Bipolar is a mood disorder that affects mood, emotions, and perception. The main characterizing symptom of this disorder is a swing in moods from depression to mania. Typically, euphoria, elation, racing thoughts, irritability, and substance use are common symptoms of a manic episode. The symptoms of depression that certain imbalances in the brain can cause are decreased energy, insomnia, fatigue, agitation, and suicidal thoughts. Both of these experiences can lead to risky situations for teens. In fact, because Bipolar Disorder can be difficult to manage, sometimes even with mental health treatment, teens may develop other problems in addition to the illness.
The following is a list of potential issues that parents, caregivers, and teachers should be aware of when a teen is facing the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:
Substance use and possible addiction – In order to manage the ups and downs of mania and depression, a teen may quite easily turn to drugs and alcohol. This is especially true if teens are surrounded by peers who use substances themselves. In addition to this, teens with bipolar disorder tend to engage in risky behavior, especially when feeling manic. And one type of dangerous behavior that can come with addiction is substance use.
Other risky behavior that leads to injury or harm – Teens in general can engage in risky behavior, such as driving too fast or spending too much money or driving under the influence of substances. And those teens with Bipolar Disorder may be more susceptible to risky behavior, including acting on suicidal thoughts or deciding to something dangerous prompted by a manic thought. Although mania may sound like an excited and elevated mood, it brings intensity, dangerous choices, risky behavior, and often little awareness of any potential consequences.
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – Depression, which is a significant component of Bipolar Disorder, can come with lack of concentration and focus. And for some teens, this inability to focus may become so severe that they are diagnosed with ADHD. Of course, having both illnesses can impair a teen’s school performance, relationships, and self-confidence.
An anxiety disorder such as separation anxiety, social anxiety, or PTSD – At times, anxiety can accompany depression. And anxiety can also be a part of a teen’s manic experience as well. Not to mention teens may feel self conscious about their symptoms, which can contribute to social anxiety. And in other cases, teens with bipolar disorder may develop a phobia of a place or circumstance that they feel contributed to their recent episodes depression or mania.
Sexual activity and possibly pregnancy – Research indicates that one in every seven female teens will have a child before the age of 20. In general, the birth rate for girls between the ages of 15-19 is 29 per every 1000. Furthermore, one study, published in the journal Pediatrics, revealed that female adolescents who already have a mental illness are more likely to become pregnant than teenage girls without a mental health diagnosis
If you are a parent or caregiver of a teen with Bipolar Disorder, watch for signs of dangerous or risky behavior and take any necessary precaution. As you might imagine, teens with this illness need the proper attention, care, and mental health treatment to support their well being.