The symptoms can start early as 4 years old and as old in their late twenties. The most common age of onset tough is in their adolescence. It usually starts with a period of major depression. After the first major depressive episode, the person then starts a manic stage or vice versa.
The person can have depression and manic stafes during the same day. This is called mixed episode. Other can can be depressed for a couple of weeks and then manic for a week or two. This type is called Rapid-Cycling. The last type is the most usual one, the person is depressed for a couple of months or years and then is manic for a couple of weeks.
A great percentage of the people who are diagnosed with bipolar depression has been previously diagnosed with major depression and has been given anti-depressants. But anti-depressants can make it worst because they ten to create a "high" known as mania.
When the person is diagnosed, they are given mood stabilizers to stabilize the depression and mania. Some may also be given a low dose of anti-depressans and anti-psychotics.
There are two types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder type 1 is major depression and the classic mania. As for bipolar disorder type 2, the depression is more severe but the highs are known as hypomania, a less severe form of mania.
Here is a sample mood chart by me
Here are some useful links on the bipolar disorder. Hope it will help, because it can be a confusing and painful disorder for both the family and the the person.
Bipolar in Teenagers
National Youth Network
Bipolar Pamphlet by Dr. James Chandler
Bipolar Disorder Research
Bipolar Kids Homepage ( Really good for parents of bipolar children or teens)
PsychEducation (Excellent Information of Bipolar II)
CanMat (Trusted Information)
Teen Depression (good info)
Bipolar Resource and Awareness Network
Bipolar Awereness by Lilly and WebMD
Ontario Mood Disorder Association
The site of the health card sytem... I never tried it, but it looks useful.
Canmat - Treatment of bipolar depression
OBAD - Treatment information
Info on treatments and many medications
New Methods of Coping
Self-Care for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Publication by the NIMH
A Harm's Away (suicide informaiton)
Sucide Facts (You shouldn't be a fact, you want to be a person)