Saturday, July 22, 2006

Is Your Child Bipolar? - By Terry Coyier

Many parents face life with a difficult to raise child. If temper tantrums, crying fits, severe opposition and sometimes even extreme giddiness are part of your daily or even weekly routine, then you'll want to read this.

Early onset bipolar disorder is quite unlike adult bipolar disorder. It manifests differently in children and often disguises itself as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). It is difficult to diagnosis, but armed with the right information, a good psychiatrist can identify it and treat it.

Symptoms (may include):

  • irritable mood
  • agitation
  • impulsivity (lack of control)
  • destructive rages
  • defiance of authority (especially when no is used)
  • separation anxiety
  • extreme sadness
  • crying spells
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • lack of interest in activities
  • rapidly changing moods (from sadness to elation)
  • hyperactivity
  • pressured or racing speech
  • bed wetting
  • night terrors
  • inappropriate sexual behavior
  • excessive craving of sweets

What Parents Need to Do:

  • Keep a daily log of your child's moods (mood charts can be found online)
  • Keep a record of unusual behaviors (anything that fits into one of the categories above)
  • Keep a sleep diary (a record of how many hours your child sleeps each night)
  • Write down anything your child says that may seem out of the ordinary (especially things about death or not wanting to live)
  • Write down a family history of anyone who has had a mood disorders or experienced alcoholism

Whether or not you have a history of mood disorders in your family, if your child is experiencing most or all of the symptoms above, it's imperative that you have them evaluated by a qualified doctor. Often the family physician isn't familiar with the intricacies of mental disorders and should refer you to a child psychiatrist who specializes in mood disorders. Early prevention is the best treatment and can make life for you and your child so much easier.

If your doctor wants to treat your child for ADHD, make sure they rule out bipolar disorder FIRST! Being treated with stimulants can exacerbate bipolar disorder, making it even more difficult to treat down the road.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

The first line of defense with bipolar disorder is the mood stabilizer. Since bipolar is a chemical imbalance in the brain, the mood stabilizer attempts to fix the imbalance. Several different mood stabilizers are available and your doctor will prescribe the one they feel is right for your child, based upon the symptoms you describe. This is why it is important to keep accurate records of your child's behaviors. Be aware, mood stabilizers can take up to six weeks to be affective. By that time you should have had a follow-up visit or even two and can discuss the need to change medications if necessary. Bipolar medication is trial and error so be patient.

Therapy is also important to the bipolar child. Finding a child psychologist is sometimes difficult, but can make a big difference to your child. Therapy teaches them how to cope with their disorder and can teach them skills they can use when an episode erupts. They can also be very helpful to the parents, teaching them how to cope with their bipolar child.

Early intervention cannot be stressed enough. The sooner your child is evaluated, the sooner they can be diagnosed and become stable. If you doubt your child's diagnosis, don't be afraid to seek a second opinion. The best case scenario is that you have misread your child's behavior and the doctor will tell you that the behavior your child exhibits is normal. The worst case scenario is that your child does have bipolar disorder. Remember though, bipolar is treatable and is not the end of the world, especially if caught early.

Terry J. Coyier is a 37-year-old college student studying for an Associates of Applied Sciences degree. She is also a freelance writer who writes about bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Terry was diagnosed with bipolar ten years ago. She lives with her son in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. Terry is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Writers and her personal portfolio can be viewed here.

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