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Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens (cont.)

What Increases Your Risk

Your child's risk of developing bipolar disorder or other mood disorders is higher if the child:

  • Has a close relative such as a parent, sibling, or grandparent with bipolar disorder or another mood disorder.
  • Has a family history of problems with alcohol or drugs. Such family members may be using alcohol or drugs as a way to deal with a psychological disorder.
  • Has had several episodes of major depression. For every 100 teens with recurring depression, at least 15 are later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.1

When To Call a Doctor

Callor other emergency services immediately if:

  • Your child makes threats or attempts to harm himself or herself or another person.
  • Your child hears voices (has auditory hallucinations).
  • You are a young person and you feel you cannot stop from harming yourself or someone else.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your child's depressive or manic mood symptoms have not improved in 1 to 2 weeks.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach. If you think your child may have bipolar disorder, watchful waiting is not appropriate. Schedule an appointment with your child's doctor for evaluation.

Who to see

It is best to establish a long-term relationship with your child's care providers so that when a depressive or manic episode occurs, the care providers can recognize the changes in the child's behavior and provide quick treatment advice.

You may wish to find a doctor who has special training in children's mental health conditions or experience treating bipolar disorder in young people. Bipolar disorder can be diagnosed and treated by a health professional such as a:

Your child may also benefit from professional counseling to help deal with mood changes and the effects bipolar disorder has on your child's life. A counselor with special training in child mood disorders or experience treating child bipolar disorder may be most helpful. Counseling for bipolar disorder can be provided by a:

Other health professionals who also may be trained in counseling include:

Who to see for family member support

If you are a family member of a child with bipolar disorder, it is very important to get the support and help you need. Living with or caring for someone who has bipolar disorder can be very disruptive to your own life. Manic episodes can be particularly difficult. It may be helpful to seek your own counselor or therapist to help you.

Also, some national support organizations may have a local chapter in your area or provide information on the Internet. Examples of such groups include the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

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