can bipolar disorder be learned?


New Member
Sometimes I wonder if bipolar can be a learned thing. The behaviors and responses/reactions that are described for sx just seem to describe a lot of pre teens/teenagers these days. When my difficult child was diagnosis with bipolar, he was inpatient somewhere and when I went for parent visitation and was talking to other parents, it seemed as if that was the diagnosis of the week. I work in the medical office and it amazes me how many people are carrying this diagnosis. Which leads me to believe it is a bigger problem than we think or because so many doctors are diagnosis this, the actual patients suffering with it are down played.


Active Member
you bring up a good point- the past 10-15 years it seems like their has to be a diagnosis for everybody/everything. and i wonder a lot if problems people have are "over diagnosed" and not being dealt with appropraitely, so they get worse, then the diagnosis's keep growing. depression and anxiety issues run in my family, counsesling my difficult child as a CD patient made things worse, so now, it could be bipolar. I'm a pessimist today- sorry, i don't want to bring anyone down!!


Well-Known Member
It's inherited and, like with most disorders, some professionals insist on adding a laundry list to the diagnosis, even if the core issue is really bipolar. It can turn into bipolar/ODD/anxiety disorder/ADHD/ABCD etc. when they are all really symptoms of bipolar. It's a pet peeve of mine.
I'm not a fan of therapists because they not only confused me more, but often made me feel worse and guilty for my disorder and many talked to me in a condescending way. Psychiatrists diagnosed me right; psycologists seemed to loooooooove diagnoses and just tagged one on after another and I stopped believing them. I think therapy can actually make anyone worse if you get a bad therapist. I prefer cognitive behavioral therapy, if I have to go at all, but I prefer just to let the medications work. That's truly what did it for me.
If a child or an adult can not control himself, I believe it's a disorder, not willful disobedience. Been there/done that. However, as with all disorders, bipolar can be a misdiagnosis and some doctors can overdiagnose it. If the treatment for BiPolar (BP) works, you know you have BiPolar (BP) :smirk: JMO


I recently had the opportunity to speak with a child psychiatrist who researches bipolar disorder at NIMH in Bethesda, MD. He said he thinks some child psychiatrists are diagnosing bipolar disorder when it's actually something else. Raging is not synonymous with BiPolar (BP). It can occur with anxiety, depression, Autism Spectrum Disorders, etc. He did say that when a child like my son has a prolonged intense manic reaction to an SSRI antidepressant, he treats for bipolar disorder. But the "forever" diagnosis is not made until the child gets to the other side of puberty.


Well-Known Member
I tend to agree with smallworld. Just because a child rages doesnt mean they have bipolar. They could just be a brat! They do exist in this world.

Doctors have their own pet diagnoses just like they have their own set of treatments they like to use. Some parents only seem to want a kid with the latest "fad" diagnosis. They can find a doctor to diagnosis it. It used to be everyone was ADHD, then it went to bipolar, now its Aspie and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Who knows what it will be next year.

Me personally, I will stick with a therapist who gets to know me for a long time so they can really see what is making me tick before we go to changing any of my diagnoses. To me, that is the only way to really know what is going on with a person. A day or two of knowing someone in an appointment setting in which you may get at the max...what a few hours tops? How on earth can that penetrate layers of mental illness?

Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
The only thing I can tell you is what the psychiatrist at Children's told me..... (and she runs their program and teaches at the medication school) N was the first child whom she felt "actually" had the disorder that she'd seen in a few years.

When I looked at her, I'm sure I had a strange look on my face, she explained that with N it was so obvious her problems weren't related to mere behavioral issues. She said they see alot of that, and it worries her.

I can tell you that N would give anything not to be at the mercy of her mood swings and the mode of thinking that comes with bipolar and borderline.

I do worry BiPolar (BP) is becoming as popular a diagnosis as ADHD/ADD, with some docs just plopping the diagnosis onto kids (and adults) who like Janet said are just major brats and have learned certain behaviors get results they like.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
While a disorder/illness can & frequently is misdiagnosed, I believe our children fall into patterns of habitual mindsets, coping skills & behaviors.

I do know that kt (& wm) do better on their medications; then came the hard work - relearning the habitual responses they used from birth. There is a lot we cannot "undo", for lack of a better word, however there are many different skills that are being learned.

Just my 2 cents on this topic.
What a great post!!! It is so easy for our kids to be given a wrong diagnosis. While I believe that someone has to be born with bipolar to be bipolar, I do believe that lots of other diags can mimic bipolar. And, I do believe kids can "learn" inappropriate behaviors from others.

