Many experts agree that children with bipolar are at developmental risk when they don’t receive proper diagnosis and treatment. Here are some reasons for the trend in diagnostic challenges and the risks for not getting an accurate evaluation for your child:
#1 The great imitator
Bipolar in kids can mimic other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, to name a few. Many mental health professionals agree that the process of diagnosis is difficult given that the disorder is a spectrum of symptoms and severity. Given this, there must be appropriate time for the diagnosis process, and great expertise.
#2 Children vs adults
Bipolar disorder presents differently in adults than it does in children and older criteria for diagnosis are based on the severe adult forms of the disorder. Also, an accurate diagnosis cannot be done simply on the basis of “observable symptoms” as is usually the case when diagnosing adults. Current difficulties, developmental history from birth and an extensive family history are also needed to provide a precise conclusion.
#3 Importance of diagnosis
Bipolar expert and author Gregory T. Lombardo, MD, PhD., believes “substantial harm” can occur if the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is missed or avoided in a child. He says there is an average of ten years passing before the proper diagnosis and treatment begin and, in fact, more than half of adults with bipolar say their mood symptoms began before age 20. “For each year of illness, children with bipolar disorder have a 10 percent lower likelihood of recovery.”
#4 At risk of developmental problems
If left untreated, bipolar disorder in kids can profoundly affect their development—behaviorally, socially, and academically. Lombardo concludes that children will be at high risk for “recurrent depression, academic failure, substance abuse in adolescence and the development of a character disorder.” These resulting developmental problems, which are likely to occur in later years of the child’s life, will then be more difficult to treat than problems associated with mood.
#5 At risk of family discord
Without a diagnosis and treatment for a child, Lombardo argues there is a risk for a “lasting serious misunderstanding between the parents and the affected child. Parental discord, resentment among siblings, physical or sexual abuse within the family and divorce may be affiliated to not pursuing a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in a child.”
#6 Early diagnosis and treatment is key
While many mental health experts agree there is a risk of developmental harm if children with bipolar are not diagnosed and treated, there is a flip side: treatment of bipolar in children can result in “dramatic improvements” which are not commonly seen in the treatment of adults. This fact alone illustrates why diagnosis and treatment in kids is so crucial.
#7 Seeking an expert evaluation
Some argue that of the biggest challenges in the diagnosis of children with bipolar is the lack of child psychiatrists who can perform a comprehensive and adequate evaluation. It’s important for parents to search and seek out a credible expert. Lombardo reminds parents that any diagnosis of bipolar disorder in a child is “tentative and must be proved over time by the child’s developmental course and response to treatment.”
Researchers have found that a previous anxiety or ADHD diagnosis may increase a patient’s risk of developing bipolar later in life. September 1, 2018, AARHUS, Denmark—People who have anxiety disorders or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when they’re younger are much more likely to develop bipolar disorder when they’re older, a new study has found. Danish...
Co-occurring psychiatric conditions––like anxiety and addiction––often go hand-in-hand with bipolar disorder. What we need to remember is that these conditions require separate diagnoses and each have different treatment plans that manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. Here are six disorders that commonly accompany bipolar diagnoses: #1 Anxiety Disorders Anxiety as a symptom occurs...
When a partner denies their bipolar disorder diagnosis, it’s easy to get frustrated. But, take a moment and view the situation from their shoes––and adjust your approach accordingly. How can I get my partner to accept their diagnosis? You can’t. It simply doesn’t work this way. Trying to get another person to do anything is...
An initial mental health diagnosis often occurs in college. How parents react and respond can help set the course for their child’s treatment and recovery. College is a vulnerable time for the mental health of young adults. In fact, 75 percent of all mental illnesses are diagnosed by age 24. Anxiety and depression are among...