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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

04/30/2000

Question:

My son was diagnosed as severely bipolar. I don`t know alot about it.Can you Tell me the basics of Bipolar Disorder?

Answer:

First and formost, as you will see from the explanation to follow, Bipolar Disorder can be many different things. Some are more mild concerns, others more serious. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU ASK YOUR SON`S MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS ABOUT HIS TYPE. The term "bipolar disorder" (BD), like many terms in psychiatry, has been modified over the years. Current estimates are that 1 to 2 people in every 300 people in the United States have BD, and many feel it is as high as 1 out of every 100. In the DSM IV (the official book on psychiatric diagnoses of the American Psychaitric Association), bipolar disorder falls under the larger heading of "mood disorders". Bipolar Disorder got its name because of the symptoms of a kind of BD often seen in adults , and sometimes kids. They have mood swings that are so severe that they seem to be opposite poles, like on a magnet. one week or month (or even year, although less common) they are severely depressed, and the next they are convinced that the world could not be more perfect. On the other extreme, it can show up, particularly in adults, as "manic" episodes where they spend huge amounts of money they don`t have thinking it is no problem. Or they may describe the world, and themselves, as "wonderful and perfect"--kind of the opposite of depression. Bipolar Disorder (BP) has a large variety of possible symptoms and children often have symptoms that are different than those of adults. In what one might call its "mildest" extreme, a child with BD may have periodic weeks of depression that are not really identified by friends and family as anything other than grumpiness or withdrawal from playing. It can show up initially as inappropriate rage and anger outbursts that just seem like "she won`t listen and just throws things" or "he just refuses to do what I tell him". Since these things can be seen in many children without BD, you can see why it is an often missed diagnosis until things get worse. Bipolar disorder is one of the medical problems that has a higher likelihood of running in your family if you have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). They seem to, at least sometimes, be transmitted genetically together, although BD may not show up in some people who have the gene(s) for it because of other genes and/or environment. In real life, the importance of diagnosing BD is that there are many medicines that often help tremendously. In addition, as you and your son learn more about it and how it specifically effects him, you will be able to help him even more.

Related Resources:

American Psychologic Association
National Institute of Mental Health

For more information:

Go to the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Susan Louisa Montauk, MD
Formerly Professor of Family Medicine
University of Cincinnati