Child and Adolescent Bipolar and Other Mental Disorders: Awareness and Respect

November 23, 2008
If you walk through the halls of any middle school or high school in the country and just listen, you might be surprised by what you hear. Terms such as retarded, OCD, ADHD, neurotic, depressed, and bipolar are thrown about precariously, used as teasing insults. They’ve become almost as common as the words dumb, stupid, idiot, freak, creep, weirdo, and dork, and are usually used in the same context. This evolution of insults is a result of a higher awareness of common mental disorders that occur in children and adolescents especially, but not a result of a greater acceptance. Studies show that one percent of adolescents ages 14 to 18 meet criteria for bipolar disorder, or its milder cousin, cyclothymia. That is nothing to tease about, especially when the classmate walking beside you could very well be a contributor to that data.

Bipolar disorder is appropriately named; a child with the illness may swing between moods whose differences are as drastic as those between north and south. These moods, or states of mind, are classified as manic and depressive. A child or adolescent who is manic identifies with having the symptoms: increased energy, a decreased need for sleep, distractibility, and a disregard for risk. When depressive, the adolescent may become tired, persistently sad, or irritable; she may lose interest in activities that she once enjoyed, lose her appetite, or have recurrent thoughts of suicide or death. Any one of these symptoms can pose a threat towards a child’s healthy development. Imagine the lives of bipolar children and adolescents, who display more than one of these traits, and switch uncontrollably from “north” to “south” at unpredictable times; the results are devastating for both the family and the child.

If you walk through the halls of any middle school or high school in the country and just look, you’ll notice that each student who passes by is very much their own person -- with their own opinions, memories, emotions, talents, and problems. Most receive help and know how to control and cope with metal and emotional issues, but there are too many who do not. Whether they are bipolar, attention deficient, obsessive compulsive, or are going through a phase of depression, somebody, be he a teacher, friend, or parent, is expected to take on the duty of recognizing the symptoms and addressing their cause. Too frequently is a mentally ill child left unnoticed or unheard, and too frequently does an adolescent, once glowing with potential, slip forever away from the loose grasp of her caregivers and instructors -- a grasp that should always have been tighter.

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This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

BeautifullyMe said...
Dec. 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm
May I state that people who "have" bipolar disorder do not just swing from one mood to the other as fast as you make it out to be. I "have" bipolar disorder 2 and I can't stand hearing people say things like "OMG you're so bipolar" to each other... it irks me.
BriarRose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 10:06 pm
thoes terms are thrown about too often; there really are people out there that have conditions, and using them as insults hurts like all get me
ebony_is_beautiful_1 said...
Jan. 1, 2009 at 6:16 pm
Hi, this is Lucia, the author. I saw that "SallySunshine ha ha" wanted to know about OCD? Well, I don't have an essay on that, and I'm not exactly sure what you want to know, but it is a neurotic disorder, and people with OCD usually have routines and obsessive behavior, such as counting or rearranging things. OCD can be controlled with therapy and medicine, and it should be understood that, like Bipolar Disorder, OCD is not a "choice." It is also very common. For more inform... (more »)
Kwstar said...
Dec. 19, 2008 at 1:58 am
I totally loved this piece. Why? Because I feel like that kid in halls that everyone forgot...
Angel_15 said...
Dec. 12, 2008 at 12:43 am
thats really cool
SallySunshine ha ha said...
Dec. 12, 2008 at 12:08 am
hey it was cool, and if you learn anything else about OCD tell me
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