The full realization and understanding that children can have Bipolar Disorder has come risen to full awareness during the last ten to fifteen years. With that knowledge, health professional now aware that even infants can experience Bipolar Symptoms.
Evidence points to the fact that Bipolar Disorder is an inherited illness. There are times when a person reports that there is no family history of the illness but it is not clear that this is completely true because many people are unaware of family history. In addition, it was not uncommon for the illness to go undiagnosed many years ago.
While parents cannot diagnose Bipolar in their child, there are certain factors and symptoms they need to be aware of in order that they seek medical attention from their pediatrician.
First, the fact that one or both parents have a Bipolar Disorder greatly increases the likelihood that their child carries the same disorder.
Second, early intervention is important to insure that the child is helped to control the symptoms, prevent a potential suicide when older and feel better both at home, in school and in the community than what happens when the problem is not recognized and treated.
Bipolar Disorder is difficult to diagnose in children because the behavior are related to what most children, teenagers and adults experience. Changes in mood, feeling depressed and even having an elevated mood are things that all people go through at one time or another. In addition, this disorder in children can look a lot like ADHD and, is therefore, easily mis diagnosed. This is why a medical professional is needed to make the correct diagnosis. That diagnosis then guides the treatment process, including medication and psychotherapy. By the way, psychotherapy is considered equally important for the parents as well as the children who have this illness. The reason for this is that it is extremely difficult to cope with the stresses that accompany this disorder in children.
Here is a partial list of some of the symptoms of Childhood Bipolar Disorder. Do not use this to attempt a diagnosis but, rather, immediately consult the child's pediatrician:
1. Destructive rages that continue past the age of four.
2. Talk of wanting to die or attempts at suicide.
3. Silliness to the extreme.
4. Running in front of cars or other risky behavior.
5. Several mood or energy stages in a day.
6. Impulsive behavior.
7. Distracted behavior.
8. Food cravings-usually carbohydrates.
9. Fidgeting excessively.
10. Self esteem issues.
11. Sustained depressed mood.
12. Bed wetting or other elimination problems.
14. Preoccupation with sex or other psychosocial misbehavior.
15. Self mutilation.
16. Excessive sleeping.
17. Difficulty sleeping.
18. Frequent physical complaints or illnesses.
19. Manipulative behavior.
20. Lack of concentration; disorganization.
When consulting your pediatrician about Bipolar Disorder in your child, it will be important for the MD to refer you to a Child or Pediatric Psychiatrist for diagnosis and treatment.
In coping with this or any other mental illness in your child it is important to remember to:
1. Avoid engaging in blaming. These disorders are no the fault of any individual. This disorder or ADHD or any other behavioral disorder is not the result of poor parenting on the part of either mother or father. These problems are illnesses and can be treated and controlled. Neither you, your spouse nor your child is a "bad seed."
2. When your child is very troubled and complains about feeling awful, remind him/her that there is a team of doctors, nurses and teachers helping to control the illness. It is important that the child knows that they are not alone and not isolated. Yes, your child should know that they have the illness, what it is and what is being done for it.
3. Maintain a warm and positive relationship with your child. The behavior you witness is not being done deliberately. Rather, the dysfunctional behavior, whether it is depressed or manic, is caused by the disorder and not by any wish to be disrespectful.
4. Use the doctors for support, as sources of information and, in addition, maintain a positive relationship with them. The MD's are trying to help and have your and your child's best interests in mind.
5. Exercise for your child is always important. Participation in sports activities, bike riding, skating and, etc. will help your child control the symptoms.
6. Get support for yourself. Support can come in the form of: 1. Attending support groups of other parents who are dealing with the same problem, 2. Individual psychotherapy for yourself, 3. Getting exercise and using meditation and Yoga to relieve stress and help you to feel better.
You are encouraged to submit questions, comments and experiences in relationship to this important issue.
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