Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder in Children

It has only been within the last 15 years that the medical community has begun to diagnose children with bipolar disorder.

Formerly, many of these youngsters were treated for attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome (ADHD) or not being treated at all.

While in some circles the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is controversial as well as treating the affected child with prescription medications designed originally for adult use the fact exists that at least some of these children probably do have some emerging symptoms of bipolar disorder.

It certainly is a fact that even the healthiest of children have moments when they find it difficult to sit still, control their impulses or deal with frustrating situations. That is the essence of being a child, after all. However, there are certain behaviors that may indicate your child has bipolar disorder and be evaluated by a mental health profession.

If your child continues to fly into destructive rages past the age of four, you may want to consider seeking professional help. If your child talks of wanting to die or committing suicide, you need to seek help immediately. This indeed could be a sign of bipolar disorder. Any time a person whatever his age speaks of suicide, professional help should be sought.

Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children is difficult at best. There are other health conditions that may mask the underlying bipolar disorder or at times be present with bipolar disorder. Some of these include:


Conduct Disorder

Panic Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder

Tourette's Syndrome

Sorting this entire out may take a mental health professional some time. There is where the Catch-22 comes into play. Bipolar disorder is best treated and managed when it's found early which is difficult to do. It's easy to see why years may pass from the emergence of the first symptoms to the eventual treatment of bipolar disorder. In the meantime, the disease only progresses. Very often bipolar disorder isn't recognized until it actually impairs a youngster's ability to function properly in school and at home.

Children with bipolar disorder are treated with prescription drugs and many times various forms of psychotherapy. In fact, in some instances the entire family will participate in various forms of therapy as well. This helps everyone to manage and accept the child with bipolar disorder. It also helps the child affected with bipolar disorder to accept his disease and the various treatments that go along with it.

There's no doubt about. Learning that your child has bipolar disorder is a traumatic experience for parents. However, the diagnosis usually comes after months or even years of various problems: mood swings, difficulty in school, a string of damaged relationships with both friends and family members.

While the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is, indeed, traumatic, it should also signal a pivotal point in your family history. Now the collective energy of the family can shift from frustration and confusion to one of concerted effective strategies to coping and intelligently managing the bipolar disorder.

In effect, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder should signal a new ray of hope for not only your child, but also the entire family.

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