In March, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the medication Latuda (lurasidone) for the treatment of depressive episodes among children ages 10-17 diagnosed with bipolar I disorder (also known as bipolar depression).1 Latuda is an atypical antipsychotic that is also used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults.

The effectiveness and safeness of the medication for pediatric patients was established in a six-week, double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled study. The study found that Latuda (lurasidone) provided significant improvement in symptoms of bipolar depression compared to placebo medication among children ages 10-17.1 Because the study was only six weeks, the long-term effectiveness and safety of the medication has not been established. The recommended starting dosage for pediatric patients with bipolar depression is 20mg, and the maximum recommend dosage for pediatric patients is 80mg.2

Side Effects of Latuda

In this particular study, the most common side effects were nausea, weight gain, and insomnia.1 Additional side effects of the medication can also include drowsiness, weakness, restlessness, anxiety, increased saliva, uncontrollable movements, vomiting, decreased sexual ability, shuffling walk, late or missed menstrual period, and breast enlargement. One potential long-term effect of taking atypical antipsychotics is the development of tardive dyskinesia (TD), a disorder involving involuntary body movements. Atypical antipsychotics may also increase the risk of cardiovascular side effects, diabetes, weight gain, and high cholesterol.3

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Whether atypical antipsychotics are worth the risk of side effects in children is a highly debated topic. It’s imperative that you talk to your doctor about the potential risks of your child taking an atypical antipsychotic for their bipolar depression. A 2013 study at Vanderbilt University found that young people taking atypical antipsychotics are three times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes within the first year of taking the medication.4

Signs of Bipolar Disorder in Kids

Children or teenagers with bipolar disorder may experience manic symptoms only, or both manic and depressive symptoms. Kids experiencing a manic episode may talk rapidly and act sillier or happier than normal. They might become angry very easily or having trouble paying attention. They won’t need as much sleep, and they might engage in riskier behaviors like sex or substance abuse. Kids experiencing a depressive episode may have a low mood or admit they feel worthless. They have less energy and interest in their hobbies, and they’ll experience changes in their eating or sleep patterns. They might even contemplate death or suicide.

It’s important to remember that many conditions can also cause symptoms similar to those of bipolar disorder. Some of these might include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders. Recruit mental health professionals who are experts at working with kids and teenagers, to ensure that your child is given a proper diagnosis and receives the best care.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder in Kids

Treatment for kids with bipolar disorder often looks similar to treatment that adults receive. This usually involves a combination of medication therapy and psychotherapy, or talk therapy.

Medication –The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommends that children taking medication for bipolar disorder should start with low doses and slowly increase medication as needed. Parents should communicate all side effects to the child’s doctor, and you should never discontinue medication without the guidance of a doctor. Because some antipsychotic medications can affect the onset of puberty, talk to your doctor about how medication can potentially affect your child’s development.5

Therapy – Psychotherapy can help kids with bipolar disorder learn to recognize and cope with their symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help kids recognize and change their irrational thinking and behaviors which reinforce symptoms. Therapy can also help family members work together and support the child or teen with bipolar disorder.

It’s important to remember that treating your kid’s bipolar disorder will take time and adjustment. As they grow and develop, their treatment may have to change with them. Over time, kids can learn to recognize their symptoms, activate coping skills, and live productive and healthy lives.


If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from bipolar disorder or any other mental health condition, PsyCom strongly recommends that you seek help from a mental health professional in order to receive a proper diagnosis and support. We have compiled a list of resources (some even offer free or low-cost support) where you may be able to find additional help at

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Last Updated: Jun 4, 2019