Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by mood shifts that can be extreme. It typically manifests in the late teenage years, but it can begin earlier or later in life.
When bipolar disorder first manifests, especially if it’s during one’s teens, it can be difficult for people to tell the difference between bipolar symptoms and normal teenage mood swings. However, there is a significant difference.
Bipolar disorder is a condition characterized by abnormal mood swings and a host of potential other issues. Unlike regular teenage mood swings, bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that can be disruptive to one’s daily life and their ability to be successful.
Bipolar disorder can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional. However, if you believe the teen in your life has bipolar disorder, this article can help you to determine if they may need intervention. Continue reading to learn more about the differences between bipolar disorder and teenage mood swings and what you can do to help the teen in your life.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
First, it’s important to understand more about what bipolar disorder is and the symptoms that come with this condition before differentiating between this condition and normal mood swings.
Bipolar disorder is a fairly rare condition. According to the National Institue of Mental Health, an estimated 2.9% of adolescents deal with bipolar disorder. It is a condition characterized by extreme highs and extreme lows. The highs are known as “mania” or “hypomania,” and the lows are known as “depressive” periods. Additionally, a change in energy and interest levels is common during periods of mania and depression.
Bipolar disorder can interfere with your teen’s ability to function normally in everyday life. If left untreated, it can have serious consequences as they get older. This is why it’s so important to seek a mental health professional’s help if you believe the teen in your life has bipolar disorder. The sooner you provide intervention, the sooner they can begin their treatment and understand their condition. This can be enormously beneficial as they continue into adulthood.
Bipolar disorder comes along with many symptoms. When evaluating your teen, your mental health professional should take great care to ensure that they’re not mistaking normal mood swings for signs of bipolar. Some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
- Acting unusually happy or inappropriately silly
- Talking very quickly and not pausing for others
- Changing subjects rapidly in a conversation
- Not feeling tired and having a decreased need for sleep
- Having a reduced need for food
- Having a hard time staying focused or completing a task
- Having a short fuse or being very irritable
- Having a grandiose sense of confidence or importance
- Talking or thinking about sex often
- Engaging in sexual activity at a high level (often including risky sex)
- Engaging in impulsive and risky behaviors
- Having a high energy level
- Being extremely sad/depressed
- Feeling guilt or worthlessness
- Complaining about pain (often stomach pains and headaches)
- Crying frequently
- Isolating away from friends and family
- Feeling very lonely
- Having a very low energy level
- Being highly irritable
- Eating too much or too little
How Can I Tell the Difference Between Bipolar Disorder and Mood Swings?
When it comes to determining the difference between bipolar disorder and mood swings, only a mental health professional can provide a clear assessment. However, there are some important things to keep in mind when deciding whether to seek help for your teen. Changes in hormones often cause mood swings in teens. However, bipolar disorder is a medical condition that originates in the brain. It is also a lifelong condition–unlike temporary hormone fluctuations.
When considering whether or not your teen’s behavior is abnormal, trust your instincts. If you feel as though your teen’s “mood swings” are out of the ordinary, then there is likely a good reason why you feel that way. Ignoring you teen really is dealing with a mental health crisis, then ignoring their issues can only serve to make them worse.
Additionally, with bipolar disorder, you will notice abrupt and severe changes in your teen. Unlike mood swings, the highs and lows with bipolar disorder are typically accompanied by changes in energy levels and sleeping habits. Additionally, you may notice other co-occurring conditions in bipolar teens. For example, your teen may experiment heavily with drugs and alcohol when in a manic or depressive state. They may also eat too much or too little, and you may observe weight changes. Furthermore, you may notice severe anxiety or even symptoms of ADHD.
Keep in mind is that it is always helpful for teens to have someone to talk to. Whether or not your teen is experiencing bipolar disorder, if they are acting moody and depressive, they may certainly benefit from meeting with a mental health professional. Teenage years are full of change, responsibility, and fluctuating hormones. These things can make daily life a challenge, so it can be very helpful for your teen to have someone to talk to who is removed from the drama of their everyday life.
Determining the difference between bipolar disorder and mood swings in teens can be extremely difficult. All teens experience changes in hormone levels and may have temporary mood swings as a result. However, bipolar teens experience extreme highs and lows that can be accompanied by a host of other issues. They will exhibit manic and depressive symptoms and will likely find them disruptive to their daily lives without treatment.
If you believe the teen in your life might be living with bipolar disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that must be treated properly. Mental health professionals may recommend several treatments, including medication and talk therapy. You can also check out residential mental health facilities for teenagers.
Remember to approach your teen with care and understanding when discussing your concerns. Bipolar disorder can be jarring for everyone, but it’s important that your teen knows you support them. Making sure to provide them with a safe channel of communication is an essential step towards improving their quality of life and encouraging them to get the help they need.