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17 Yr Old Refuses Help With Bi-polar Disorder

Question:

I have a 17 yr old daughter, will be 18 in 2 months, who hasn’t been officially diagnosed with bi-polar disorder but in doing much research, I pretty much swear she has it. She spent a year in a boarding school her freshman year for rebellios and defiant teens….that didn’t really help. She’s been on all kinds of meds for ADHD in her adolescent and early teen years. That helped. But she refuses to see anyone or take anything now. But her defiance, her mood swings, her yelling and cussing is killing us. We allowed her to quit school and get her GED – which she did. We only did that because she was so close to getting expelled and we didn’t want that on her record. She’s held down two fast-food jobs for 1-week each. She quit and swore it was their fault…she never wants to work at a fast food restaurant again. She is an artist and plays the guitar and piano. She’s very talented. We hate to see her waste herself, but we just can’t handle it unless she gets help. When she’s 18 we are telling her she can only stay with us if she quits swearing, yelling, and she must show respect and get some help. Right now she just wants to get out. She is mooching off of anyone who will let her stay with them. I guess what I’m really asking is this. Is there any kind of intervention available? I know there is, but for this type of problem? Or should we just let her accept the consequences for her actions. Oh, we’ve been asked by a couple of professionals (one being the local law enforcement) if she’s ever been checked for bi-polar…..so it’s that obvious. Thank you.

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Answer:

Despite your anguish and despair over your daughter there is not very much you can do unless she is willing to accept help. Yes, she may have a Bipolar Disorder but she has already been diagnosed with ADHD and the fact that medication once helped her it is most likely that it is ADHD that afflicts her. It is true that the disorders have many similarities and can be difficult to distinguish. Just to repeat, the fact that she was helped by the medications for ADHD indicates that is her disorder.

You and your husband are the adults in charge of your home. You have every right to insist that she obey house rules. Your house rules include no cursing and you can insist on that. If she will not comply then she can be asked to leave. If she becomes violent or threatening then you have the right to call the police. You do not have to wait until she is 18 years old to do these things.

ADHD and Bipolar Disorders are no excuse for bad behavior. In order to live and survive in society everyone is expected to behave in ways that are socially acceptable. Anyone who cannot follow social accepted norms of behavior is going to be shunned or sent to prison.

At this point there is no intervention available for your daughter except for you to continue to quietly urge her to see a psychiatrist, get a diagnosis and start medical treatment to help her. If she refuses and I suppose she will refuse, based on what you have reported, then there is nothing you can do except to tell her to leave. If she wants to mooch off of her friends and they are willing to be mooched off of that is her problem and their problem and not your problem.

As a parent I am fully aware of how difficult it is to deal with a difficult child. Yet, she is now at the age where she needs to take responsibility for her behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors. You and you husband do not deserve to be abused and you must protect your selves from her irrational and abusive behavior. It is difficult to do this but you must in order to make your own lives tolerable. In addition, as long as you provide a home, food and comfort for her there is no incentive for her to change. Will she change and go for help when you tell her to leave? Maybe but do not place any bets on it. All you can do is hope that she will eventually come to her senses.

Best of luck.

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