Symptoms, Causes, and Overlapping Conditions Bipolar Disorder

An adolescent may undergo the usual ups and downs of being a teen; however, in some cases, one might observe that the behavior displayed by the teen is erratic. A teen may exhibit a long period of mania followed by a long period of intense sadness. Such a teen could be suffering from bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Teens

In bipolar disorder, the symptoms of a manic episode are very different from that of a depressive episode. While teens may suffer from the same mood disturbances as adults with bipolar disorder, in teens, the depressive phase lasts longer than the manic episode. A teenager having a manic episode may show the following symptoms:

  • Extremely short temper
  • Talking quickly and excitedly about a lot of stuff, at times unrelated
  • Inability to focus on something for long
  • Hopping from one task to another
  • Not feeling tired and unable to sleep
  • Feeling immensely happy and acting silly
  • Indulging in risky behaviors like drinking while driving
  • Displaying compulsive behaviors like binge shopping
  • Becoming sexually hyper

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

To date, the exact causes of bipolar disorder have not been established. However, it is hypothesized that a combination of factors like genes, brain structure, and environment could be responsible. You can see more information at


Teens with a family history of bipolar disorder are at increased susceptibility to developing the disorder. If a parent or a sibling has the disorder, they are also likely to develop it. However, most people with relatives who have bipolar disorder usually do not develop it.

Brain Structure

Even though doctors have not been able to detect bipolar disorder using brain scans, scientists have found minor differences in the brain activity and size of the brain in people grappling with the disorder. Additionally, scientists also believe that traumatic head injuries and concussions also increase a person’s predisposition to developing the disorder.

Environmental Factors

Traumatic or stressful events can predict the first onset of bipolar disorder. In addition, stress hormones and how a teen handles stress also play a role in disease development.

Overlapping Conditions

Teens struggling with bipolar disorder may also be struggling with other conditions and behavioral problems, which may overlap with mood episodes. These disorders or behavioral problems could be substance abuse disorder, alcohol addiction, ADHD, conduct disorder, PTSD, separation anxiety, panic attacks, and social anxiety disorder.


Teens struggling with bipolar disorder are at an increased probability of committing suicide. Warning signs could be:

  • Being excessively obsessed with death
  • Giving away cherished possessions
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Losing interest in activities once loved
  • Having intense feelings of hopelessness and sadness

It is important that parents talk to their teens and identify the warning signs of suicide ideation. If a parent feels that their teen is at an increased risk of committing suicide, they should

  • Call the local emergency number or 911
  • Stay with the teen till the time help arrives
  • Remove all substances, such as medications, guns, knives, etc. that may cause harm
  • Encourage the teen to keep talking while listening to them without threatening or judging them