Census data says there are roughly 21 million adolescents age 14-19 in the U.S.
Mental health statistics say about 3% of adolescents age 13-18 have some form of bipolar disorder.
Our informal math says these numbers mean over half a million teens in our country struggle with bipolar disorder.
It’s important for parents of bipolar teens to work alongside both their teen and their teen’s therapist to help them lay the foundation for a robust and resilient set of skills that will serve them through adolescence, early adulthood, and beyond.
Top Five Tips for Parents of Bipolar Teens
- Find Family Focused Therapy. Research shows that treatment is more effective when families are directly involved in therapy – including siblings.
- Learn About the Disease. It’s critical for parents and siblings to understand what’s going on with their loved one. It’s a disease. The difficult behaviors are not personal attacks – they’re symptoms of the disorder.
- Get the Right Medication. It may take trial and error. For teens, the rule of thumb is “start low and go slow.” Collaborate with a psychiatrist on anything and everything to do with medication. It can be dangerous to suddenly quit medication, and it can also be dangerous to increase medication without checking with a doctor first.
- Monitor the Medication and Track Moods. Make sure your teen takes their meds. Keep a log of manic (high) and depressive (low) episodes and compare them against dose and frequency of medication. This information can be crucial for a psychiatrist developing a long-term medication strategy.
- Identify and Understand Triggers. Stress is known to trigger many of the manic and depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder. To help your teen avoid episodes, work with them to understand and avoid the stressors in their life.
Bonus tips that go without saying (but we’ll say them anyway): love, kindness, and clear communication can never hurt and almost always help.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.