Bipolar Treatment for Kids

It’s normal for children and teenagers to experience ups, downs, and mood swings. However, bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that involves severe mood changes and affects the child’s everyday life. Learn more about the disorder and bipolar treatment for kids.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression, is characterized by periods of mania and depressive episodes. During manic episodes, the child experiences manic symptoms, such as an abnormally elevated mood and high energy level. Conversely, the child experiences depressive symptoms, such as loss of energy and low self-esteem, during their depressive episodes. These intense shifts in mood can last for hours, weeks, or even months.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that varies in severity from person to person. It can impact a child’s ability to function in daily life, especially with school or after-school activities. With severe mood swings, day-to-day tasks become more difficult. 

Risk Factors in Adolescents

Whether or not a person develops bipolar disorder involves a combination of genetic, environmental, and biological factors like family history. Adolescents that have a family history of bipolar disorder are more likely to be diagnosed themselves. A controlled study by David Axelson and Boris Birmaher for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry determined that children with early onset bipolar spectrum disorders and a family history of the disorder are the most likely to progress to bipolar I or bipolar II disorder.

Trauma, which can also cause other mental health disorders, can also trigger bipolar disorder. (Traumatic experiences can include long-term neglect or abuse throughout childhood.) While these factors pose an increased risk for bipolar disorder in children, their presence does not guarantee the child will develop a mood disorder. Other mental health issues can arise, or the child may not be affected long-term.

Warning Signs

Even though bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood, it is harder to spot the signs. In adults, mood episodes can last for weeks or months, making it easier to tell the difference. But, young children can go through multiple manic episodes and depressive episodes all on the same day. When this occurs, it can be hard to determine if the underlying problem is bipolar disorder or something else like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, or an anxiety disorder

Some warning signs of bipolar disorder in children include the following:

      • Extreme mood swings
      • Changes in energy level
      • Sudden weight gain or weight loss
      • Rapid speech or racing thoughts
      • Difficulty concentrating
      • Changes in sleep patterns
      • Engaging in risky behaviors
      • Suicidal thoughts or self-harm

*If this is an emergency, please call 911 or the suicide helpline at 1-800-273-8255.

Residential treatment facility at Meridian.

Find Help for Bipolar Disorder in Children

If your child is struggling with a mood disorder, Meridian HealthCare can help. Our compassionate counselors are trained in evidence-based treatment of bipolar disorder and will determine a treatment plan specific to your child.

Boardman Office

8255 South Ave
Youngstown, OH 44512
Phone: 330-797-0070

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Because of its varying severity, bipolar disorder is on a spectrum. Bipolar spectrum disorders contain a wide range of cases and symptoms. For example, bipolar I disorder involves the most intense mood swings. Bipolar II disorders have milder mood swings with less extreme manic episodes and depressive episodes.

Bipolar spectrum disorders also include mental health issues that do not classify as either bipolar I or bipolar II. Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS) is a catch-all diagnosis for children who do not meet the criteria for bipolar I or bipolar II but experience symptoms and significant mood swings

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can present with varying levels of severity. Since symptoms of manic episodes and depressive episodes are opposite of each other, it’s important to understand both. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes the symptoms of bipolar disorder by distinguishing the difference between manic symptoms and depressive symptoms.

Manic Symptoms:

    • High energy
    • Fast-talking
    • Hallucinations
    • Increased happiness
    • Racing thoughts
    • Spontaneous decision-making
    • Feelings of euphoria
    • Frequent tantrums

Depressive Symptoms:

    • Feeling hopeless or worthless
    • Lack of appetite
    • Changes in sleep patterns
    • Loss of interest in activities
    • Isolation from friends and family members
    • Low self-esteem
    • Low energy
    • Frequent crying
    • Irritability
    • Poor performance in school
    • Stomachs and headaches

Treatment Options for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder

If your child is struggling with bipolar disorder, a trained counselor can evaluate, diagnose, and design treatment options. Most treatment plans include a combination of therapy and medication.

It’s important to remember that treatment plans should be consistent even when the child is not experiencing a manic episode or depressive episode.


Multiple types of therapy can help manage pediatric bipolar disorder. Treatment options may have the child undergoing one or more therapy types throughout their treatment plan. One type of therapy is psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, where the child meets with a counselor to talk through their emotions and issues.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can also be used as a bipolar disorder treatment option. In CBT, the child or young adult learns how their emotions affect their behaviors and how to cope with triggers.

Family therapy can also be used when young patients are managing bipolar disorder. This family-focused therapy allows family members to talk to each other with a trained counselor to discuss their emotions and other family matters.


Medication is often part of bipolar treatment plans since it can help relieve symptoms. However, medication alone is not a cure for bipolar disorder. A mental health care provider may use medication to reduce symptoms of bipolar depression and mania, but the child should still see a counselor regularly to address the underlying issue.

As with any new medication, talk with your clinician about any potential side effects; always follow up with the child’s doctor after taking the new medication.

Different types of medications are used to treat bipolar disorder, including mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics. Some medications address manic symptoms or depressive symptoms, while others minimize the severity of mood swings. According to WebMD, the following medications may be prescribed for bipolar disorder:

      • Lithium (mood stabilizer)
      • Carbamazepine (mood stabilizer)
      • Lamotrigine (mood stabilizer)
      • Olanzapine (antipsychotic)
      • Risperidone (antipsychotic)
      • Aripiprazole (antipsychotic)
      • Ziprasidone (antipsychotic)

The FDA has approved a few antidepressants to be used for bipolar disorder treatment. These medications include lumateperone, quetiapine fumarate, lurasidone (Latuda), and fluoxetine (when combined with olanzapine). A double-blind randomized controlled trial studied the effects and risks of antidepressants for at-risk youth.

Personalized Treatment Plans at Meridian

If your child’s mental health is suffering and they are presenting warning signs of bipolar disorder, the mental health professionals at Meridian HealthCare can help. Our compassionate counselors work diligently to design bipolar treatment for kids who are struggling, and we’re ready to help you find the hope you’ve been searching for.

What do current and recovering patients have to say about Meridian?

Without the help I got from Meridian, I would be dead. I’m so grateful to them for everything they did. Thanks to Meridian, I got my life back.

They actually care. Meridian helped me with my recovery. Really, they saved my life.

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