A child with bipolar problems suffers swings in mood ranging from depressed to overly energized or manic. These problems usually do not develop until late adolescence or adulthood, but there are some younger children who experience mood swings and rages that are considered to stem from the same source. Children struggling with this difficulty often experience very fast mood swings between depression and mania many times in a day. Children with mania are more likely to be irritable and prone to destructive tantrums than to be overly happy and elated. Mixed symptoms also are common in young adolescents dealing with bipolar problems; older adolescents may have more classic, adult-type episodes and symptoms. Bipolar difficulties in children and teens can be difficult to distinguish from other problems and may sometimes go unnoticed at school, especially for children who can “hold it together” at school but then “explode” when they get home.
Even the tried and true strategies of experienced teams may not work consistently, given a student’s frequent mood shifts, and school teams can feel frustrated and find it hard to deliver the extra reassurance that a student grappling with mood problems may need. This in turn can leave the student feeling unequal to the demands of school life.