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Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents: An Integrative Approach

2.0 Contact Hours
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to describe bipolar disorder in children and adolescents; the symptoms, risk factors, and traditional treatment methods available for this specific population; and integrative approaches to assessing, treating, and managing this disorder.
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It is sometimes difficult to determine if a child or adolescent is going through a "phase" or showing signs of a more serious psychiatric challenge such as bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder causes unusual shifts in moods and energy. These shifts are different from the normal "ups and downs" that every child or teenager goes through from time to time. Children and adolescents with bipolar disorder can suffer from damaged relationships, substance abuse, poor school performance, and even commit suicide. However, today there are more treatment options available than ever before for children and adolescents with this disorder.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Define the term bipolar disorder.
  • Discuss the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder.
  • Differentiate between the adolescent symptoms of mania and depression.
  • Describe adolescent behavioral changes associated with the symptoms of mania and depression.
  • Examine the risk factors associated with bipolar disorder.
  • Differentiate between the four types of bipolar disorder.
  • Discuss conditions that often co-exist with bipolar disorder in children and adolescents.
  • Discuss behavioral, social, and financial issues associated with bipolar disorder.
  • List differential diagnoses often misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder.
  • Discuss current research findings related to bipolar disorder.
  • Describe traditional treatment options for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder.
  • Describe integrative treatment options for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder, previously called manic-depressive psychosis, is a disease that lasts a lifetime and is often misunderstood. Until the mid-1990s it was commonly undiagnosed and rarely included as part of the training for pediatric clinicians or adolescent psychiatrists since it was not considered part of a diagnosable condition for a moody child or adolescent (Parker, Zuckerman, & Augustyn, 2005). However, this perspective is changing as the information and research on this disorder evolve.

New research and clinical practice as well as family experiences demonstrate that bipolar disorder does occur in children and adolescents—and at a higher incidence than previously thought. At least half of all cases are now diagnosed before the age of 25, yet the disease remains difficult to diagnose in this particular age group because it does not neatly fit the adult criteria for diagnosis and because many pediatric practitioners lack training in this complex disorder.


Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26% of Americans (about one in four adults) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, and mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada.

There are several categories of mental disorders including mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, autism, and personality disorders (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2013).

There are three types of mood disorders (NIMH, 2013):

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Dysthymic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is defined as a mood disorder in which feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and perceptions are altered in the context of episodes of mania and depression. One of the most severe, most common, and most persistent of all mental illnesses, bipolar disorder affects approximately 4% of the adult population. When atypical types and children are added to that the number, it increases to approximately 6.5% of the total population (Colom & Vieta, 2006; NIMH, 2015).

Up to one-third of the 3.4 million children and adolescents with depression in the United States may actually be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2015). Due to more extensive training, physicians and other health care providers now recognize this as a “real” disorder in young people, but it still remains under-recognized and therefore undertreated.

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
  • ASWB - Association of Social Work Boards
  • California Board of Behavioral Sciences
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Florida Board of Respiratory Care
  • Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
  • NAADAC - The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors
  • NCBTMB -National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
  • Florida Board of Massage Therapists


Practice Level:


Content Focus:

Domain of OT

Course Expires:

July 11, 2020

  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
  • Caroline Young, MPH
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.