Study Guide: Supporting Individuals with Bipolar Disorder


Behaviors that Characterize Bipolar Disorder

Early Warning Signs
Bipolar and the Brain


Key Characteristics of Bipolar Disorder
The classic symptoms of bipolar disorder include manic episodes usually alternating with periods of depression and relatively normal moods.
Symptoms of Manic Episodes
Symptoms of Depressive Episodes
In Younger Children

Bipolar disorder is not restricted to adults, but can occur in children and adolescents as well. Until recently, it was thought to be extremely rare for a child or adolescent to have this condition. While caregivers may be challenged by a child who has extreme swings in mood, energy, behavior, it does not necessarily mean that bipolar disorder is the cause. Only a careful evaluation will determine what diagnosis is appropriate.

Diagnostic Requirements


Myths and Facts



Kids like Brianna deliberately use this diagnosis as an excuse to continue with selfish behaviors. She’s just spoiled.

Truth: Bipolar Disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and can be very debilitating if left untreated.


If Brianna doesn’t want treatment, people should back off. She can handle this without help.

Truth: An individual with untreated Bipolar Disorder will experience a lack of consistency in their life. Poor judgment during the manic or hypomanic phase can lead to disastrous outcomes including repeated hospitalizations and even suicide.



I think that if Brianna slept better, she’d be better able to manage her symptoms.

Truth: Good sleeping habits is one of the more critical components to help individuals to manage their Bipolar Disorder more effectively.


Two of my relatives have had similar issues including rapid mood swings, so maybe Bipolar Disorder is genetic.

Truth: According to the National Institute for Mental Health, children with a parent or sibling who has Bipolar Disorder are 4-6 times more likely to develop the illness.


There is a connection between her diagnosis and the fact that Brianna was also caught drinking several times last summer.

Truth: Teenagers who abuse these substances may be trying to "self medicate" their symptoms of clinical depression or manic depressive illness. Teens with Bipolar Disorder may seek out drugs and alcohol because they help them feel better at least temporarily.


Encouraging Brianna to eat a well balanced meal will help her feel better.

Truth: A healthy diet is an important component to help an individual manage their Bipolar disorder more effectively.


The behaviors exhibited by individuals with Bipolar Disorder make it fairly difficult to recognize and to diagnose.

Truth: The behaviors exhibited by children with Bipolar Disorder can often be misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), or Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED).


Medications play an important role in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder today.

Truth: Mood stabilizing medications are most commonly used to treat this disorder such as Lithium or anti-seizure medications


Strategies for Supporting Individuals with Bipolar Disorder

Remember the acronym: R-E-D-U-C-E


Regulate their days



Understand & Accept


Encourage medication compliance


References and Resources

Subject Matter Experts: