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Bipolar Disorder (Children and Adolescents)

Identifying Bipolar Children

03/16/2005

Question:

My husband is bipolar and has had many problems with the disease, including believing there was nothing wrong with him. I have three young daughters (3, 5 and 7) and they have all exhibited signs of this horrible disease. More than average yelling or other childhood problems, they have begun being mean, screaming, disobeying me to the point of me giving up, blaming others for their problems, having tantrums, and other things that I just can`t think of right now. They are also all very bright. My oldest has been giving me the most trouble right now but they all have become little terrors at times. Other times they are the most loving, giving little girls you could find. They remind me so much of their father that I am afraid for them in the sense that they might have this disease too. My husbands whole family is plagued with this in some form or another, even his 15 yr old neice. What do I do to start now in helping my children?

Answer:

Hello, Thank you for your e-mail and excellent question. As you are discovering, bipolar disorder is highly genetic. However, keep in mind, "genes do not equal destiny." Just because other family members have a disease, it doesn't mean 100% that a child will have it, it just increases the probability. Even though the cause of bipolar disorder is probably biological, its course (or how it develops overtime) is influenced in positive and negative ways by environmental events (e.g., home life, school, friends, therapy, medications etc).

If you suspect your children have some sort of mood disorder I would strongly encourage you to seek a psychological assessment of your children. The only way to find out if someone has bipolar or any psychiatric disorder is to get a comprehensive and detailed psychological assessment from a trained mental health professional. I would suggest calling your local university, community mental health center or National Association of Mentally Ill chapter to ask for names, locations and phone numbers of mental health professional who have expertise in this area. I hope this answer is helpful.

Best wishes.

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Response by:

Nicholas   Lofthouse, PhD Nicholas Lofthouse, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University