Bipolar Disorder in Children: Helping Your Child Prevent Manic Episodes
The more you know about
bipolar disorder, the better you will be able to help
your child or teen cope with this serious mental health problem. There are many steps your
child can take to help avoid manic episodes and to recognize and deal with an
episode when symptoms begin. Your child or teen should:
Exercise, eat a balanced diet, establish a regular sleep schedule, and keep a consistent routine. This can help reduce minor mood swings that
often lead to more severe episodes of mania.
according to the doctor's instructions to help reduce the number of manic
Avoid triggers such as caffeine, alcohol and drug use,
and stress to help prevent manic episodes.
Learn the warning signs
and seek early treatment to avoid more severe, prolonged manic
Have a plan of action in place and a support system to
help follow the plan when symptoms of a manic episode start.
certain people at school or at home who know how to help during a manic
Know the warning signs
Learn to recognize the early warning signs of a new manic episode. This is one of the most important ways to avoid a full-blown
manic episode. If you catch the episode in its early stages, your child may be
able to avoid an intense manic episode by avoiding triggers that are causing
the new mood change. You may want to keep a chart to record your child's mood
changes and the things that may trigger those changes.
General behaviors linked with a manic
Abnormal happiness (euphoria).
Long-lasting or intense outbursts or
Unrealistic feelings of self-importance. (These feelings are called delusions of
Intense energy levels that last a long period of
A decreased need for sleep.
talkativeness that is hard to interrupt.
Racing thoughts and
distractibility—attention constantly moving from one thing to the
An intense focus on sexual thoughts, feelings, or behaviors
(hypersexuality); use of explicit sexual language.
An intense focus
on reaching a goal or pursuing a hobby. For example, a child who likes to write poetry may stay up all night writing pages of poems.
Dangerous or reckless behavior. For example, a
young child may think he or she can fly and jump off a roof. A teen may drive
too fast, spend money unwisely, or have unprotected sex.
Extreme behavior that causes problems on the job, at school, in
social situations, or at home.
psychosis (detachment from reality). These may include hearing
voices or being paranoid.
Managing manic episodes
best way to manage a manic episode is to help your child avoid triggers that
can cause mood swings and conditions that might make manic feelings more
intense. Some simple lifestyle adjustments can help. Work with your child to:
Keep a stable sleep pattern. Your child should go to bed around the same time each night and
wake up around the same time each morning. Changing sleep patterns can cause
chemical changes in the body that trigger mood episodes.
Keep a regular daily routine. Your child should follow a
routine of trying to do the same things every day at about the same
Set realistic goals. Setting high
goals and focusing too hard on achieving them can trigger a manic
Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. It
may be tempting for your child to use alcohol or drugs to help get through a
manic episode. But this will make the mood changes worse. Even small amounts
can interfere with sleep, mood, or medicines used to treat bipolar disorder.
Nonprescription medicines for a cold, allergies, or pain can also trigger a
change in mood.
Get help from family and friends. Your child will sometimes need help getting through a manic
episode, especially if he or she loses touch with reality. Having a plan in
place before any mood changes occur will assist family members and friends in
getting the needed help. Remember, though, that these mood changes can
sometimes be upsetting to loved ones. These people may also need to
Reduce stress at home and at school or work. Your child should try to keep regular hours at school and at
work. Doing a good job is important. But avoiding a depressive or manic mood
episode is more important. Communicate with your child's teachers and guidance
counselor about your child's needs. Academic adjustments or a plan such as an
individualized education program (IEP) may be helpful.
Continue treatment. It may be tempting for your child to
stop treatment because he or she feels better. Or maybe your child enjoys the euphoric
feeling of a manic episode. But it is very important to continue treatment as
prescribed to avoid the unpleasant consequences linked with mania. If you
have concerns about treatment or the side effects of your child's medicines,
talk with your doctor. Do not adjust the medicine on your own.
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
David A. Axelson, MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.