Recognizing the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Your Teen


Mother and teenage daughter hugging.Adolescence is a time of change, as teens navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood while establishing their identity. The adolescent years can be marked by a certain amount of unpredictability which can make it difficult to recognize signs of bipolar disorder. We’re here to help you know what to look for to support your child’s mental health.

Understanding Manic Symptoms

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness defined by extreme mood swings, although its symptoms can vary depending upon age and sex. For teens with bipolar, there may be less of the classic fluctuation between manic and depressive states, and more of both extremes accompanying one another.

An adolescent suffering from bipolar disorder may have a lot of energy, need little sleep, be intensely social, but also have stormy moods characterized by destructive behavior. For example, a teen with bipolar in the midst of a mood storm might be prone to punching walls, lashing out in other ways, or having brushes with the law. Their schoolwork may suffer, either as the result of social tensions or an inability to focus in class. This type of behavior goes beyond the rebellious nature typical of teens.

A combination of psychotherapy, medication and family support can be key parts of a treatment plan for a teen with bipolar disorder.

A Look at the Bipolar Blues

The aforementioned behavior gets more attention and represents the “manic” portion of bipolar disorder. However, when a teen with bipolar shows signs of depression, it can be difficult to detect. A certain amount of sadness is typical in adolescence. But when it gets to the point where your child’s eating or sleep patterns have changed significantly and they’ve become unmotivated and socially isolated over a period of time, that may indicate the depressive phase of bipolar disorder.