How do you determine if your young child is bipolar? Are psych meds safe for children and are there alternative treatments that work for children with bipolar disorder? What therapies are available for children with bipolar disorder?
This is not a question to be taken lightly. I don’t think any parent wants their little one tho have bipolar disorder. I know I sure didn’t want to. But unfortunately, it does occur. I know that many people out there today seem to think that way more children today are being diagnosed with bipolar and other mental illnesses than ever before, and then they surmise that this is just a fad and it’s over diagnosed and yada yada yada. But the way I say it is, it’s not that there are more children being diagnosed, it’s that more people are being diagnosed much EARLIER than they used to be. With all of the people I know who have bipolar disorder, each and every one of them have said they believe they had it as a child too. We all all have our stories dating back to early childhood where, once we sat and thought about it, we said, “That totally makes sense!”
With that said, you personally can NOT determine if your child has bipolar, only a licensed professional can do that. And I urge you not to make any assumptions until that diagnosis has been made. However, there are definitely signs that might suggest it would be wise to visit a professional about your child’s behavior. Such as …
Frequent Rages over little things
Troubles in school and with authority
Sensitivity to light, sound, smells, situations
Withdrawal while in a crowded setting.
Minimal social skills
The problem with all these possible symptoms though, is that most are typical child-like/adolescent behaviors. The key to knowing what is typical or atypical is the intensity of these issues. The key word that usually precedes MOST bipolar symptoms is, “EXTREME.” It’s the extremity of all these behaviors that really sets them apart from the typical child or teenager.
When I first published this site, I wrote a post about my son’s diagnosis story (which you can read HERE). I always knew there was something different about him. He was a miniature Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde, my own personal mini Incredible Hulk (minus the green skin and purple shorts of course). He would be the most loving boy at one moment and then the next he wouldn’t have the right back pack or his boots wouldn’t go on right and he turned into this little raging beast. Boots! That’s all it took.
Shortly after my own diagnosis I began to wonder if my son possibly suffered from the same illness. There were so many similarities between my childhood experiences and the ones he was encountering. These similarities and my own diagnosis were what really made me decide that it was time for him to see a PDoc.
Once he was diagnosed he was started on a med regiment and our family entered counseling. It took 18 months and 9 meds (Abilify, Depakote, Zoloft, Trileptal, Lamictal, Adderal, Stratera, Prozak, Tegretol) in different combinations and strengths to get him to a place where he was finally ONLY my son, not the scary little beast that came out when his mittens were wet.
On top of all the medication cocktails we tried for him, he was in regular therapy, had a very specific IEP, weekly social work at school and two parents with a great understanding (one obviously a bit more than the other … considering I have bipolar too!) of what he was dealing with. I firmly believe that it was ALL these things that contributed to his success over the last two years.
Some alternative things you can do, with your PDocs permission of course, is add an Omega3 vitamin to their daily regime, alter their eating habits to include a gluten free diet, and the most important … take care of YOU. There are many websites and support groups out there to help you cope with a bipolar child. Make sure to take advantage of them. Make sure to take time for yourself. And make sure to find a support system, people who understand what you are going through.
I hope this post wasn’t too vague, I just don’t ever want to suggest self diagnosing or self medicating. As I said, if you are concerned your child might be suffering from Bipolar Disorder, secure an appointment with a licensed child psychiatrist.