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How to Control Rages in Bipolar Children

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: jen2008 • updated: 11/16/2010

If your child has bipolar disorder, you've probably experienced plenty of distress from the out-of-control rages that she has. These rages, caused by chemical imbalances, can be treated by medication and therapy.

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    What Do Rages in Bipolar Children Look Like?

    Your child with bipolar disorder has just gotten frustrated because his little sister accidentally knocked over his block tower. Suddenly, he starts yelling hysterically, kicking and screaming. He begins to grab his sister and hit her, and when you intervene, he starts kicking you as well. This whole time, he has been screaming, "I hate you! I hate you!" at the top of his lungs. This all goes on for over an hour, escalating the entire time. Your entire family is exhausted with trying to keep your child under control.

    Rages in bipolar children can be draining and frustrating to parents, teachers, and peers. After all, normal kids do get upset and have temper tantrums, especially at specific ages or due to specific triggers. These tantrums, however, often last for only a short period of time, and are much less violent than the rages of a bipolar child. Bipolar children can run the risk of harming themselves or others, as well as severely damaging possessions, during rages. That's why it is important to fully understand your child's rages and get help for them.

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    Why Do Bipolar Children Have Rages?

    Although the causes of bipolar disorder are not fully understand, most researchers believe that it is due to chemical imbalances in the brain. A study done by NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) in 2006 showed that children with bipolar disorder see aggression when there is none inherent. This study showed bipolar and non-bipolar children pictures of people's faces. Each of the faces was designed to show little or no emotion, as the non-bipolar children understood. The bipolar children, however, were more likely to rate the faces as hostile or angry. During this exercise, the amygdala and left prefrontal cortex (which are the parts of the brain responsible for emotions) were activated in children with bipolar disorder, showing that they felt strong emotional reactions to these seemingly unemotional expressions. This tendency to see hostility when none was intended can lead to chemical imbalances, which in turn causes overwhelming anger and frustration.

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    Treating Rages in Bipolar Children

    Before treating rages in bipolar children, it is important to make sure that the diagnosis is accurate. Bipolar disorder can mimic other similar conditions, such as ADHD, and should be treated differently. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the child should begin both individual and family therapy sessions. At the same time, it is important to realize that many bipolar children with extreme rage issues will need medication in order to function in society. These medicines can help to regulate the chemicals in his brain that lead to rages and other symptoms of bipolar disorder. Although no true cure exists for bipolar disorder, you can use these treatment methods to help a bipolar child control his rages and interact effectively with the people around him.

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