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What Is the Best Child Bipolar Disorder Treatment?

The best child bipolar disorder treatment is individual. Here are some treatments for children with bipolar disorder to consider. Details on HealthyPlace.The best child bipolar disorder treatment varies depending on the individual child and situation. Sometimes treatment for a child with bipolar disorder is best done in a hospital while other times it’s best done at home. There are also many options for pediatric bipolar disorder treatment that should be considered before the best child bipolar disorder treatment is decided upon.

The Risks of Not Treating a Child with Bipolar Disorder

Not treating a child with bipolar disorder is something some parents consider but it is not without risk. Medscape notes that in the absence of compliance to treatment (or, certainly, no treatment), “the course of the illness can be more severe than it would be otherwise.”

Additionally, children with bipolar disorder are at a high risk of suicide and the risk between the ages of 10-25 is particularly high. Treatment of a child with bipolar disorder with lithium is thought to decrease this risk. Treatment with lithium has also been linked to a decreased risk of substance abuse, something that bipolar youth often grapple with.

Inpatient Bipolar Child Treatment

An emergency situation is commonly when medical help is sought and inpatient (residence in a healthcare facility) help may be needed to assess and diagnose a child for the child’s and the family’s safety. Inpatient treatment for a child with bipolar disorder is also typically required in situations when the child is acutely suicidal, homicidal or psychotic.

Medication Treatment for the Treatment of Childhood Bipolar Disorder

Most children with bipolar disorder are treated with medications, whether inpatient or outpatient (treatment while the child lives at home). These medications are typically lithium, anticonvulsants or atypical antipsychotics. These medications are often the best way to treat and control bipolar symptoms in children. That said, no medication has been Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for children under the age of 10. However, if a child is ill, medications may be used at a doctor’s discretion. Often a combination of medications must be used for full symptom remission.

All bipolar treatment for a child carries the risk of side effects and so the risk vs. the rewards of treatment should be carefully considered before medication is prescribed.

Lithium is often considered the best childhood bipolar disorder treatment because it is effective in approximately 60-70% of adolescents and children with bipolar disorder.

Psychotherapy for Bipolar Disorder in Children

Different types of psychotherapy have also been shown to be useful in childhood bipolar disorder treatment. These are often used alongside medication treatment. Therapies that appear to be useful include:

  • Social rhythm therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy

Because childhood bipolar disorder affects the whole family, family therapy should always be a priority both for the sake of the child with bipolar and also the family.

Childhood Bipolar Disorder Treatment with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been shown to be safe and effective in children and adolescents. Its upside is the speed of positive response (a week or less) but the downside is the possible side effect of memory loss around the treatment time. Because of this side effect, ECT is typically reserved for extremely severe or refractory cases of childhood bipolar disorder (cases that don’t respond to other treatments).

Deciding on the Best Childhood Bipolar Treatment

In short, when considering treatment for a child with bipolar disorder, the best option is only arrived at after a thorough assessment and diagnosis as the best treatment is individual.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2017, November 8). What Is the Best Child Bipolar Disorder Treatment?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-children/what-is-the-best-child-bipolar-disorder-treatment

Last Updated: June 1, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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