Bipolar Illness and Children/Adolescents


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I have gotten many requests from people researching Bipolar Illness in children asking me where to turn for information. It is often difficult to diagnose Bipolar Affective Disorder in children. The first diagnoses may be ADD/ADHD rather then Bipolar Disorder. My illness definitely reared it's ugly head when I was fairly young. I can remember being so somber and depressed as a young child probably around age 11, and perhaps even before then. I look at certain family photos and some reveal a somber child. I know that I was constantly in my guidance counselor's office from the six grade on talking about my profound unhappiness. I was taken to a social worker and psychologist at different interims and was told to "focus on the happy things in your life...try new things, go roller skating." This did not offer me any support or happiness whatsoever! Let's face it, all the talking and behavior modification in the world won't "fix" a biologically based illness. Medications are needed to help control and counteract the symptoms that are presented. Theraputic support is also critical. 

My first manic episode took place when I was around 14-15.  I was in boarding school at this time and can remember being "high" for about 4 days or longer.  I was overly happy, dressed strangely, didn't want to eat, and I didn't sleep.  My mind was racing a zillion miles per hour.  I don't know why no one noticed this difference in my behavior.  I think my parents finally figured out something was wrong when I attempted suicide for the first time at the age of 17.  I took an overdose of pills and went through the hell of having my stomach pumped, etc.  Despite all of these warning signals, I still did not get competent help. Again I was sent to a psychologist instead of a psychiatrist.  I searched on my own for years trying to find answers as to what was wrong with me and why I was feeling like this, but that's another story! It wasn't until I was 30 years old in 1994 that I was finally properly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and put on proper medications. I am still on this journey and have had some serious problems along the way. At least now I know what causes me to act the way I do sometimes.

Here are a list of links that may prove useful in your search for answers regarding children & adolescents and bipolar disorder.  I sincerely hope they help you in your quest. Consult a board certified psychiatrist should you need medical advice. Don't stop until you find answers even if this means you have to get a second or third opinion. All information on the Internet may not be accurate. If you believe your child should be evaluated, call a board certified psychiatrist for an appointment as soon as possible.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Homepage

Bipolar Disorders Center-Created Especially For Parents With Children Who Have Bipolar Disorder

NAMI-Bipolar Children and Adolescents

Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation 

National Institutes Of Mental Health-Bipolar Children and Teens

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