How To Tell If Your Teen Is Bipolar

Apr 13, 2021 | Adolescent Treatment, Bipolar, Mental Health

Bipolar disorder is a serious mood disorder in which the individual faces extreme mood patterns. People with bipolar disorder experience a lot of physical, mental, emotional, and behavioural problems.

As teens are already experiencing a lot of changes in all areas of life, you may find it difficult to know whether the changes are normal or indicate something serious. Being parents, it is then compulsory to understand the signs and identify if your teen has bipolar disorder or not.

Bipolar means two poles. The individual with bipolar disorder experiences two extremes of mood; mania or hypomania, the mild form of mania, and depression.

Teenagers with bipolar disorder experience both phases, the manic phase, and the depressive phase. These are mood episodes. In the manic stage, a teenager feels extremely excited and passionate about everything. And you will find out later in this article that this is not the normal excitement that one feels. While, in the depressive stage, a teenager feels very sad and hopeless losing interest and pleasure in almost everything. Teens may also get irritated and aggressive during the depressive cycle.

So how can you differentiate between normal teenage mood swings and bipolar? To discriminate, you must know its signs.

Symptoms Of The Manic Episode:

A manic episode is usually characterized by an excessively cheerful, euphoric, and feeling on top of the world. Some of the symptoms of a manic episode are listed below.

  • Short temper: Teens with manic episodes may have anger issues. They may get aggressive on small things and do not have any control over their vigorous emotions.
  • Excitation about anything: Teenage life is full of excitement. But teens with bipolar disorder get excited about everything. Their goal-directed activities increase, starting many projects at the same time. And they involve excessively in activities, especially adventurous ones without caring about the consequences.
  • Lack of concentration: Teens in manic episodes are so excited to do different things that they can’t remain focused on one thing. They have a lot of ideas in their mind feeling that their thoughts are racing.
  • Sleepless nights but no tiredness: The excitation and desire to accomplish tasks may keep them awake. Even if they do not get enough sleep, they do not feel tired at all.
  • Inflated ego problems: Teens experiencing manic episodes become self-obsessed and eventually develop superiority complexes. Overestimation of abilities without any clear evidence and experience is also a sign of mania.
  • Talking excessively: Teens with bipolar disorder tend to speak violently and quickly. They do not have enough listening capability and do not let others speak. Rather, they just want to discuss their thoughts and perception with others. If your teen is in a manic episode, you may find your teen starting extensive conversations with anyone in public.

Symptoms of Depressive Episode:

On the other hand, a depressive episode of bipolar disorder fulfills the criteria of Major depressive disorder. Some symptoms of a depressive episode are:

  • Regularly crying over small things: Teens experiencing depression feel hopeless and may stay quiet all the time. They feel emotions intensely, especially sadness. Even small things make them cry. They may isolate themselves and avoid gatherings as a result of depressed mood and loss of interest in things around them.
  • Suffer from headaches and stomachaches: During a depressive episode, teens may feel stressed and complain about headaches and stomachaches.
  • Feel guilty about everything: One of the common signs of depression is excessive inappropriate guilt. In the depressive episode, your teen may feel overwhelmed about decisions and feel hyper-sensitive. They also tend to experience self-defeating thoughts and criticize themselves for everything.
  • Become aggressive quickly: Not every child and teen displays signs of depression in the form of sadness. Some teens become annoyed at small things and exhibit irritability and aggression.
  • Eating and sleeping habits may change: Undergoing a depressive episode, your teen may experience a lack or increase in appetite resulting in weight loss or weight gain. Another sign is insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Indecisiveness: Depression diminishes the ability to concentrate and make decisions. Your teen may even find difficulty in making everyday choices such as choosing coffee or tea.

Teens may worry about this disorder itself and they get upset or become frustrated with such symptoms without knowing the real cause. It is important to recognize that mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are much more intense and disruptive than the normal mood swings that are typically associated with being a teenager.

Bipolar disorder is a severe mental illness that may cause other problems such as involvement in criminal activities, substance abuse, etc. It severely impacts the normal functioning of your teen. To recognize, prevent and treat the bipolar disorder your teen is experiencing, understanding the cause will be of great help.

Causes Of Bipolar Disorder:

Different genetics and environmental factors that affect brain chemistry have a major role in bipolar disorder in teens. Below are some of the causes that affect teenage mood.

  • Family genetics: If you or any member of your family has bipolar disorder, your teen is more likely to develop it. And the reason is family genetics. However, many people with families who have a history of bipolar disorder do not acquire it.
  • Brain structure: Although the exact cause is not known, family history and environmental factors do affect brain chemistry and development. Some neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are also involved in the onset of bipolar disorder. Moreover, concussions and traumatic injuries in the brain can boost the risk of emerging bipolar disorder in teenagers.
  • Environmental factors: Traumatic and different stressful events, e.g., the death of a close family relation, can also trigger the onset of the bipolar depressive episode. Different hormones such as stress hormones and the capability of teenagers in controlling or handling such stressful situations have a major role in the progression of mood episodes in them.

Tips For Parents To Help Teens:

If you identify that your teen is suffering from bipolar disorder, then find out what you can do to help your teen cope with the condition.

  • Education about bipolar disorder: How can you help your teen if you don’t know what your teen is going through? Hence, equip yourself with all the knowledge and understanding about the disorder. Understanding bipolar disorder can aid you to learn exactly what your teen is suffering from and how you can help them effectively.
  • Patience and kindness: You may get worried and tend to get aggressive and frustrated by your teen’s behavior. But your calm and kind attitude may help them a lot. So be a role model for them. Stay calm and be patient to support them in this condition.
  • Encouragement: Encourage your teen to talk. Ask them about certain conditions like what they are going through. Or you can talk about what they feel and what they want you to do?Let them understand that it is perfectly alright to speak about their feelings and make them comfortable. It will help you bolster your relationship with them.
  • Listening to their problems with compassion: If a person listens to you very carefully and focuses on what you are talking about, this instantly boosts your morale. That is how your teen feels supported and loved when they get to know that you listen to them and understand their problems.
  • Work as a team: You and your teen can work simultaneously to keep a track of how your teen feels and get to know how intense their mood swings may be. It can help you and your teen to identify the triggers and make plans to better cope with the situation.

Development of a healthy routine and lifestyle:

Proper routines and activities may balance your teen’s moods and help them to build a healthy lifestyle as well. Eating habits and keeping a healthy sleep cycle, dodging drugs and alcohol can aid your teen in better managing the symptoms of this disorder. You can encourage your teen to do the following:

  • Write about the daily schedule.
  • Preparation for each day
  • Development of healthy eating habits.
  • Development of healthy sleeping habits.
  • Socializing with family and close friends.
  • Exercise daily and work out for at least 30 minutes to boost up health.


Although bipolar disorder is a serious mental disorder, prompt treatment and a good support system can help your teen to lead a normal life. When you encounter a condition where you find that your child is suffering from bipolar disorder, the best thing you can do is consult a professional immediately. Seeking help from a professional will reduce the harmful consequences of the disorder. Your teen will learn strategies to cope with the symptoms of this disorder and to prevent it from occurring in the future.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.