Need help breaking free from addiction?
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

17 Yr Old Refuses Help With Bi-polar Disorder


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… it’s that obvious. Thank you.

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.

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.

More "Ask Dr. Schwartz" View Columnists

  • Ann

    I sympathize with this woman. I too have a 17 year old daughter who regularly calls me names, threatens to hit me, threatens me to get her own way. She too has had 5 jobs already. She usually walks off the job with no notice stating that the managers are jerks and that they yell at and cuss at the staff so she is justified in leaving without notice. She always blames others for her actions. When she loses her school books in her pig sty of a room, she blames me. It was about 3 years ago that her room went from normal messiness to absolute squalor. It has been difficult for me to discipline her since she is so rebellious and bigger and stronger than me. I am a single parent and I have to say that there are times she scares me. I have been hesitant to remove her from the home. She is still going to school and I know she would have nowhere to go with no way to support herself. My heart goes out to you.

  • Anonymous-1

    She started at about age 14. I was a single Mom and she had a 9 year old brother. She is now 19 (her brother is 14 and is on meds for ADHD (he's a good kid!!). She has walkedout on so many jobs, I'm suprised she still gets them. She likes abusive boyfriends and has moved out and begged to come home several times. She finally graduated high school this summer (after withdrawalling twice - one of which was two weeks before school was out). She is currently in counseling and has had another psychological evaluation done. I thought she was bipolar, too. The first eval we had done came back as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (which if you look up the "symptoms" describe my daughter exactly) only they said it was behavioral and not chemical. This time they said Bipolar Disorder (provisional) whatever that means, I'm still waiting to find out.

    I have told my daughter that if she can't follow the rules she has to leave, but she made it to the end of the street before she realized she had mooched off all her resources and had no where to go. She's back and better, but still very disrespectful to me, doesn't talk to my husband, yells at her brother, disobeys some rules, disappears for days, doesn't take responsibility for her actions (usually my fault, but sometimes circumstances play a role).

    It's VERY hard to tell your child to leave your home where you can no longer try to save them, but I think I should have let her go years ago or got her somekind of inpatient help.

    Good luck to all!

  • Anonymous-2

    I was a horrible teenager. I cussed, hit my mom, broke thiongs, got kicked out of school, sent to a group home. I was sexually active at 12, did drugs, stayed out all night. In the group home, they tried to diagnose me as bipolar then ADHD. I was put on meds for awhile. My mom kicked me out at 15 and I had to go live with my dad. He was very strict and tolerated very little from me. I calmed down alot just having the discipline and structure. When I look back on all my behavior, I was NOT ADHD OR BIPOLAR. I was simply a little bitch/brat that had to have discipline. I am 33 now, a nurse, married with 2 boys. I wish I sould say had sympathy for this mom but it angers me that a parent wil insist and insist until a doctor will give them a stigmatic diagnosis like manic depression. She thinks that being expelled would look bad on her record vs. being falsely labelled mentally ill.


Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.


Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand