Finding out for certain that your teen is bipolar can be good and bad news. The good news is that your teen’s disorder now has a name. Many people who are bipolar feel a sense of relief when they finally are able to put a label on what they cannot explain about themselves. Knowing what the problem is can lead to more constructive solutions. The bad news is also an old news, which is that your teen has bipolar disorder, and it’s not a phase that will just pass without help. Coping with a bipolar teen means that his behavior cannot be corrected by a stern lecture or by grounding your teen. Your bipolar teen has a medical problem which can be alleviated by medication and long term therapy.
Bipolar teens can get into a manic stage where he becomes disruptive and violent and then swing back to being depressive. Because bipolar disorder can often be misunderstood (worse, they are often undiagnosed), many parents think they’re just dealing with a troubled teen who needs to be disciplined and scared straight, so to speak. Because of this, many parents turn to troubled teen boot camps to help them correct their teen’s bad behavior.
Juvenile boot camps were built as a more cost effective solution to juvenile detention or prison. They were meant to serve as an intervention for teens who are in a downward spiral. It uses harsh, confrontational and demanding methods, often enforced through verbal hostility and physically punishing challenges coming from drill sergeants in order to “break” the spirit of rebellious teens. The idea is to use this methodology to help teens rebuild their self esteem through a foundation of discipline and respect.
However, the bad behavior of bipolar teens are usually done when they are in their manic stage. This gets them into trouble and leads them to develop bad attitudes even when they’re not in their manic stage. On the surface, using confrontation and harsh methods to beat the bad behavior out of bipolar teens such as what kids boot camp or boot camp for teens do may seem ideal for a while. The only problem is that when your teen is in a manic stage, his bad behavior is not willful. Because of this, it is highly unlikely for boot camps for teens to make any real change in the lives of teens with this kind of problem.
This is why it’s always best to work with a mental health expert or a counselor first before deciding on something as extreme as sending your child off to boot camp. Oftentimes, children who act out have special needs that are better met through a different approach.
It may be better to consider other alternatives to teen boot camps such as therapeutic boarding schools which offer a safe environment for troubled teens where they can pursue their studies. At the same time, they can also receive individual counseling and therapy and the staff can make sure that they are taking their medication regularly.