I think MWM has an interesting point. I also feel that in the case of difficult child 1, therapist doesn't really help much. I think that it is the medication that truly helps him. I've thought this for a LONG time. That doesn't mean that I don't believe that therapist doesn't help some people. I just don't think that therapist can do it for all. I think some people just need to be given the right medication. WFEN


New Member
Great thread!

When I took my difficult child to see his new psychiatrist and she didn't immediately jump to a diagnosis I knew I had a good psychiatrist for him. She said difficult child shows signs of BiPolar (BP) and odd but she will not make any diagnosis until she knows him better.

I do agree especially in the case of adhd/add it has become an easy diagnosis and plunked on many kids who aren't.

I often wonder too if my difficult child mimics me as I have BiPolar (BP).... difficult child's psychiatrist said that if one parent has BiPolar (BP) the child is 67% more likely to have BiPolar (BP). In my difficult child's case it's a double whammy.

I am happy psychiatrist just wants to observe my difficult child for awhile before labelling him. The American health system is so much different to what I know (being Canadian) therapist and pyschologist can not make diagnosis's it has to be a psychiatrist, if a psychiatrist gives medications then either psychiatrist or your gp can write an rx but usually the only reason your gp would get involved is if your psychiatrist no longer practices.

Neither myself or difficult child have had any benefit from seeing a therapist in both cases it just seemed to make matters worse.

This is really a food for thought thread!!



New Member
i guess i am kinda get tired of people saying the diagnosis really isn't BiPolar (BP) because it seems to be the diagnosis of the day.

maybe it is the diagnosis of the day because it went so long with-Early Onset Bi-Polar (EOBP) not even being considered. there are still those out there that do not believe BiPolar (BP) exists until the teen yrs. maybe as our population grows so does the genetic dispostion. maybe the scholastic and social pressures are just so much more now that those predisposed are more likely to manifest? who knows but i do not feel that all psychiatrists are quacks waiting to slap unnecessary labels on our kids.

what i wouldn't do to have the diagnosis not be BiPolar (BP) but with-family history of BiPolar (BP) and mood disorders and how i am able to see actually mood swings in my difficult child, i have no doubt that the diagnosis is correct.

like mentioned above i also feel there are other co-morbid conditions which we all realize is the norm not the exception.

i think the answer to the original ? is that a difficult child with-BiPolar (BP) can learn how to respond to situations from us. we if blow it and have meltdowns of our own when dealing with-a difficult child child then yes i think they can learn how to rage on back.

i have less meltdown moments from difficult child and personally when i but myself into his shoes and try to understand where his is coming from rather than 'my way or the highway dude!'.

what i would actually like to see is more awareness in the community as a whole where BiPolar (BP) is concerned. where is the mood disorders telethon? where is the childrens mental health mircle network?


Well-Known Member
I think it and other disorders can be learned and ingrained. I also have a feeling that our chemical make-ups can only take these behaviors for so long without beginning to become imbalanced, which then makes them the very thing that we are imitating.


New Member
wow, it is great to know that others feel and think like me. Sometimes I don't post anything because I am afraid of offending someone. But I too was diagnosis BiPolar (BP) as well as my 16 yo. I do have hx of family mood disorders and depression, and many others as well. I just get to thinking sometimes that maybe therapy isn't the right thing to do all the time. It does seem to make things worse not always, but sometimes. medications seem to help, except with me, I feel better so I tend to "forget" to take them and then the spiral begins. Or do I think it does? I don't mean to put anyone on the defensive or want to cause anyone to doubt their tx plan I just wanted to ask the question. I find it interesting that studies do show the increase of chance of passing it from parent to child, but also, we as parents are the greatest influence on our child. Can/could we be teaching bad coping skills,lack of anger management etc and hence the diagnosis bipolar comes. My difficult child has a great psychiatric, he isn't the one who diagnosis bipolar, actually doesn't want to put that label on him. But since there is no true test to prove the diagnosis like there is for high cholesterol=blood work/labs, what can the true measurement/test for bipolar be? I do not want to make anyone think that I doubt true bipolar. It is a troublesome thing to live with if not treated correctly and maybe this is all part of me being in denial and wanting a way out of the world of...diagnoses.(pardon the spelling).


Well-Known Member
While a disorder/illness can & frequently is misdiagnosed, I believe our children fall into patterns of habitual mindsets, coping skills & behaviors.

Good distinction. Like anything else, you can have bipolar AND fall into habitual mindsets. That's why, as parents, we almost have to race against the clock to teach them coping skills so they can live productively with-what they have.