Welcome to the board. There is an information thread at the top of this forum that will help you out, however, often adolescents and children will present differently than an adult.
I am the mother of two girls and my 15 year old has just recently been diagnosed Bipolar-NOS (Not Otherwise Specific) They have not classified her as of yet and will do so over the next few years. I am afraid that my older daughter may also have it but since she did not present as severely as my younger daughter we are waiting to see how things go. She is presently away at college in her first year in a Honors Program.
My younger daughter's behavior seemed to change sometime around 11 and 12 years of age. At this time she had gotten her menses, there were two deaths in the family and she was having some problems transitioning into middle school in terms of friendships. Shortly after the deaths she started cutting herself (self injury). Her moods went up and down and we saw alot of agitation and irritability. She started arguing with us about almost everything and what we began to see was somewhat concerning but we attributed it to the teenage years and the rebellion that went along with that.
However, in her first year of high school things worstened to the point that we had severe changes in behavior, the irritability increased to the point that living with her was unbearable. She started doing rather impulsive things like taking 15 advil after a fight with a friend, lying, manipulating everything to get her way, IMing and having sexually explicit convos with boys she just met and losing interest in things that were positive in her life. She dropped all her positive friends and started hanging with different people. She did self piercings and colored her hair without permission. She went from being an honor student to cutting classes and not doing well in school. The irritability turned into severe anger with cursing.....our daughter slowly disappeared and this new being was living amongst us. She ran away twice and made a false CPS report in an attempt to get herself removed from our home. Eventually she had 3 more self injury/suicide attempts requiring 3 hospitalizations. And then she was arrested for shoplifting while out with me buying her Easter outfit. She went on to run away twice. She spent all her time in her room and finally she was sent by the judge (God bless his soul) to have a throrough evaluation at an adolescent psychiatric center and there she finaaly received the diagnosis and treatment she needed. Now we finally seem to be getting our daughter back....she is much more compliant and manageable....there is far less anger and slowly with the meds and skills she had been taught while hospitalized we are recognizing our daughter who was taken from us by this disorder. We are now in the process of seeking stabilization.
My advice to you after having gone through this is to get you son evaluated by a board certified adolescent psychiatrist ASAP. Do not wait.....I only wish I had done something long before I did. But who was to know....to me it seemed like a rebellious teen but looking back on it I was living a life of hell with the tasmanian devil!!
I could have spared us all a year of living through all of this if I had sought the proper help out....the thing is I did but the psychiatrist started my daughter on antidepressants which from all I have learned is the worst thing you can do with somebody who is Bipolar since it will trigger mania and increase suicidal attempts which it did with my daughter.
I have learned that Bipolar is often triggered by some type of traumatic loss whether through a death, divorce, or change in life. There may or may not be a genetic history....in our case there is alcoholism on both sides of the family and one great grandparent who had manic-depression.
In children, depression AND mania peresent themselves in the form of irritability, agitation, argumentativeness , and anger. So there is a fine line in being able to differentiate the two and often this is referred to as a mixed state.
I don't know what your son presents with, however, it seems to me that often a child who is Bipolar will distort reality to be something it is really isn't thus being delusional. They have a grandiosity in which they must have what they want and will go to whatever means they have to in order to get it. They often are not remorseful for their actions and have little care for the feelings of others.
My daughter was always a sensitive child who often had no fear of approaching somebody in a wheelchair and crawling into their lap. It is this sensitivity that has become her handicap....something that may seem so little to you and me is so much more internalized by her. The other day when my husband and I were short of money to pay for our lunch at Wendys she returned from school all upset....when we went to find out what was wrong she asked us if we were "poor" and going to lose our house. Without meds she would h ave held such a fear in for weeks perhaps even months which I am sure caused the agitation and anger within her. Now at least she is able to unload it by articulating more of what is going on inside before it manifests itself in a way that is inapporpriate to express.
There are many sources out there.....start out by going to your library. I found the book "The Bipolar Child" to be quite helpful. But the only true way of knowing is to have your son evaluated since many disorders may mimic his behavior.
Please feel free to ask any questions. There is a wealth of knowledge on this board as well as alot of caring souls.
(((HUGS))) ~ Goody