Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Feels Vulnerable to Family History of Bipolar Disorder

DEAR ABBY: For a handful of years, I have been dealing with anxiety and mild depression. But over the last 18 months or so, I have been experiencing both the highest highs and the lowest lows. These periods can last for up to a week and affect my productivity levels. My ability to function as a normal human being isn't noticeably diminished, though.

Because I'm a teenager, a lot of emotional turmoil is happening. But I can't help feeling that maybe what I'm experiencing isn't normal for people my age. How do I know the difference between routine mood swings and a mental disorder like bipolar? There is a history of bipolar in my family, but I don't know if it has transferred to me. I want to know if I need to start talking about that aspect of things with my therapist or if what I'm going through doesn't need to be bothered with. -- TEEN IN TOUCH IN WASHINGTON

DEAR TEEN: You are obviously very bright. Because of the history of bipolar disorder in your family, your mood swings are something you should be paying attention to. I am glad you are seeing a therapist, and you should absolutely be discussing your concerns -- all of them -- with that person. In psychotherapy, honesty is always the best policy. If it turns out that your worries are needless -- fine. However, if they are not, it would be to your advantage to know it so you can be treated for it.

Read more in: Mental Health | Teens