Mental health issues in children can be quite complicated and oftentimes, parents are hesitant to seek out mental health services for their children. However, if your child has been having trouble with mental health issues, behavior problems, and the like, you may find yourself wondering what you can and should do about the situation.
Many people do not realize that mental health issues like bipolar disorder can begin to show up in young children. While diagnosis often occurs much later in life, early detection and diagnosis can make a major difference in someone with this condition's quality of life.
If you suspect that your child may be suffering from bipolar disorder, read this post to learn what you can do to find out for sure and help them manage their mental health condition.
Know the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a complicated mental health disorder but the primary characteristics of the condition are extreme swings between what are called highs and lows. The lows are depressive states and the highs are known as manic states (hypomanic states in bipolar II disorder). These extreme moods can last for days, weeks, or even months.
When a child with bipolar is in a depressive mood, they may experience:
- Extreme sadness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Self-harm behaviors
In a manic or hypomanic mood, a child might have:
- Thoughts of grandeur
- Little need or desire for sleep
- Extreme talkativeness and fast movement
- Unusual happiness
- Irritability and excitability
- Paranoid delusions
While these lists are not exhaustive lists of symptoms, they can give you a guide of what to look for if you are worried your child has bipolar disorder.
Contact Their Pediatrician as Soon as Possible
Another thing you may be surprised to learn is that your child's pediatrician is trained to be able to identify and diagnose mental health conditions. Many parents assume that they should skip the trip to the pediatrician and go straight to a psychologist or psychiatrist, but this can be an expensive mistake.
Your child's pediatrician already knows you and your child well. They will be able to better guide you through the early mental health assessment and diagnosis process than a stranger. In addition, the process will go faster because your child's medical history is already established with their pediatrician.
Know What to Expect During the Diagnosis
There are many different ways that a mental health disorder like bipolar disorder can be diagnosed. Some doctors prefer to do an initial assessment by simply asking you and your child some basic questions about behaviors and feelings to see if they match diagnostic criteria or the specific characteristics a child must have to have a specific condition.
Other doctors prefer to find a suspected diagnosis and then make a referral to a child therapist for confirmation. Then, other doctors will utilize more formal tests and questionnaires, sometimes oral, sometimes written to perform their evaluation.
The diagnosis process, in general, is designed to help rule out conditions other than bipolar disorder so that your child is not misdiagnosed or treated for the wrong condition.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Treating bipolar disorder is a complicated process whether the person diagnosed is a child or an adult. However, for children, it can be a bit more complex in terms of managing the condition with prescription medications.
As such, if your child is younger than that, the condition may need to be managed with therapy and behavior changes alone until they are old enough to safely take medications for the condition. Therapy for children with bipolar disorder will probably need to include both individual and family therapy.
The purpose of therapy is to help the child and family understand bipolar disorder, look for signs of mood swings, and learn how to cope with the condition to minimize the impact of symptoms, many of which can be managed as your child uses the techniques they'll learn.
Now that you know more about bipolar disorder, you use these tips and advice to make sure your child gets the help they may need going forward.