Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Maynia: Teen Behavior Changes in Spring

Ever wonder why some teens diagnosed with symptoms of Bipolar Disorder (i.e., extreme fluctuations in mood) go through a manic (i.e., excessive hyperactivity) state in the Spring? Is it just so we can have a clever play on words like "Maynia"? Or is there really something behind it?

Being a clinical therapist in a school, I prepare myself every spring for a spike in mania running rampant through the halls. As a parent, friend, or teacher of a teen with symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, you may also observe similar behaviors intensifying as the weather becomes a bit nicer. It happens like clockwork for some in the final months of the school year and this is why. 

As we enter spring, most teens look forward to that extra daylight and time outside in the fresh air. Although it may take a bit of adjustment, we acclimate to the new time change and new climate. But for those with symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, this can be a bit more challenging. Bipolar Disorder causes heightened sensitivity to things like sunlight, temperature, and sleep patterns. When spring arrives, all of those factors change and can trigger a state of mania in those with symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

Stress can also play a part in triggering a manic state. Some students think that the last few months of school are a breeze, but this can be a very stressful time for others. And that stress can lead to mania, which can make it even more difficult for a student with symptoms of Bipolar Disorder to manage their emotions and function at school on a daily basis. This stress can be caused from a number of things like final exams, end of the year projects, transitioning from a full school day to "summer mode", and the anticipation of having summer off (the lack of structure can be a stressor in itself!).

Knowing this information, how can you help your teen during this time of the year? 

Keeping a consistent and healthy sleep schedule is crucial. Unfortunately, sleep is one of the first things to be affected when experiencing mania. So, trying to stay proactive and conscious of how your teen's mind and body are affected is important. 

It is also helpful to keep external stimulation low, to help with the stress level. This can include minimizing video games/electronics and utilizing relaxation techniques daily.

Posted by: Shawna Paplaski, LCPC