Missy is fifteen and often experiences extreme lows and extreme highs. One day she’s in a good mood and gets along with her family, friends, and teachers, and the next she goes into explosive rages and trashes her bedroom, lashes out at her loved ones, or hides in her bedroom and seems deeply depressed.
Jamey is sixteen and is in a constant battle with his parents about almost everything—from curfew to grades, to chores, to driving privileges. The last straw was when he shoved his father when he refused to give him the car keys. He complains that he has no control over his life and that his life feels like a roller coaster.
We all know that the teenage years are full of emotions, moodiness, hormones, and ups and downs. Having mood swings is normal as a teenager, but when a teen experiences these for prolonged periods of time or acts out in ways that are uncharacteristic, it could be symptomatic of a disorder known as bipolar disorder.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
The National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH, defies Bipolar disorder as “a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks”. It occurs in approximately 2% of the U.S. population. Mood disorders are typically episodic (recurrent), and suicide is a high risk for people with these disorders. Tragically, 15% of people suffering from recurrent depressive disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder kill themselves. This rate is 30 times greater than that of the general population.
It doesn’t mean your teen is “crazy” or a lost cause. It simply means s/he needs professional attention.
Identifying the Symptoms
- Extreme emotions (highs and lows) including depression and mania.
- Crying one minute, laughing the next. This is called mixed features and can occur during manic episodes.
- Disruption of patterns in sleep and appetite. Sleeping too much can indicate a depressed episode, while not sleeping much is a symptom of mania. Changes in appetite can result in weight loss or weight gain.
- Mood episodes that are quite outside the teen’s normal personality.
Because bipolar disorder affects the teenager as well as his or her family and loved ones, help is available to all. The symptoms are a cry for help; not just bad behavior.
Dual diagnosis is the term used when a mental disorder such as Bipolar Disorder is present in tandem with substance abuse. Roughly 29% of people suffering from mental illness also abuse drugs or alcohol. Teens suffering from mental illness sometimes self-medicate as a way to alleviate symptoms or to alleviate the anxiety associated with their symptoms. It can be very difficult to properly diagnose a person who is abusing substances such as drugs or alcohol, and sobriety is necessary to identify the root cause of such actions, as well as to treat the underlying diagnosis. If your teen is struggling with mental illness and abusing drugs or alcohol, they need help immediately.
Types of Treatment Available
Teen rehab is presented at many different levels. Some treatment is outpatient, where the teen attends weekly sessions with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. Group therapy may also be recommended, where the teen receives support from fellow teens experiencing the same issues. Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP) can range from 3 hours a day 3 days a week to more. Partial Hospitalization (PHP) is a full-day program 5 days a week while your teen lives at home.
The highest sub-acute type of treatment is residential treatment, which is designed for more serious cases of bipolar disorder. This is where the teen resides at the facility while receiving comprehensive, intensive services round the clock. These services include medication management, therapy, group therapy, behavior modification, family counseling, recreational/art/music therapy, addictions counseling, academic services, and more.
Both outpatient and residential may involve medications at the direction of a psychiatrist. The type and level of care depend on the individual needs of the teen, and thorough evaluations are used to determine this for each person.
Help is Available
It can be frustrating and isolating thinking that you or a teen that you care about has to deal with bipolar disorder alone. There is no need to feel helpless when assistance is just a phone call away.
At Ascend Healthcare, teens struggling with bipolar disorder are presented with individually-tailored and proven treatment modalities presented in a nurturing, calming environment. We teach adolescents how to emotionally self-regulate in a healthy and safe manner while empowering them to understand and properly contextualize their feelings. If your child or a teen you know is struggling with bipolar disorder, give us a call at 747-247-2176 for a free consultation.
When to Know When Your Teen Needs Help or Residential Treatment
If your teen has attended outpatient therapy and it doesn’t seem to work, or if your teen’s symptoms have returned or are intensifying (especially with suicidal ideations), or if a mental health professional suggests it, you may want to consider residential treatment.
Rehabilitation for teens living with bipolar disorder may seem impossible, but with the right form of treatment, be it in-patient, residential, outpatient, or a combination, many adolescents are able to manage and live successfully with this diagnosis.