Early Onset Bipolar Disorder

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health {http://www.nimh.nih.gov}, early onset bipolar disorder can begin well before adolescence.  Symptoms of early-onset bipolar disorder seem to be more severe than the forms of bipolar disorder that first appear in older teens and adults, with an increased frequency and intensity of mood swings, somatic illness, and mixed episodes. There is a significantly greater risk for attempting suicide with early onset bipolar disorder, with studies indicating as many as one-third of study participants making at least one serious suicide attempt. With the understanding that suicide attempts can take any number of forms, both carefully planned and impulsive in nature, it is extremely important to recognize any suicidal feeling and action as a symptom of this illness that must be taken seriously treated immediately.


When considering symptoms of any bipolar disorder it is important to remember that mood swings do not involve normal changes in mood and energy, or even emotional responses that may have an unusual increase in intensity as an appropriate response to a particularly intense life occurrence.  Bipolar symptoms tend to be unusually extreme and prolonged, lasting for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least one week. Depressive or manic episodes in early onset bipolar disorder also differ from normal childhood mood patterns, with symptoms often severe enough to warrant in-patient hospitalization evaluation and treatment.




Mood Changes


ü       Persistent and frenzied and/or hysterical feelings of euphoria

ü       Delusions of grandeur, extravagance, authority, and/or influence

ü       Irrational or unreasonable anxiety, irritability or anger.


Behavioral Changes


ü       Extended episodes of insomnia with unusually high levels of energy

ü       Excessive impulsivity in talking and/or racing thoughts

ü       Difficulty concentrating on one topic, scattered and disorganized speech patterns

ü       Uninhibited, irresponsible, and inappropriate speech, thought, or activity patterns focused on flirtation, seduction, and sex

ü       Seeking and engaging in multiple potentially dangerous and risky activities focused on instant gratification.




Mood Changes


ü       Persistent and excessive sorrow, melancholy, and/or misery

ü       Loss of interest, motivation, and/or enjoyment for previously preferred activities

ü       Irrepressible feelings of uselessness, worthlessness, futility, and/or guilt.


Behavioral Changes


ü       Complaints of extended and/or unresponsive pain or illness

ü       Significant changes in appetite or weight

ü       Unusual insomnia despite exhaustion

ü       Feeling listless, lethargic, and sluggish

ü       Recurring thoughts of death or suicide


Very Common Symptoms of Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder

  • Separation anxiety
  • Rages & explosive temper tantrums (lasting up to several hours)
  • Marked irritability
  • Oppositional behavior
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Distractibility
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Restlessness/ fidgetiness
  • Silliness, goofiness, giddiness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Grandiosity
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Depressed mood
  • Lethargy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Social anxiety
  • Oversensitivity to emotional or environmental triggers

Common Symptoms of Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder

  • Bed-wetting (especially in boys)
  • Night terrors
  • Rapid or pressured speech
  • Obsessional behavior
  • Excessive daydreaming
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Motor & vocal tics
  • Learning disabilities
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Lack of organization
  • Fascination with gore or morbid topics
  • Hypersexuality
  • Manipulative behavior
  • Bossiness
  • Lying
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Destruction of property
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations & delusions