Bipolar Disorder

teenage boy sitting alone in dark tunnel

Bipolar Disorder

Extreme shifts in mood that can be crippling if not treated

The Basics of Bipolar

Bipolar disorder, once known as manic depression, is a serious condition that causes people to experience extreme shifts in mood, attitude, behavior, and energy. Those with bipolar disorder experience a roller-coaster of emotions and behaviors. Their highs are manic, characterized by hyperactivity or mania, and their lows are not just lows, but depressive lows. Both the super high highs and the devastatingly low lows often occur over longer periods of time than what non-bipolar people experience, and it’s a cycle that continues over and over again. Because the teen years are a time of increased emotion and mood fluctuations anyway, this condition often goes undiagnosed during adolescents, which creates a risk for other mental health issues.

Bipolar Youth by the Numbers

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Nearly 3% of adolescents had bipolar disorder in the past year, and of those, 2.6% experienced severe impairment.
  • The prevalence of bipolar disorder among adolescents is higher for females (3.3%) than for males (2.6%).
  • As many as 60-90% of pediatric bipolar patients are thought to have the comorbidity of ADHD

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a psychological condition characterized by intense ups and downs — periods of mania (hyperactivity) followed by depression. Some cases of bipolar disorder are very severe and may include psychotic delusions or hallucinations. Fluctuations in mood and behavior can make individuals volatile enough to be a danger to themselves and others, leaving loved ones hurt and confused. Other cases may be mild enough to go undiagnosed for years. Either way, bipolar disorder is a life-disrupting condition, and those suffering through it often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to manage their ups and downs. According to one study, 56% of individuals with bipolar disorder had a lifetime substance use disorder.

teenage boy upset with head in hands

Adolescents with bipolar disorder are nearly five times more likely to have a substance use disorder.


The four types of Bipolar disorder

Bipolar I

Characterized by high intensity — prolonged periods of mania and depression that are severe, lasting more than seven days, and often requiring hospitalization

Bipolar II

Characterized by cycles of depression with periods of mania that are milder, but without a full manic episode 


A condition in which both mania and depression are mild, but the individual still experiences ongoing cycles of mood and behavior changes. An individual would need to have experienced at least two years of manic and depressive symptoms to be diagnosed with cyclothymia

Unspecified or Other Specified Bipolar

When a person doesn’t meet the criteria for Bipolar I, II or Cyclothymia, but has bipolar symptoms that cause stress or interruption lasting 2-3 days per week

Spotting the Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar depression can mask itself as regular depression, and some symptoms of bipolar can mimic other changes that are common throughout puberty. But over half (56%) of people diagnosed with bipolar share a history of drug abuse, and 44% have abused or become  dependent on alcohol, according to the National Alliance of Mental Health. This makes early diagnosis even more critical.

Mania is marked by many tell-tale symptoms, including:

  • Unusually jumpy or upbeat
  • Hyperactive, highly energetic, or agitated
  • Inflated sense of self
  • Doesn’t sleep or seem to need sleep
  • Highly talkative (or talks fast)
  • Spontaneous mood shifts
  • Easily distractible
  • Exhibits rage or aggression with little provocation
  • Makes poor or impulsive decisions
  • Engages in risk-taking behavior
  • Suicide risk … even in manic states

Here are some signs that you or someone you love is experiencing a major depressive episode:

  • Deep sadness or hopelessness
  • Flat affect, apathy, or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Inability to sleep or oversleeping
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Inability to concentrate, think clearly, or make decisions
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • Feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt
  • Marked slowness or restlessness
adolescent boy with head in arms depressed while father is confused on how to help

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is serious, with an increased risk of suicide as well as drug and alcohol addiction, so it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Treatment for bipolar often includes assistive medications such as mood stabilizers and antidepressants, depending on the level of bipolar severity and diagnosis. Finding the right medications early is key.

Therapy is also an important part of treatment. But here at The Meadows Adolescent Center, our approach is different. Endless talk time one-on-one isn’t the most effective approach, especially for teens. That’s why our comprehensive program has many facets, from a wide range of proven therapy methods that enhance the treatment process.

Our Treatment Methods

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps adolescents identify and modify negative thought and behavior patterns
  • Proven clinical methods like the NeuroAffective Relational Model, or NARM, which addresses attachment, relational, and developmental trauma
  • Internal Family Systems (IFS), a powerfully transformative, evidence-based model of psychotherapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), one of the proven methodologies we use to treat the unresolved emotional trauma
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which emphasizes acceptance as a way to deal with negative thoughts, feelings, symptoms, or circumstances
  • Neurofeedback, which uses scientific, evidence-based techniques to teach the user to relieve anxiety and calm the brain to prepare it for the deeper work of treatment

The Meadows Adolescent Center also offers outdoor and experiential treatment options such as equine therapy, ropes courses, and expressive arts to challenge, engage and inspire teens. Because that’s how teens grow best, in an environment full of support, discovery, and healing.

Nature in Morristown, AZ

Finding the Right Fit

Need more information to determine if what we offer fits your needs? Our skilled admissions specialists can help. They will walk you through the process, answering any questions you have along the way.