Mental illness presents many signs. For teens and adults, the signs of bipolar disorder can sometimes be hard to detect.

I was 18 years old when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. At that time, Before my diagnosis, I assumed my actions were just part of my characteristics.

Those characteristics were probably the reason for many of the disastrous incidents from my earlier teenage years – things like running away, fighting with my parents, and having problems in school. My signs of bipolar disorder were not obvious, and so I suffered through many issues without proper support.

Even as a child, some things were almost unbearable, and that’s why I’m going to share some of the early signs of bipolar disorder in teens and young adults. Hopefully, these signs can help the youth of our society understand what they’re going through, and also help those who love them.

Signs of bipolar disorder

There are two basic categories which describe the signs of bipolar disorder. Both can be dangerous if not understood correctly, so let’s make sure we do.


The mania state of bipolar disorder is often mistaken for extreme happiness. It’s harder to tell when something’s wrong during this stage. However, there are many signs if you know what to look for.

1. Insomnia

Pay close attention to your teen if there aren’t sleeping much. That would be insomnia. Those who are in the throws of the mania stage of bipolar disorder cannot sleep because their minds are filled with activities and euphoric emotions.

What started off as happiness has led to an almost supernatural form of elation. Because of this feeling, they cannot sleep.

2. Easily distracted

One of the signs of bipolar disorder becomes obvious after just a short period of time. Even though teens and young adults stay pretty active and busy, you can tell when their focus is off. Notice if they seem to have trouble focusing on the topic of conversation.

They may even seem fidgety. Whatever they see outside the present conversation will become their new subject of interest.

3. Hypersexuality

Not all those with bipolar disorder suffer from this issue, but many of them do. Since teens are already struggling through puberty or other hormones, it may be difficult to spot hypersexuality. This trait is marked by the drastic increase in interest in sexual activity.

It’s important to catch it as quickly as you can as unprotected sexual activity is dangerous.

4. Increased speech

Teens or young adults with bipolar disorder will often talk in “fast-forward”. It will be difficult to keep up with everything they are saying when they’re like this. They talk fast because their minds are racing. They have passed the point of happiness and entering the area of irritability.

There are just too many things to think about and learn that it’s hard to contain all the information. Unfortunately, so many highly intelligent people fall victim to this disorder and much of the intelligence is lost among the babbling voices and unorganized files in their heads.

5. Overconfidence

Okay, I’m far from a teen, but I must tell you this. Yesterday I thought I could repair my car. I did fix one problem but caused another. Basically, I was overconfident in my abilities. Guess what…I think I’m in a mania stage.

Teens and young adults do this too. NO, it’s not wrong to learn how to do things, but mania makes us rush out and do things with lack of training or any instruction. We have this belief that our superhuman abilities will save the day no matter what.


Different than mania, depression causes more calm but dark traits to surface. I do hate this stage, so much more than mania. This stage also surfaces much more during the depths of winter if you haven’t noticed.

6. Lack of energy

During the stages of depression, your teen may experience lethargy or just a simple lack of interest in any sort of activity. It’s not just because of the lack of interest, their bodies just feel tired. The chemicals have changed due to the shift in the bipolar disorder, what I call, “the wavelength”.

Think about it this way, bipolar disorder is a wave, it goes up and it goes down, sometimes drastically, sometimes subtly, and sometimes it stays in these stages for long or short periods of time. So, you can never be sure how long this lack of energy will last.

7. Changes in appetite

Many teens experience changes in eating habits during the depression stages. This is an obvious sign of bipolar disorder in teens. Either their appetite will decrease or increase in drastic measures. It will be easy to tell that something is wrong.

For me, I couldn’t eat if I was worried, but I would over-eat when something bad had already happened. It was orchestrated by my depression.

8. Withdrawal

I can attest to this sign of a bipolar disorder. During the winter season, and sometimes in other times of the year, I withdraw even from my closest family members. One of the early signs of bipolar disorder in teens is staying away from other people for extremely long periods of time.

Although teens and young adults love their privacy and alone time, they should be monitored a little.

9. Suicidal talk

Never ever ignore your teen if they speak of suicide. No, not all of them are wanting attention, and guess what, how are we possibly supposed to know the difference. Some suicide victims never spoke of their desire to die, while others talked about it all the time until it was too late.

So, always take this as a huge sign that something is wrong. It could be the down cycle of bipolar disorder.

Let’s be there for our children

Do you know a teen or young adult who has decided to do something totally out of character? If so, talk to them about what might be happening in their heads. Do you have a child who speaks of suicide? Please listen. Pay attention to the signs of bipolar disorder in your teens and young adults.

You could be saving lives and improving mental health for these beautiful people.

If someone you know suffering? If so, get help now.

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