Bipolar Disorder Treatment for Teens & Young Adults

The most successful teen bipolar disorder treatment lies in a combination of medication and counseling, but of course treatment looks different for everyone. The first step toward bipolar disorder treatment is an evaluation with a psychiatrist to determine what kind of treatment best suits you, which can be a comforting first step.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by intense shifts in mood, energy, and functional ability. It is characterized by manic and depressive episodes. Formerly termed manic depressive disorder, bipolar disorder often takes the form of alternating states of mania and depression. Here at Paradigm, we offer mental health disorder treatment for children and young adults living with bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder symptoms consist of various types of mood episodes. These mood episodes include manic episodes, hypomanic episodes, and major depressive episodes.

A manic episode is a period in which a person exhibits an elevated mood and more energy than usual. Symptoms such as irritability, racing thoughts, rapid speech, decreased need for sleep, and restlessness may occur. Manic episodes can give people grandiose ideations and inflated self-esteem, causing them to engage in harmful behaviors. These episodes can last for at least a week.

Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes, but the symptoms are far less severe. They don’t typically lead to harmful behaviors and the episodes typically last for about four consecutive days as opposed to a whole week or more.

Major depressive episodes can last for at least two weeks. During a major depressive episode, a person may exhibit feelings of despair, extreme sadness, worthlessness, and guilt. Symptoms of this type of mood episode can also include fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, restlessness, and suicidal ideation.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Individuals who have a bipolar disorder diagnosis may have one of four types of bipolar disorder. There are multiple types of bipolar disorder, including Bipolar I, Bipolar II, cyclothymia, and bipolar disorder with mixed features. All of these conditions can have severe mental, physical, and emotional consequences if left untreated, and require professional intervention.

Bipolar I Disorder: This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by at least one manic episode that lasts for up to seven days. Or, it can be characterized by manic symptoms that are severe and serious enough to result in hospitalization and require intensive care. Individuals who have bipolar I disorder typically experience depressive episodes that last for about two weeks or longer.

Bipolar II Disorder: This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes. (The severe manic episodes that can occur in bipolar I disorder patients do not occur in those who have bipolar II disorder.) A person who has bipolar II disorder will likely experience at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime.

Cyclothymic Disorder: Also known as cyclothymia, this type of bipolar disorder is milder than other types. It is characterized by cyclical periods of hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes. People who have cyclothymic disorder may be moody or difficult.

Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents and Young Adults

Pediatric bipolar disorder can present differently than adult bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder in children and adolescents can involve more mood swings (rapid cycling) and mixed states (mixtures of manic and depressive episodes).

Bipolar disorder usually shows its first signs in childhood or the teen years. Adolescents and young adults who have bipolar disorder may experience manic states involving euphoric or highly sensitive moods, bursts of energy and activity, and reckless or risky 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 disorders. This can stunt a teen’s development, harm their quality of life, and potentially drive them toward unsafe or unwise behaviors. This is why individualized, professional treatment is key.

The Importance of an Accurate Diagnosis

When dealing with mental health conditions, it is incredibly important to have an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes, bipolar disorders are confused with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD).

On the other hand, since bipolar disorder symptoms include symptoms of depression, people may be misdiagnosed with major depression. Also, symptoms of bipolar disorder can be similar to the symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

Your child’s healthcare provider can help guide you toward the right diagnosis for your teen or adolescent. If they do, in fact, diagnose bipolar disorder in your child, it is vital that you seek professional help for your child.

Treating Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents and Young Adults

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 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 bipolar disorder treatment, your child’s mental health professional can advise you and help you understand your choices.

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Medication-Based Treatment for Young People With Bipolar Disorder

Medication can be helpful in the treatment of bipolar disorder. This mental health condition 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 symptoms of mania, antidepressants for the management of depressive symptoms, and possibly antidepressant-antipsychotics for specific cases of bipolar I.

The 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.

Therapy for Bipolar Disorder in Teens and Young Adults

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.

Therapy can also provide teens with the knowledge to recognize when a manic or depressive episode is occurring. Counseling approaches can equip teens and adolescents with healthy coping strategies that improve their well-being and keep them safe.

Also, therapy helps young people develop a greater awareness of their challenges and an understanding of how to communicate said challenges to others. This enables children and teens to build a positive support network around them. Effective therapies for treating bipolar disorder include many options.

Family-focused therapy helps teens, adolescents, and their family members 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.

Since bipolar disorder can make individuals feel isolated, having everyone on the same page and working together to monitor treatment and support one another is invaluable.

Cognitive behavioral therapyis a form of talk therapy that has been adapted for any number of mental illnesses. 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 manic and depressive symptoms and episodes.

Dialectical behavior therapy focuses on mindfulness and can help children and teens 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.

Psychoeducation equips teens, adolescents, and their families with the facts on bipolar disorder and any co-occurring mental health conditions. 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 children and teens with bipolar disorder who are stable, yet still struggle with the condition in their daily lives. Depending on a child’s symptoms, a residential treatment program can be the most effective option.

Residential mental health treatment offers a targeted, intensive approach that can focus on the unique issues a teen or adolescent faces with their condition. With a host of treatment options available and the support of staff members, 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.

Adolescent and Teen Bipolar Disorder Treatment at Paradigm

At Paradigm Treatment, we offer a compassionate, evidence-based treatment plan for teens and adolescents with bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions. Our residential mental health services offer the following benefits:

  • An industry-leading staff-to-client ratio
  • A unique emphasis on daily individual therapy
  • Weekly instances of family therapy
  • A tight-knit community of experienced staff and clients dedicated to growth

At our facility, 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 your child is dealing with symptoms of bipolar disorder and needs effective coping strategies, let us help. We understand the needs your teen or adolescent has and we offer comprehensive treatment for bipolar disorder and mood disorders.

Regardless of the severity and effects of your child’s symptoms of bipolar disorder, Paradigm is here to assist your family today. Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can help your teen or adolescent manage bipolar symptoms and find healing and freedom today.


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