A reader asked:
how should i approach my daughter about the idea of mood disorder? i am not 100 percent sure if shes bipolar or if its teenage hormones? I want to research it with her but not sure how to start. any suggestions? symptons we see as a family is irregular sleep patterns, social problems, recklessness, spending problems, unrealistic ideas about most all decisions, lack of self-esteem. any help you can give would be great! thanks
Good question! Teens are notoriously resistant to hearing that they may have a problem with their moods; they tend to "externalize" and blame most of their problems on their parents, teachers, or siblings. But sometimes if you go through a list of symptoms with them, express your concerns, take a non-blaming stance, you can get them at least curious. The end goal should be an evaluation with a psychiatrist or psychologist.
You've listed many of the signs we look for in doing evaluations. Other signs: moods that swing wildly, occasional periods of elation or irritablility with a decreased need for sleep (ie, the teen says she doesn't feel tired despite having barely slept), grandiose plans ("I'm going to drive to California with my friends and start a rock n' roll band"), speaking rapidly, jumping from one activity to another; plus depression (fatigue, nothing is fun, complaints of boredom, morbid thinking or suicidal thoughts, intense sadness, complaints of not being able to concentrate).
It may be teen moodiness, but if you feel her moods are interfering with her functioning at school or at home, it's time for an evaluation.
Try rating her over the past week on the Young Mania Scale: http://www.healthyplace.com/images/stories/bipolar/p-ymrs.pdf 
Scores over 11 are clinically significant.