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Treatment Options for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder

written by: Joy Lynskey • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 7/14/2010

The best tool for understanding and combating mental health disorders is education. Pediatric bipolar treatment is difficult as some of the manic and depressive characteristics of this illness are also characteristics of children in general.

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    Fortunately the treatment options for pediatric bipolar disorder have increased in the last few years. Scientific, genetic and biological studies have had an impact on a once largely ignored mental health disorder. Indeed in the last thirty years great achievements in mental health treatments as well as homeopathic remedies have helped to spotlight this issue, and it's now a much larger focus of further studies.

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    What Pediatric Bipolar Treatment is Available for My Child?

    The approach to most treatments of bipolar disorder in children involves multiple steps of progress. This disorder is best treated by a child psychiatrist due to the possible need for pharmaceutical forms of treatment. The treating professional will want to give the child a comprehensive diagnosis evaluation.

    Once the evaluation has been completed the ongoing treatment can be established. Medications will likely form the foundation of pediatric bipolar treatment. These medications have usually been found to be effective in adults. Currently the medicinal treatment for children with bipolar disorder involves the use of a mood stabilizer, which can help to prevent the symptoms of mania that cause children to act out in erratic or harmful ways. Often in these cases, even with the mood stabilizer, depression will remain. In cases like this an anti-depressant is most commonly added to the child's medical treatment.

    Additional treatment will likely include therapy for the child as well as other members of the family. They may need to learn coping skills that will best benefit the child who is suffering from bipolar disorder. Other children in the household may need additional therapies to learn coping skills for their siblings as well as for themselves.

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    The Future of Pediatric Bipolar Treatment

    A lot of these drugs have not been thoroughly tested on children, so the evaluating physician will often suggest in-patient care, especially for those children with violent or suicidal tendencies. Unfortunately some of these medications can actually increase those dangerous episodes. For this reason some children should definitely be in a safe, structured and closely monitored environment while they adjust to their medicine.

    Pediatric bipolar treatment is an ongoing study. In the big picture, mental health counseling and treatment for children has not been common practice for that long. Although it may be something that has been intensely studied over the last few decades, effective pediatric bipolar treatments may be difficult to determine. With intense focus in this area, we can and should expect regular advances in the future.

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    Lifestyle Changes

    Children, by nature, can already display manic and depressive characteristics, so it can be difficult to evaluate them. Additionally, extra care is taken with children due to the possibility of allergic reactions or difficulty adjusting to medications.

    It is very important to monitor them closely for changes in mood and behavior while they are taking to new medications. A child with bipolar disorder will also need to get plenty of exercise as well as sleep. This can and does help children who are prone to frustration and episodes of mania. If your child is undergoing pediatric bipolar treatment you will need to be upfront with their psychiatrist about any changes in mood and sleeping patterns they may have.

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    References

    Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation - www.bpkids.org

    National Resource Center on ADHD - www.help4adhd.org