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How to Help a Teen with Bipolar Disorder 

bipolar disorder in teenagers

As a parent, seeing your teenager struggle with bipolar disorder can be challenging and overwhelming. Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition that affects a significant number of teenagers.  

Understanding the nature of the disorder and knowing how to provide the right support is essential in helping your teen navigate through this difficult time. This article will explore what bipolar disorder is, common signs in teens and adolescents, the precarious link between bipolar disorder and addiction, and effective ways to support your child’s well-being. 

Understanding Bipolar Disorder in Teens  

Bipolar disorder is a type of depression characterized by extreme mood swings that go beyond the normal ups and downs experienced in daily life, making it distinct from regular teen mood swings. Teenagers with bipolar disorder may have periods of intense elation, happiness, and elevated mood, known as mania. Yet, these episodes are often followed by periods of major depression, resulting in a rollercoaster of emotions for the affected individual.  

While it’s natural for teenagers to experience mood swings, it is essential to differentiate between typical adolescent behavior and the extreme mood shifts that may indicate the presence of bipolar disorder. Recognizing the symptoms of bipolar disorder in teens is crucial for providing timely intervention and support. 

Common Signs of Bipolar Disorder in Teens 

Depressive Symptoms: Teens with bipolar disorder may exhibit lasting feelings of sadness, despair, guilt, low self-esteem, and thoughts of self-harm. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, experience changes in appetite or weight, have trouble sleeping and struggle with relationships. 

Manic Symptoms: During manic episodes, teens may display overly inflated self-esteem, a decreased need for sleep, extreme irritability, engaging in high-risk activities, and rapid, excessive speech. They might feel euphoric and exhibit poor judgment, which can lead to reckless behavior. 

Remember, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary from one individual to another. If you notice any of these signs in your teen, seeking professional help is crucial. 

The Connection Between Bipolar Disorder and Addiction  

Research has shown that bipolar disorder is often comorbid, meaning it exists alongside other psychological disorders, including addiction. Adolescents with bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse issues, which can exacerbate the symptoms of both conditions. As a parent, it is essential to be aware of this connection and address it promptly. 

Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder in Teens  

Early intervention and proper treatment are vital for managing bipolar disorder in teens. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry typically recommends treatment involving medication and psychotherapy. 


Mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs, commonly used to treat bipolar disorder in adults, have also proven effective for teens. However, some parents may have concerns about their child taking medication due to potential side effects. It is essential to have open and honest discussions with healthcare providers about the benefits and risks of medication. 


Psychotherapy plays a crucial role in helping teens with bipolar disorder. Therapies such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT) can teach valuable coping skills, help establish regular routines, and manage stressors effectively. Family-focused therapy (FFT) is also beneficial in reducing symptom severity and relapse rates for both adolescents and adults. 

Lifestyle Modifications 

Encouraging healthy lifestyle changes can significantly impact a teen’s well-being. Regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep are essential components of managing bipolar disorder. Additionally, creating a supportive and understanding environment at home can contribute to a teen’s overall stability and recovery. 

With a comprehensive and individualized treatment approach, teens with bipolar disorder can find relief from their symptoms and work towards leading fulfilling lives. 

Supporting Your Teen: Creating a Positive Environment  

As a parent, you play a critical role in your teen’s journey with bipolar disorder. Here are some key ways you can support and understand your child better: 

Educate Yourself 

Take the time to learn more about bipolar disorder, its symptoms, and treatment options. Knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions and provide the best care possible for your teen. 

Communication is Key 

Encourage open and honest communication with your teen. Listen to their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Offering a safe space for your teen to express themselves can strengthen your bond and provide emotional support. 

Be Patient and Understanding 

Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging for your teen. Be patient and understanding during difficult times. Offer reassurance and let them know you are there for them, no matter what. 

Seek Professional Help 

Consult with mental health professionals experienced in treating bipolar disorder in teens. They can provide expert guidance and support tailored to your child’s needs. 

Address Co-occurring Conditions 

If your teen struggles with substance abuse or other issues alongside bipolar disorder, address both conditions simultaneously. Treating co-occurring disorders is essential for effective and lasting recovery. 

Helping a teen with bipolar disorder requires compassion, patience, and a commitment to their well-being. By understanding the nature of bipolar disorder, recognizing its signs, and seeking appropriate treatment, parents can provide the necessary support to help their teens thrive. Creating a nurturing environment that fosters open communication and understanding can significantly impact your teen’s journey toward recovery and a better quality of life. 

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Reach out to mental health professionals, support groups, and other parents facing similar challenges. Together, we can help our teens overcome the hurdles of bipolar disorder and embrace a brighter future. 

To learn more about mental health disorders or to seek the help of a mental health professional, do not hesitate to call Turnbridge. Turnbridge is a recognized mental health treatment provider with both inpatient and outpatient programs for young men and women. Call 877-581-1793 to speak with a treatment specialist today.