My son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 22. He was taking Focalin at the time for ADHD. He took Depakote woman-on-sofa-having-headache-100111995for a while but stopped after about 6 months because he said it didn’t help.  He had a good job then, but was having very bad anxiety so he quit. Things got worse after that. He is 24 now and hasn’t worked in 5 months. He said he can’t because of anxiety and can’t think. Does bipolar disorder “peak” in mid 20′s, or get worse? He is now taking Lithium and that is scary too.

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This is a very good question. Being a mother who has Bipolar and just had her son diagnosed with Bipolar not too long ago I can relate to this question. This can be a scary time in both the parents and the child’s life. It’s quite common for teens and young adults such as your son to be diagnosed at this time. I am not sure what causes the diagnoses to be common in early 20’s, could be the stress of school or the stress of transitioning from child to adulthood. What we do know is that Bipolar seems to be intensified with stress, that is why I attribute the commonality of diagnoses or onset of the illness in young adults such as your son because the 20’s can be an overwhelming and stressful time in their life.

In my experience it can take years to get the correct cocktail. So to answer the question “Does Bipolar “peak” in mid 20’s?” I would say no. What may seem like a peak could be the difference between not being able to find the right medication and succumbing to the illness. Depression and anxiety if not treated can be debilitating. When your says he can’t think, he possibly means his mind won’t shut off and therefore his thoughts are attacking him making concentrating on tasks difficult.

Sometimes during the treatment of Bipolar, other disorders can pop up causing treatment to become more challenging. After about 8 years of different medicine my doctors determined that I also had A.D.D. Once they added Concerta (a medication used for A.D.D. and A.D.H.D.) to my treatment plan I was able to concentrate and focus. Don’t lose hope.  The doctors will have to keep trying until they find something that works for your son.

Lithium, like Depakote, is a common mood stabilizer that is used for bipolar treatment.  It’s about the oldest medicine out there and they have the most research and information on it. Lithium can be scary because you have to be vigilant with checking on your levels, just like Depakote.  Levels can quickly rise to toxic levels causing physical illness. When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar, Lithium was the medication of choice, however after 6 weeks on it I ended up having toxic levels that left me quite ill. I had to get off Lithium and try a slew of other medication combinations.  Depakote may not have been working, but there are many medications on the market, such as Lithium, and the truth is, some work and some don’t.  It all depends on the individual, what may work for one person, may not work for someone else. Fortunately for my son he is being treated with the same medications I am on and it seems to work out pretty good for him. I do, however, understand that not everyone has the luxury of having a relative or parent diagnosed before their child is to help with navigating through all the information and questions about this disorder.

My advice to you as a parent would be to keep researching!!  Even if you have to attend doctors appointment with him,  keep trying!! Although it can be frustrating when the medications don’t work, or cause more annoyance than they help, there IS a combination out there that will work for him.

~Christine~

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