Bipolar Disorder Resource Center

Last updated July 2022


Bipolar Resource Center ImageBipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes severe or unusual shifts in mood, energy level, thinking, and behavior. People with bipolar disorder experience episodes of mania where they have overly happy or extremely irritable moods and increases in energy. They can also have episodes of depression. While everyone has good and bad moods, the unprovoked and intense highs and lows of people with bipolar disorder can be unpredictable, extreme, and debilitating. Bipolar disorder occurs in all age groups, young and old. Until recently, bipolar disorder in children and adolescents was thought to be an extremely rare condition, but it may, in fact, be more common than previously thought.

Many parents are challenged by a child who has extreme changes in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior. Careful evaluation will find that some of these children are suffering from a mental disorder. Yet, only a very few of those will have bipolar disorder.

For additional information see:

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What causes bipolar disorder?
  2. What are the symptoms of pediatric bipolar disorder?
  3. What are the consequences of bipolar disorder
  4. What types of treatment are available?

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Facts for Families

AACAP's Facts for Families provide concise up-to-date information on issues that affect children, teenagers, and their families.

Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens

Preventing and Managing Medication-Related Weight

Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part I - How Medications are Used

Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents: Part II - Types of Medications

Services in School for Children with Special Needs: What Parents Need to Know

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Video Clips

Bipolar Disorder
Boris Birmaher, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Co-Director, University of Pittsburgh
Medical Center Bipolar Institute
Chair, Early Onset Bipolar Disorder
University of Pittsburgh and
Glenn Kashurba, M.D.
(Feb 2008)
duration: 02:54

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Clinical Resources 

Information about Choices in Psychotherapy Treatment
Treatment for bipolar disorder comes in the form of medication and psychotherapy treatment. Both are important elements of a comprehensive treatment plan. For children and adolescents with bipolar disorder, getting enough sleep and developing skills to monitor moods is an essential part of effective treatment. There are several psychotherapies that are being studied for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

To learn more about the types of psychotherapy that are available to help children and adolescents with mental illness, click here.

Information about Choices in Medication
Parents who have a child or adolescent with bipolar disorder, or any mental health condition, are often left facing difficult decisions regarding medication.

Learn more about how psychiatric medication is used to treat children and adolescents

Learn more about the types of psychiatric medication that are available to treat children and adolescents with mental health disorder

View up-to-date information about advances in psychopharmacological treatment for mood disorders

AACAP has produced medication guides to help patients, families, and physicians make informed decisions about obtaining and administering appropriate care for a child with ADHD, depression, or bipolar disorder.

Rating Scales to Assist in Diagnosis
The Child Mania Rating Scale–Parent Version (CMRS-P) is an assessment tool that helps clinicians differentiate bipolar disorder from other childhood behavioral disorders, such as ADHD. This rating scale collects information from parents and can be completed in approximately 15 minutes. Child Mania Rating Scale Parent Version.

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Research and Training 

Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Assessment of a Person-Level Risk Calculator to Predict New-Onset Bipolar Spectrum Disorder in Youth at Familial Risk
Hafeman DM, Merranko J, Goldstein TR, et al.
JAMA Psychiatry. 2017; 74(8):841-847

The Bipolar Prodrome: Meta-Analysis of Symptom Prevalence Prior to Initial or Recurrent Mood Episodes
Van Meter AR, Burke C, Youngstrom EA, Faedda GL, Correl CU.
J Am Acad CHild Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016; 55(7): 543-555

Correlates of Overweight and Obesity Among Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A)
Goldstein Bl, Blanco C, He JP, Merikangas K.
J Am Acad CHild Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016; 55(12): 1020-1026

Differentiating Bipolar Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified and Severe Mood Dysregulation
Kenneth Towbin, David Axelson, Ellen Leibenluft, Boris Birmaher
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 52, Issue 5, p466–481

Child- and Family-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Amy E. West, Sally M. Weinstein, Amy T. Peters, Andrea C. Katz, David B. Henry, Rick A. Cruz, Mani N. Pavuluri
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 53, Issue 11, p1168–1178.e1

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An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Kay Redfield Jamison

Sugar and Salt
Jane Thompson

Brandon and the Bipolar Bear: A Story for Children with Bipolar Disorder
Tracy Anglada

The Dark Side of Innocence
Terri Cheney

Turbo Max: A Story for Siblings and Friends of Children with Bipolar Disorder
Tracy Anglada

For more bibliotherapy resources, visit Living with Mental Illness: Books, Stories and Memoirs.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir

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Getting Help

Bipolar Resource Center Image

Getting help is the most important thing that parents can do for children and adolescents with a mental health concern. Parents should try to find a mental health professional with advanced training and experience evaluating and treating children and adolescents with bipolar disorder. Also, it is important to find a comfortable match between your child, your family, and the mental health professional.

A child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders that affect children and adolescents. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed four years of medical school, and at least three years of residency training in medicine, neurology, or general psychiatry with adults, and two years of additional training in psychiatric work with children and adolescents.

Find a child and adolescent psychiatrist in your area.

To learn about accessing child and adolescent psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, please read Where to Find Help for Your Child.

Oftentimes, parents are unsure when to seek a referral to a child and adolescent psychiatrist. For more information on when to seek a referral, click here.

Related Websites
There are many organizations that provide support groups for families that have a family member or child with bipolar disorder. Two such organizations are the The Balanced Mind Foundation and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

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