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Bipolar Disorder (Children and Adolescents)

Seeking Help Identifying a Disorder

12/11/2007

Question:

Hello, I am 13 years old. My mother has moderate bipolar disorder and my sister is on abilify. (even if she refuses to take it because she misses her highs) My father is absent in my life due to severe alcoholism due to severe anxiety. My great uncle died in a mental institution and no-one knows why he was in there. If you`re wondering why I am writing in to you, this is why. My chances are elevated in developing bipolar disorder or something similar. And according to my mom, i am having signs of it. I`m confused and need help. These are my problems. I was on 50mg of Zoloft for anxiety for a while and went to therapy. but I found both to be ineffective. I have a little bit of OCD. (my therapist said borderline OCD) I will wash dishes and do regular things in a certain order or I feel weird. I also have history in self-injury. It has been three weeks and six days since I last cut/burned. I don`t even know why I did, but I just love the euphoria that accompanies self-injury. I am not a sad person though. I am naturally angry and easily annoyed at school. I am a peppy happy person at times. But I also have moments were I write suicide poetry notes. (I am really into poetry) My mood is hard to track because it changes daily. So I can`t really tell you how often. I am a strong person to the eye and people know that. I am overly competitive. And can obsess over my grades, even though I get straight A`s and am on the honor role. I used to do cross-country running until a knee injury stopped me. Actually it seems to have all begun there. I was really depressed after I stopped running because I would run 5-6 miles a day and missed my adrenaline high dearly. Thats why in gym class during dodge-ball, all I want to do is kill the unlucky person on the other team because I feel on top of the world with adrenaline. But what really prompted me to write to you is that it is about 2:00AM and I am full of energy even though I got up at 8AM and cleaned the house all day. Which in the summer, times like this I would usually watch infomercials all night or do mindless things because I am exhausted but have to much energy to sleep. It`s weird because my mom gave me the maximum dose of sleep aids. And there is another thing. I hear voices and noises. Not all the time but in the last month I`ve heard my grandmother`s exact ring-tone while I was taking a shower at her house and when I asked her if it rung she said it didn`t and even checked the history. Then I heard my sister exact alarm clock tone while I was washing dishes and when I went to shut it off I realized it was unplugged and it immediately stopped. Then while I`m walking I hear my exact cell phone ring-tone and when I think about it it stops. Then the voices. I don`t know if it counts but at school in the class room while everyone is talking I hear some one say my name (this happens a lot) and nobody said anything. Its weird because I hear the exact voice of the person in the room. And my name doesn`t rhyme with anything, could not be mistaken for anything. I heard in the halls monday a girl (it was Ashley) yell "Hey (my name) come over here" but nobody said anything at all. I also have dreams of tidbits of the future were i have a two second glimpse in a conversation up to 6 months later. And thats the only dreams I have. I also have an issue with sleep-walking. But its like I`m just unconscious because I do normal things only while sleeping. This happens rarely but at least once a month. I also blacked out for about ten min. while I was hanging out with my friend because when they talked about it I didn`t remember anything. It only happened once though. I also have a problem remembering my past. I have a photographic memory, so if I can`t remember the memory it in video format I can`t remember it at all. I was in a car crash when I was three and was spared by two inches. I can only remember the video, not not the audio. So there is still a lot off stuff I miss memory-wise. I`m sorry if I`m rambling its just this is a time killer because I can`t sleep. And I probably forgot to say a few things, as usual, but from what I said please help. Besides please help me because I`m just wondering what the heck is wrong with me. Thank you.

Answer:

Hello,

Thank you for your excellent question. I'm sorry to hear you feel confused and in need of help. I hope this e-mail will help you in some way. It sounds like a lot of things are going on in your life right now, and you need some help in sorting them out. Without conducting a comprehensive psychological assessment of all the symptoms you have and don't have and your developmental, medical, treatment and family history, it's impossible to know if you have any psychiatric disorder, let alone bipolar disorder.

I think the most important thing right now is that you're not happy with your life, and you need some help understanding why and how to change that. Therefore, I'd strongly encourage you to talk to and share my e-mailed response with an adult (mother, therapist, school teacher/counselor) in your life who can help you obtain a comprehensive psychological assessment. Your therapist might be able to do such an assessment. If not, ask her/him if she/he can refer you and your mother to someone who can.

If the therapist can't make such a referral, ask your mother to call 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 professionals with whom you can schedule an initial evaluation.

Regarding your observation - "My chances are elevated in developing bipolar disorder or something similar." Although bipolar disorder can be inherited, always keep in mind the following 4 things:

1) "Genes do not equal destiny." Just because other family members have a disease, it doesn't mean 100% that you will have it, it just increases the probability.

2) Even though the cause of bipolar disorder is probably biological, its course (or if and how it develops overtime) is influenced in positive and negative ways by environmental events (for example: home life, school, friends, therapy, medications, etc).

3). There are some very effective treatments available to help teens/adults manage their bipolar symptoms.

4) Even if families do "pass-on" their bipolar genes: a) Bipolar disorder is frequently associated with a range of incredible abilities (e.g., intelligence, creativity) and b) family members will also "pass-on" on a host of other important genetic traits.

I hope my answer is helpful. Take care and best wishes,

For more information:

Go to the Bipolar Disorder (Children and Adolescents) health topic, where you can:

Response by:

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