At what point did the doctors determine you had bipolar? (Part One:Pediatric Bipolar)

Hi Girls,

At what point did the doctors determine you had bipolar? What were the defining symptoms that changed a former diagnosis of (you fill in the blank) to a final diagnosis of Bipolar?

Mama Bear

Hey there Mama Bear!

What a complex question, as you probably already know. So much goes into the diagnosis of Bipolar, and as of my experience, starts with numerous either incomplete or total misdiagnoses. (Fun times I tell ya!) Let’s go in chronological order shall we? In today’s post I will address Early Onset Bipolar Disorder, also known as Pediatric Bipolar.

PDog’s (Mis)Diagnosis and the Quest for the Right PDoc

When PDog (for anyone who hasn’t read my bio, PDog is my son. Obviously not his real name, but for privacy reasons…we are going to pretend it is!) was about 4, I started to notice his sensitivity. At the time he was taking growth hormone shots. (Poor little guys was a 4yr old the size of an 18 month old…but so dang cute!) I thought maybe the hormones had something to do with his moodiness, but when I consulted the doctors they said that was not one of the side effects. They said he was probably just “A Sensitive Child”.

The following year he started the Young Five’s program at the elementary school. Right away we had issues. He had a hard time staying on task, little things would set him off (such as his snow pants not going on right or his boots) and the rest of the day would be shot. There were problems on the bus and at day care as well. (Thank goodness we had the BEST day care provider ever!) He began seeing the school social worker, but with him only being 5 yrs old they didn’t want to look into learning or emotional disabilities. As parents, we were frustrated, but both the teachers and the doctor assured us that he would probably grow out of it.

(Mmmmm McDonald’s frozen lemonade…sorry…Just taking a little sip of heaven. What? Why yes I do like to throw in little pieces of random to keep you on your toes! You’d think I was ADHD or something….wait…is that a sparkly pen?)

Kindergarten arrived, as did a whole new set of problems. In school he would have outbursts where he would scream or rip his paper to shreds. He rarely got sent home, but a call from the teacher was not uncommon. In one instance he even stabbed the principal with a pen. The summer before school started we had made a very difficult move after losing our house then downgrading to an apartment. The school social worker thought he was probably just having issues with all the sudden changes.

(Note…he was off the growth meds by this point as well…)

They put him on a rewards program where he would earn stars three times a day if he behaved. The problem was, if he did not earn a star the whole day would be ruined and there was no going back. Eventually he evened out a bit and the teacher kinda knew what set him off, so he was tolerable. Then winter rolled around as did winter break and for some reason once he got back to school, all the progress he’d made disappeared and we were back to square one.

At this point we had a meeting with the school social worker and the teacher. They decided we needed to send him to a PDoc (Psychiatrist) for a formal diagnosis before we could proceed any further. (Heaven forbid they just start an IEP.) My husband had just accepted a job in a new city and just as we were beginning to move forward with the school, a house became available for us to rent nearer to his place of employment and we decided it was best for our family to move.

So once again, new school, new teachers, new students. We researched the schools in the area and decided to go with a local Magnet Montessori School. We thought that the different style of teaching might make it easier for the little guy to function.

We were OH SO very wrong.

The school was part of the public school system and lacked the funding to deal with a child like him. He was sent home weekly because they didn’t know what to do with him (or didn’t want to deal with him…its debatable) He spent half the time kicked off the bus because kids would pick on him and he would give it right back.

Finally we took it upon ourselves to find answers. We saw a clinical psychologist who diagnosed him with ADHD and ODD. She saw the signs of Bipolar, however because she wasn’t actually a PDoc, she didn’t feel comfortable giving him that “label”. So she sent us to the pediatrician who prescribed Adderal.

That summer the best thing in the world happened. A new Charter School opened up and we were able to enroll the kids right away. As with ALL the schools prior, I spoke with the teachers, principal, and in this case the dean before the school year started about PDog’s issues. This helped to prepare them, but not enough. He and the Adderal did not get along.

He was anti-social. His moods would swing from high highs to super low lows. He threw chairs and desks and books and pencils. He had screaming fits and refused to do work. At first they tried to keep him there, but eventually we were back to him getting sent home. His outbursts became more and more violent and were more like rages at this point. We took him off the stimulants and sought a more professional opinion.

The first doctor was an intern at MSU. (big mistake) He also did not want to give PDog the “label” and felt it was more likely just ADHD, and that was probably (Probably! Seriously?) the cause of the mood swings. I even explained that I had Bipolar and that a lot of the things I saw in my son reminded me of myself, but he didn’t think that was the problem. He prescribed him this med used for cardiac patients and sent us on our way.

