of depression. While everyone has good and bad moods, the unprovoked and intense highs and lows of people with bipolar disorder can be unpredictable, extreme, and debilitating. Bipolar disorder occurs in all age groups, young and old. Until recently, bipolar disorder in children and adolescents was thought to be an extremely rare condition, but it may, in fact, be more common than previously thought.
Many parents are challenged by a child who has extreme changes in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior. Careful evaluation will find that some of these children are suffering from a mental disorder. Yet, only a very few of those will have bipolar disorder.
For additional information see:
- Glossary of Symptoms and Illnesses - Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
- Facts for Families: Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens
Choose a topic:
- What causes bipolar disorder?
- What are the symptoms of pediatric bipolar disorder?
- What are the consequences of bipolar disorder
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AACAP's Facts for Families provide concise up-to-date information on issues that affect children, teenagers, and their families.
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AACAP Practice Parameters
AACAP’s Practice Parameters for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder aids mental health professionals and physicians in their clinical decision making. The Practice Parameters show the best treatment options available to families living with childhood and adolescent mental illness. These parameters were published in 2007 but are the most updated version. Because they are more than five years old and have not yet been updated to reflect current knowledge and practice, in accordance with national standards, including those of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's National Guideline Clearinghouse, these parameters can no longer be assumed to be current.
Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder
Information about Choices in Psychotherapy Treatment
Treatment for bipolar disorder comes in the form of medication and psychotherapy treatment. Both are important elements of a comprehensive treatment plan. For children and adolescents with bipolar disorder, getting enough sleep and developing skills to monitor moods is an essential part of effective treatment. There are several psychotherapies that are being studied for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
To learn more about the types of psychotherapy that are available to help children and adolescents with mental illness, click here.
Information about Choices in Medication
Parents who have a child or adolescent with bipolar disorder, or any mental health condition, are often left facing difficult decisions regarding medication.
Learn more about how psychiatric medication is used to treat children and adolescents
Learn more about the types of psychiatric medication that are available to treat children and adolescents with mental health disorder
View up-to-date information about advances in psychopharmacological treatment for mood disorders
AACAP has produced medication guides to help patients, families, and physicians make informed decisions about obtaining and administering appropriate care for a child with ADHD, depression, or bipolar disorder.
- Bipolar Parents Medication Guide Pedal Green Pedal Green Lamb Pedal Tracey Pushers Pushers Lamb Lamb Green Tracey Tracey RnOO6qw
- Learn more about the Parents’ Medication Guides
Rating Scales to Assist in Diagnosis
The Child Mania Rating Scale–Parent Version (CMRS-P) is an assessment tool that helps clinicians differentiate bipolar disorder from other childhood behavioral disorders, such as ADHD. This rating scale collects information from parents and can be completed in approximately 15 minutes. Child Mania Rating Scale Parent Version.
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AACAP's Practice Parameters for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder aids mental health professionals and physicians in their clinical decision making. The Practice Parameters show the best treatment options available to families living with childhood and adolescent mental illness. These parameters were published in 2007 but are the most updated version. Because they are more than five years old and have not yet been updated to reflect current knowledge and practice, in accordance with national standards, including those of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's National Guideline Clearinghouse, these parameters can no longer be assumed to be current.
Practice Parameters for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Assessment of a Person-Level Risk Calculator to Predict New-Onset Bipolar Spectrum Disorder in Youth at Familial Risk
Hafeman DM, Merranko J, Goldstein TR, et al.
JAMA Psychiatry. 2017; 74(8):841-847Tracey Tracey Tracey Green Lamb Lamb Green Green Green Tracey Pushers Lamb Pedal Lamb Pushers Pedal Pushers Pedal AxAYgv6n
The Bipolar Prodrome: Meta-Analysis of Symptom Prevalence Prior to Initial or Recurrent Mood Episodes
Van Meter AR, Burke C, Youngstrom EA, Faedda GL, Correl CU.
J Am Acad CHild Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016; 55(7): 543-555
Correlates of Overweight and Obesity Among Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A)
Goldstein Bl, Blanco C, He JP, Merikangas K.
J Am Acad CHild Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016; 55(12): 1020-1026
Differentiating Bipolar Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified and Severe Mood Dysregulation
Kenneth Towbin, David Axelson, Ellen Leibenluft, Boris BirmaherLamb Pedal Pedal Tracey Lamb Green Tracey Pushers Green TBpPaBS
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 52, Issue 5, p466–481
Child- and Family-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Amy E. West, Sally M. Weinstein, Amy T. Peters, Andrea C. Katz, David B. Henry, Rick A. Cruz, Mani N. Pavuluri
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 53, Issue 11, p1168–1178.e1
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An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Kay Redfield Jamison
Sugar and Salt
Brandon and the Bipolar Bear: A Story for Children with Bipolar Disorder
The Dark Side of Innocence
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Turbo Max: A Story for Siblings and Friends of Children with Bipolar Disorder
For more bibliotherapy resources, visit Living with Mental Illness: Books, Stories and Memoirs.
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir
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Getting help is the most important thing that parents can do for children and adolescents with a mental health concern. Parents should try to find a mental health professional with advanced training and experience evaluating and treating children and adolescents with bipolar disorder. Also, it is important to find a comfortable match between your child, your family, and the mental health professional.
A child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders that affect children and adolescents. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed four years of medical school, and at least three years of residency training in medicine, neurology, or general psychiatry with adults, and two years of additional training in psychiatric work with children and adolescents.
Find a child and adolescent psychiatrist in your area.
To learn about accessing child and adolescent psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, please read Where to Find Help for Your Child.
Oftentimes, parents are unsure when to seek a referral to a child and adolescent psychiatrist. For more information on when to seek a referral, click here.
There are many organizations that provide support groups for families that have a family member or child with bipolar disorder. Two such organizations are the The Balanced Mind Foundation and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
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