Bipolar Disorder Treatment for Teens & Young Adults


Paradigm Treats Bipolar I and II and Cyclothymia

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by intense shifts in mood, energy, and functional ability. Formerly termed manic depressive disorder, bipolar disorder often takes the form of alternating states of mania and depression. The balance and severity of these states, along with the general presentation and severity of symptoms, differs between subtypes of the condition known as Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and cyclothymia. These conditions are all similar, with Bipolar I generally involving more severe manic episodes, Bipolar II involving longer depressed states but less severe manic episodes, and cyclothymia being a less severe but still serious presentation of similar symptoms. All of these conditions can have severe mental, physical, and emotional consequences if left untreated, and require professional intervention. [i]

Bipolar Disorder’s Presentation in Teens and Adolescents

Bipolar disorder, whether Bipolar I, Bipolar II, or cyclothymia, usually shows its first signs in childhood or the teen years. Teens and adolescents who have bipolar disorder may experience manic states involving euphoric or highly sensitive moods, bursts of energy and activity, and reckless or risk-taking behaviors. They may also undergo depressed states, which can lead to a loss of daily functioning, issues with social relationships, academic problems, or even self-harm or suicidality in extreme cases. These are just a few possible outward manifestations of a complex group of conditions. Bipolar disorder can also combine with co-occurring disorders, like ADHD or anxiety, to stunt a teen’s development, harm their quality of life, and potentially drive them towards unsafe or unwise behaviors. This is why individualized, professional treatment is key.

Developing a Treatment Plan for Teen and Adolescent

Bipolar Disorder and Cyclothymia

If your teen or adolescent has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, you may be overwhelmed by the prospect of helping them manage this condition.  While bipolar disorder and cyclothymia generally require lifelong management, the condition is treatable via a variety of medication, therapeutic, and lifestyle-related options. The first step towards treatment is consultation with a mental health professional familiar with their symptomology, challenges, and medical history. Working together, you can discuss which presentation of bipolar disorder or cyclothymia your teen or adolescent displays, any contributing factors that may be worsening their condition, including other co-occurring mental disorders, what treatment options are available, and how to form a treatment plan. Whether you are considering therapy, a new medication, or residential treatment, your child’s mental health professional can advise you and help you understand your choices.

Medication-Based Treatment for Adolescents With Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can respond to numerous forms of medication, depending on its unique presentation in your teen or adolescent. These can include  mood stabilizers or antipsychotics to control manic symptoms, antidepressants for the management of depressive symptoms, and possibly antidepressant-antipsychotics for specific cases of bipolar I. [ii] Severity of symptoms, past medical history, and potential side effects should all be discussed with a medical professional before making any treatment decisions involving medication.

Therapeutic Interventions for Bipolar Disorder in Teens and Adolescents

Along with medication, regular therapy is an incredibly powerful tool for managing bipolar disorder or cyclothymia. Therapy equips teens and adolescents with tools to understand and cope with the strong emotions brought on by bipolar disorder. It provides teens with the knowledge to recognize when a manic or depressive episode is occurring, and gives them healthy coping strategies that improve well-being and keep them safe. It also helps teens and adolescents develop a greater awareness of their challenges and how to communicate them to others, so that teens can build a positive support network around them. Effective therapies in treating bipolar disorder include the following:

  • Family Therapy helps teens, adolescents and their families learn to navigate bipolar disorder as it appears in their lives. In addition to promoting communication and conflict resolution skills, family therapy helps family members  identify manic or depressive episodes and plan healthy ways to address them. Because mental health disorders like bipolar disorder can feel isolating to the individual, having everyone on the same page and working together to monitor treatment and support one another is invaluable.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that has been adapted for any number of mental health disorders. CBT helps treat bipolar disorder by helping teens and adolescents understand how unhealthy and self-limiting thoughts lead to difficult moods and unproductive behaviors. The self-understanding and coping strategies developed in CBT can be of use in confronting both depressive and manic symptoms and episodes.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy’s focus on mindfulness can help teens and adolescents with bipolar disorder in regulating their emotions and feelings during depressive or manic episodes, and give them distress tolerance strategies to turn to when they feel vulnerable. [iii]
  • Psychoeducation equipsteens, adolescents, and their families with the facts on bipolar disorder and any co-occurring mental disorders. A shared understanding of the disorder, its varied presentations, and its impacts on one’s life can promote healthier communication and a better support system at home.

Residential Treatment for Teens and Adolescents With Bipolar Disorder

Residential treatment can be appropriate for teens or adolescents with bipolar disorder who are stable, yet still struggle with the condition in their daily lives. Residential treatment offers a targeted, intensive approach which can focus on the unique issues a teen or adolescent face with their condition. With a host of treatment options available, and the support of community and staff, a good residential program can equip a teen with tools to manage their condition, cope with stressors, and get back on track socially, academically, and emotionally.

Individualized Bipolar Disorder Treatment at Paradigm

At Paradigm Treatment, we offer compassionate, evidence-based treatment for teens and adolescents with bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions. With an industry-leading staff to client ratio, a unique emphasis on daily individual therapy, weekly instances of family therapy, and a tight-knit community of experienced staff and clients dedicated to growth, we will help your teen or adolescent learn to manage their bipolar disorder, address any co-occurring mental health conditions or substance abuse issues, and find success and well-being in their lives as they grow.

If you would like to begin treatment with us, or have any other questions, please give us a call today at 603-386-1282 or contact us online.


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