Not satisfied….and I refused to give him a drug that I didn’t know a thing about.

My husband researched and found a local PDoc that SPECIALIZED in pediatrics. He was our second gift from heaven. The first appointment was with my husband and I where we explained the things we had experienced with PDog. The second appointment he observed my son. Of course it happened to be on a low day and the little guy had a melt down right then and there.

I didn’t even have to share my opinions about what I thought was the problem, he nailed it on the head right then and there. He said all the symptoms, as well as my mental history, pointed clearly to Bipolar Disorder. He was completely comfortable with the diagnosis and we began treatment right away. (The treatment part being a WHOLE OTHER story, but I think I’ve written a long enough novel for this post)

The process was frustrating, however I’m thankful we were able to learn the truth so early on in his life. Hopefully we’ll be able to completely stabilize him before he adolescents. (Knock on wood…dammit why isn’t my desk real wood?)

15 thoughts on “At what point did the doctors determine you had bipolar? (Part One:Pediatric Bipolar)

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  2. My husband is bipolar, diagnosed about three years ago. I completely understand the frustration of getting an accurate diagnosis and finding the right treatment. I’m now more convinced than ever that general practitioners/family doctors should refer a patient to a mental health pro when the suspicion of a mental health issue arises.

    It’s nice to see people speaking out to educate people about mental health disorders like bipolar. I’m a new follower and look forward to your future posts.

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  4. Thanks for the response to my question, I do have a follow up question, shall I ask it here? Here it is:

    Are you glad to have a diagnosis, to be “labeled”? I ask this because one of the reasons they give for not saying my son is bipolar is because they believe it could be a bad thing to “label” a kid at such a young age. They say the label alone could be a negative thing for him. I wonder if this is really true since he knows he has a problem, I don’t think not giving it a name is hiding anything from him. What are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks girls!

  5. Mama Bear,

    That is a great question. If you don’t mind I’d like to address it in a post of it’s own as I do have much to say about this. (But if you’re in a rush for the answer….I’ll see what I can do) ((Did I mention I’m a magic princess?))

  6. Jessica,

    Thanks for visiting! I’m happy we are finally getting the help our little guy needs too!

  7. Oh I can wait, I would like to give that question some focus since I’m sure a lot of parents may wonder the same, I look forward to your response under the question section!

  8. Your story of your son tottally reminds me of our son 6 years old, last year was kindergarten, we had him in a Catholic School and needless to say they could not handle him and beacuse of how much we were called in to pick him up after his rages he has to repeat kindergarten but is now in the public school system. the rages were so freightening especially since most of the time he is a very pleasant and loving child. We ( he and our family) were finally diagnosed correctly just this last month. So we have started abilify and we shall see where is takes us.

  9. I know exactly what you mean. When PDog is happy is he is the sweetest little boy ever, but in a rage…watch out! I’m so glad you were able to get a diagnosis. Keep us updated!

  10. Pingback:Ask a Bipolar» Blog Archive » How do you determine if your young child has bipolar?

  11. This reminds me of my story. My problems began as a young child too (it took until i was 16 to be diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder). Everyone thought it was just attitude problems. Nobody thought anything of my terrifying nightmares (like Barney being stabbed and died and had white blood. Just terrible.), or having an absent father, or anything else. I was picked on by this kid in my class, and his parents (yeah, a 40 year old woman who was a psychologist, who told my mother “well n.e we’ll call him doesn’t know any better because we don’t know anyone who is divorced), and it got to the point where I would just give it back to him. Counsellor after counsellor nothing happened. It took till I was in jr. high for a school therapist to catch on that there was actually a serious problem. Everything came to a head when I was 15, and got into a “cat fight” and got charged with assault for someone to listen that there was actually a problem. First paediatric psychiatrist that i saw (she is the biggest quack ever!) just blamed it on teenage attitude. My second one, ten minutes after meeting me knew exactly what was the problem. Today, I am 19, succeeding in school (high 90% average) and have a promising future. It’s just the getting people to believe theres a serious problem when you’re young. It was tough, I’m still finishing high school, looking into Law School, so things always get better if you want them too. I’m glad someone finally listened and you got help for your son!=)

  12. Early onset bi polar .
    In Massachusetts a mother and father are in jail for life for the negligent death of their child . This child was being seen by the ,’brilliant docs ,’ from the Mass General Hospital who first came up with childhood bi polar !!
    We can all thank the drug companies for this ,the docs are on their payroll .
    So poor little Rebecca Riley is dead as a result . Psychiatry is FAR from science .

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