What Are Signs of Bipolar Disorder in Children?

Signs of bipolar disorder in children include a combination of several symptoms, such as rapidly changing moods that last a few days or hours, defiance of authority, hyperactivity and agitation, destructive rages, and extreme sadness or a lack of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable, according to PsychCentral. Children with bipolar disorder may also experience separation anxiety, impaired judgment and impulsivity, and inappropriate sexual behavior.

Additional symptoms of bipolar disorder in children may include strong and frequent cravings for sweets or carbohydrates, dare-devil behaviors, grandiose beliefs in their abilities, and an inability to sleep or sleeping too much, explains PsychCentral. Some children with bipolar disorder may also experience night terrors, bed wetting, and a need to be overinvolved in activities and projects.

When these symptoms occur alone, they are frequently part of normal childhood development; it is when they occur in combination that bipolar disorder may be present. Medical professionals evaluate the signs of bipolar disorder in children to determine whether or not multiple symptoms combined indicate the disorder exists, according to PsycCentral. A health care professional often evaluates children in many settings for at least two weeks to determine consistency of symptoms, rapid mood swings at both home and school, and the existence of hyperactivity.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder cycle rapidly in young children, alternating between manic stages with extreme hyperactivity and depressive stages characterized by low energy and extreme bouts of sadness, according to WebMD. The disorder is often difficult to diagnose in children because the symptoms are similar to mood disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

Bipolar disorder is more common in teenagers and young adults, but children as young as 6 years old can exhibit symptoms of the disorder, explains WebMD.