How Early Can Bipolar be Diagnosed in Children?

I was just wondering how early the signs of bipolar can be seen in children? Also, what do the signals of a child who is bipolar look like?

This is quite the controversial subject … and a controversy I encounter every time I tell someone PDog has BP. Fact of the matter is, NO ONE wants to label a child with Bipolar Disorder. Children are growing and changing everyday. So how the heck can someone say any symptoms which appear to be bipolar aren’t just “a phase”?

Shortly after I began this site, I wrote a post titled “Are you glad to have a diagnosis, to be labeled?” wherein I discussed my feelings about my son’s “label”. In short, my answer was yes. I actually wish he had been diagnosed sooner. He was so weighed down with his moods, rages, and symptoms that he often got sent home from school and missed out on many learning experiences including but not limited to field trips and other would have been fun events.

After his diagnosis and treatment along with having the proper school accommodations, he’s a whole new kid. I mean he’s the same kids, but a kid who we only got to see a glimmer of between cycles.

And more importantly, he’s happy.

With that said, my son began displaying symptoms of bipolar disorder as early as four years old, at least that I can remember.  Since then I have learned that children as early as three and four years old have been diagnosed with and treated for bipolar disorder. It’s a scarey fact, but at the same time encouraging to me. Everyone deserves the right to a proper diagnosis and the proper care. Why should age determine whether or not you have access to those rights?

However there are others out there who believe a child cannot be diagnosed with bipolar until they have at least gone through puberty. After all the major changes have happened. I can see where they are coming from, however I also remember being five, and thirteen, and older. I remember having symptoms as early back as I can remember. I remember highly struggling through my teenage years due to my undiagnosed disorder. So where I understand their concerns and hesitations, I have to disagree.

So … how early can a child be diagnosed with Bipolar? Well, I guess it depends on who you talk to. HOWEVER, I do know a child can experience symptoms from a very early age.  Whether or not they are diagnosed, is a whole separate issue.

I hope this helped. Please feel free to ask any further questions you might have.

2 thoughts on “How Early Can Bipolar be Diagnosed in Children?

  1. Thank you for the very informative post. I am planning to visit this site if I have time. I would like to share my opinion about it -Symptoms of bipolar disorder most normally occur in a person’s early twenties, however it isn’t uncommon for a individual to begin displaying signs of bipolar in the course of their teenage years. although the core characteristics of bipolar disorder are the same in adults and teenagers, bipolar disorder in teens often has slightly different behavioral patterns and symptoms than that present in adults. for example, episodes of mania or depression are sometimes shorter in adolescents with bipolar disorder, compared to the weeks or months commonly present in adults with bipolar. Teenagers can even jump between mania and depression over the course of a single day. Mixed episodes, or periods with both manic and depressive symptoms, are often much more frequent in teens with bipolar disorder.

  2. I have 4 children , 2 older-2 younger( 37,30,18,15). Their father & I were married 29 yrs( known for 33). During our marriage it became apparent that my husband showed BP signs, when he became an MD-PhD & I became a Physician Assistant was crystal clear that he was Bipolar but in many ways wanted to hide it but couldn’t. We have been divorced for 10 yrs( extra one separated).divorce happen when my younger two were 9&6.Were horrible proceedings. I knew my children would be affected. When my now 18 yo was 13/14 found him in porn sites,nightmares. Well let me get to the youngest, also at 12 to 14 yo show signs of depression , suicidal thoughts that went on so that he ended in psych ward for 5 days after he Skype a friend that he was cutting & didn’t think he was going to make it to next week, she told her dad who then call police and the above result. No problems in school , or with authorities except me. But to my defense I have been the only disciplinarian parent( physical custody). Their dad has been more absent as the years go, when they visit with him he’s the fun parent, the over endulging parent. My worry is how to separate the phases they go through when grieving a loss( divorce) from maybe hereditary BP. I worry constantly.18-calm now, 15-still struggling and defiant .

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