Bipolar Adolescent vs. Bipolar Adult

For the longest time, it was almost unheard of for a child, adolescent or even young adult to come down with any form of bipolar disorder. Today, we know that not only do younger people carry the burden of this condition it is more common in children, teens, and young adults than in those approaching their midlife. While bipolar is the same in both adults and adolescents it does present itself in different ways based on the maturity of the sufferer.

A bipolar adolescent will exhibit the mood swings typical of the adult onset form of the disease, however they can be quite different in their manner and intensity. They are much more likely to be angry, aggressive, and even violent during the “manic” phases of the disease. We have also found that a bipolar adolescent is more inclined to act out sexually. In fact, hyper-sexuality is not uncommon among those dealing with various forms of mental illness. Perhaps the most damaging to their future, a bipolar adolescent will more often resort to drugs or alcohol to relieve the emotional pain of managing their condition. You may also find that bipolar adolescent mood swings tend to occur far more rapidly, with moods sometimes changing many times in the period of a day, unlike adults who can stay in a “manic” or “depressed” episode for days, sometimes weeks at a time.

According to Dr. Dimitri Papolos, MD author of “The Bipolar Child”, a teen with bipolar disorder, “…may be bossy, overbearing, extremely oppositional, and have difficulty making transitions. His or her mood can veer from morbid and hopeless to silly, giddy and goofy within very short periods of time. Some children experience social phobia, while others are extremely charismatic and risk-taking.” Dr. Papolos goes on to say, “Once the illness starts, episodes tend to recur and worsen without treatment. Studies show that after symptoms first appear, there can be a significant lag until treatment begins.” Parents who suspect they may have a bipolar adolescent are encouraged to take them for an evaluation by a qualified professional as soon as possible. Research has shown that for the bipolar adolescent, like anyone struggling with the disease, the earlier they receive treatment, the better the outcome.

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