Adolescent Bipolar Treatment
Bipolar Treatment for Adolescents

Finding the proper diagnosis for a teen or adolescent suffering from severe mental health challenges can prove critical. Bipolar disorder is one such disorder that can cause a host of symptoms. These symptoms may prove problematic for the teen and their family. 

Addressing bipolar disorder through a qualified mental health professional or bipolar treatment center can make a huge difference. Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness (MCAW) offers outpatient treatment for teens struggling with bipolar disorder. With therapy and medication when needed, recovery from bipolar disorder is possible.

Adolescent Bipolar Treatment

What Are Bipolar Disorders?

Bipolar disorder, classified as a type of depression, is characterized by extreme highs and lows and considerable mood swings. Mood swings in adolescents, in general, are entirely normal. Especially since adolescents are dealing with elevated hormones and high-stress levels in their everyday lives. However, bipolar mood swings go beyond the norm. 

Highs, characterized by elevated mood and high energy levels, tend to be higher. While lows, which are characterized by lower energy levels, depression, and sadness or irritability, can feel considerably lower.

Manic Episodes

Manic episodes are part of bipolar disorder and include symptoms of heightened mood but differ in severity. Manic symptoms can cause a mental break from reality. As a result of these manic episodes, teens can experience a variety of symptoms that impact their daily lives. Young people in a state of mania may have noticeable problems at school or work. They can also experience problems with their family and friend relationships.  Teenagers experiencing a manic episode may show signs of :

  • Feeling jumpy, upbeat, or wired
  • Exaggerating self-confidence and euphoria
  • Decreasing need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Increasing activity, energy, and irritability
  • Impulsive behaviors and poor decision making

When adolescents remain in a manic state for an extended period of time it can be dangerous. In the most serious cases, mania may trigger a break from reality that requires supervision and inpatient treatment. In less severe cases, outpatient treatment and medication can help a teen recover from a manic episode.

Depressive Episodes

Along with manic episodes, teens struggling with bipolar disorder also experience depressive episodes. Depressive episodes have similarities to major depressive disorder. However, these episodes are key indicators of bipolar disorder. Especially when episodes of mania are also present. Teens may have depressive episodes that last several days or even weeks. These episodes can make it difficult for young people to function in their daily lives.  Adolescents may show the following signs during a depressive episode:
  • Feelings of emptiness, extreme sadness, and hopelessness
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Energy loss and fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Decreasing ability to concentrate

Teenagers struggling with bipolar disorder are likely to show signs of these intense changes in mood. These challenges can be hard on the young person and their entire family. However, with proper treatment and coping skills adolescents can learn to manage their bipolar symptoms. Treatment and continued monitoring also decrease the chances and severity of manic and depressive episodes. 
Adolescent Bipolar Treatment

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Adolescent Bipolar Treatment

Types of Bipolar Disorders

All types of bipolar disorders involve a clear change in mood, energy, and activity levels. Mood swings can include periods of overly heightened moods to lowered moods.

Bipolar I

Teens with bipolar one, the most common bipolar disorder, may have manic episodes that last for at least 7 days. In some cases, severe mania requires hospitalization. People with bipolar I may also have depressive episodes that last two weeks. Patients may show either manic or depressive swings in isolation and still have bipolar disorder.

Bipolar II

Adolescents with bipolar II disorder may have both manic and depressive episodes, but they are not as severe. Often, patients with bipolar II disorder will show signs of major depressive episodes. Symptoms of these episodes may occur either immediately before or immediately after a manic episode. 

Cyclothymic Disorder/Cyclothymia

Patients with this type of disorder can have repeated mood shifts between highs, or manic episodes, and lows, or depressive episodes. In adolescents, these shifts must occur over at least a year. 

Generally, these periods will not show the full symptoms of bipolar mania or depression. However, they may be milder or lack some diagnostic criteria for a bipolar episode. A mood that is neither manic nor depressed may last for less than eight weeks.

Signs of Bipolar in Adolescence

Adolescents with bipolar disorder may have several extreme symptoms. Unfortunately, bipolar disorder can prove incredibly difficult to diagnose. It is often misdiagnosed, particularly in adolescents. 

A teen with bipolar disorder may not necessarily fit all the symptoms of bipolar disorder all the time. This is particularly true since symptoms can seem vastly different between a manic episode and a depressive episode.

Signs of bipolar disorders in adolescents can include:

  • Short tempers: Teens with bipolar disorder may have a low tolerance for siblings or authority figures, easily triggering quick and intense anger.
  • Sadness and low self-esteem: Teens with bipolar disorder may experience prolonged periods of sadness, struggle with low self-esteem, and often feel inadequate or not good enough.
  • Energy level shifts: Bipolar disorder can cause noticeable fluctuations in energy levels. Teens may have days of low energy and disinterest in previously enjoyable activities, followed by periods of high energy and engagement, despite limited sleep.
  • Risky behaviors: Teens with bipolar disorder are more prone to engaging in risky behaviors, including risky sexual activities, and may exhibit fixation on sex.
  • Grandiose thinking: During manic periods, teens with bipolar disorder may display grandiose or delusional thinking, holding inflated beliefs about their abilities or importance.
  • Recklessness: Teens with bipolar disorder often exhibit uncommon recklessness in their actions and decision-making.
  • Sleep disturbances: Bipolar disorder can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to periods of ongoing insomnia or changes in sleep needs.
  • Attention and racing thoughts: Teens with bipolar disorder may experience scattered attention and racing thoughts, resembling symptoms of ADHD.
  • Weight changes: Bipolar disorder can result in rapid weight fluctuations, including sudden weight loss or weight gain.

Often, observing symptoms in isolation can make it very difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder. A therapist may need to work with patients over a long period to thoroughly diagnose the disorder.

Adolescent Bipolar Treatment

Treatment for bipolar disorder is often multifaceted. Medication is often the first recourse when it comes to treating bipolar disorder. Medication for this disorder includes mood stabilizers that can help normalize moods, reducing the instance of both highs and lows.


Mood stabilizers can usually treat the extremes of manic disorders and help decrease the lows associated with severe depressive episodes. Antidepressants sometimes help manage depressive symptoms but may trigger manic episodes in some patients with bipolar disorder. 

In adolescents, atypical antipsychotics can sometimes help manage symptoms more effectively than the mood stabilizers used to treat adults.

Bipolar disorder may require multiple medications to manage it entirely. Many patients need to go through trial and error while finding the medications that work. It is essential to find the best way to reduce their symptoms while reducing side effects as much as possible. 


In addition to medications, many adolescents with bipolar disorder benefit substantially from therapy. Therapy may include family counseling. This treatment helps adolescents and their parents or other family members learn how to effectively manage those symptoms. Through family counseling, the entire family can improve communication about the disorder in the home and individual family. 

Sometimes, patients show marked improvement with cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps patients identify distorted patterns in their thinking and actions.

Adolescent Bipolar Treatment

Bipolar Treatment Centers - Near Boston, Massachusetts

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme mood swings. Bipolar consists of manic and depressive episodes that can last from several days to several weeks. With therapy and medication when needed, recovery from bipolar disorder is possible. 

If your teen is struggling with symptoms of bipolar, therapy and treatment are available at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness. Contact our team today to learn more about our day treatment and intensive outpatient program and get answers to any questions you may have. We also treat a variety of other mental health disorders and are committed to supporting your teenager.

Clinically Reviewed by:

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Melanie Carbonneau is the Clinical Director at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness and is a licensed counselor and certified music therapist with a Ph.D. from Lesley University. She leads MCAW with a focus on holistic care, emphasizing the importance of family and community involvement in the healing process.