Stuart L. Kaplan, M.D., is the author of Your Child Does Not Have Bipolar Disorder: How Bad Science and Good Public Relations Created The Diagnosis
Dr. Kaplan- You mention that bipolar disorder doesn't occur in children, so how would you explain my 10 year old son's symptoms?
He has had depression that has made him want to kill himself since the age of 7. He shares that he is God's mistake and feels worthless. He has even grabbed a knife wanting to stab himself in the stomach during an episode where he ran through the house screaming that he needed to die.
There has been clear cut period where he says he feels sadness all the time. Later this changes and he feels good again. But the sadness eventually returns.
From the age of 7 he complained of having two brains and the "bad side" of the brain taking over the "good side" and making him do bad stuff. He cried that he needed to see a doctor because something was wrong and that he needed medicine to fix him.
He has explosive violent rages where he destroys property and hurts us physically, but after the rage, he returns to his normal sweet self. Usually feeling great remorse for the damage he has caused.
He hears voices and has had episodes where he sees monsters, reacting with primal fear to these visions. This usually happens when feeling extreme mood shifts of depression or anxiety.
He lives with great anxieties that affect his everyday life and has sensory issues, both affecting his social life.
His sleep patterns were often disturbed with violent nightmares of seeing himself being eaten by animals or cut in half and killed. As time progressed he started having more problems falling asleep, complaining of having too much energy.
He goes through phases where he feels too much energy and needs to organize and clean, obsessively, even complaining of headaches, but having to continue his cleaning compulsion because he "NEEDS TO CLEAN”. He has experienced weird energy where he starts to act very silly, outside his norm, to an extreme that has later left him in tears because he said that he tried to stop acting that way but couldn't and it scared him.
He also experiences rapid cycling of moods. Here is an example of a common event. He will come to me complaining of feeling strange or feeling worthless and then he starts to cry, then a few seconds later, starts to laugh, then a few seconds later switches to crying, all while looking tortured and begging for help to make it stop. This will continue on for a few minutes, usually ending with him slamming his head into the ground because he wants his mood to stop changing.
These behaviors are clearly different than his normal behavior, this is not a child who has ADHD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Both looked into by our team of psychiatric doctors.
With the recent addition of Lithium, our son has change dramatically. He is not explosive, he hasn't had depression, he hasn't heard voices or seen monsters. He hasn't had any rapid cycling, only a little of the energy a few times. He is able to cope better with the world with his anxieties being reduced and has become very social. He was a kid who sat alone at school, brining concern from unknowing parents that "he looked depressed" as he refused to socialize with other kids, to now having play dates almost everyday. I can go on and on, and will if you want me to.
He says that he no longer feels anger inside and feels happiness for the first time. He says that the medication makes him feel "born again", that his life is so much better.
I was wondering... how would you explain all these symptoms?
This is ridiculous. Gee, lets make a list of why your child ISN'T bipolar and then give NO help, advice or alternative to guide a parent in the right direction. SUPER helpful...jerk.
People often misconstrue the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
When people mistake the disorder, they are often put on the wrong medication. People majority mistake it in adolescents because their parents are diagnosed with the disorder.
Stuart L. Kaplan, M.D., is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine.
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