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Teen Health

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Teens and Bipolar Disorder

What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder? continued...

In adults, bipolar mood swings can last for weeks to months. Teens may experience much shorter mood swings, going from mania or hypomania to depression in a few short hours or days.

Between episodes, a person with bipolar disorder usually returns to normal (or near-normal) functioning. For some people, though, there is little or no "break period" between their cycles.

Some people with bipolar disorder turn to alcohol and drugs because they feel temporarily better when they're high. But substance abuse can make the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse. It also makes the condition harder for doctors to diagnose and treat.

How Is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

If your doctor determines you have bipolar disorder, he or she may prescribe one or more medications, depending on the type and severity of the symptoms.

Some drugs often used to stabilize mania or hypomania include lithium carbonate, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines. Lithium and lamotrigine (Lamictal) are standard treatments for the depressed phase of bipolar disorder. Doctors are cautious in using antidepressants alone, as they might trigger a manic mood swing.

Psychotherapy can help the patient and family learn more about the illness and how to cope with the mood changes. Because of the relapses and remissions of bipolar disorder, the illness has a high rate of recurrence if untreated.

When Should I Call the Doctor About Bipolar Disorder?

If you have symptoms of bipolar disorder, talk to your doctor. It may be nothing at all. Or, your doctor might refer you to a bipolar specialist, a psychiatrist, or psychopharmacologist, for a second opinion and accurate diagnosis. (A psychopharmacologist is a psychiatrist who is an expert in using medications to treat psychiatric chemical imbalances.)

The specialist will talk to you about your symptoms. After a physical exam and patient history, the specialist will rule out other possible causes of depression and mania, such as medications, alcohol, illicit drug use, illnesses such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, or injuries to the central nervous system.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on August 03, 2014
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