Help me understand bipolar in children

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by dirtmama, Mar 10, 2010.

  1. dirtmama

    dirtmama New Member

    Good morning!
    I'm overwelmed and confused. My difficult child has an adhd diagnosis. but it's definetly more than that. I'm waiting to get him in to see neuropsychologist.(he's on a waiting list) Been doing alot of research. difficult child has symptoms of every mental illness and disorder out there. the has aspie traits (many) and seems to have alot of bipolar symptoms (mania). not really depression lasting more than a few hours. He isn't violent or explosive though. (except with- little brother and if he's provocted sp ). and according to him everything is "fine" so he's not much help. I would really love feeback from parents of bipolar children (esp with- adhd) or anyone with half a clue. help me understand the cycling thing and symptoms in children. is there triggers that send them into mania? i know every kid is different and some can have a little of this and a little of that. I don't really trust the diagnosis of children, it seems to be so subjective. Thank you..thank you!
  2. dirtmama

    dirtmama New Member

    I'd really like to hear from the parents perspective. Since kids don't tell us how they feel, they only act. Oh, in addition: about difficult child's lack of rages, He's very sensitive and emotional but shows very little emotion. This only adds to the mystery!
  3. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    In my son's case, it looked like very severe ADHD. He also stopped responding to stimulant medication and his behaviors continued to escalate. He became hypersexual (as much as a 10yo can be -- flashing other kids visiting our home, fondling himself around others, overly interested in adult women), he had pressured speech, he said his head felt like a beehive of activity, he would get ideas to spend ridiculous amounts of money on other kids if he was invited to a party, or he would give kids money, he was prone to violent meltdowns over seemingly unimportant things, he took extreme risks (climbing, throwing dangerous things, playing with electrical sockets), was more impulsive and aggressive.

    I think the "cycling" refers to the rate of change in mood. For some people, they hit one level and stay there for days. For others, it's a rollercoaster all day long. Up down up down up down. The up being euphoria, grandiosity, super silliness, etc., and the down being rages, irritability and negativity (not necessarily depression like we think of in adults).

    Diagnosing is a very complex process that looks at family history as well as past and present behaviors, parent and teacher reports, self reports, response to medications, etc.

    I hope you get some answers soon!
  4. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Welcome, Dirtmom!

    Great explanation, Gvcmom!

    by the way, in case you haven't changed his diet or medications, I'd take out wheat, milk/dairy, and red dyes. They could be causing at least part of the mania.

    Just wanted to clarify, if he's sensitive and emotional, how does he NOT show emotion? I mean, how can you tell? Does he clam up? That sounds very Aspie.
  5. dirtmama

    dirtmama New Member

    He is very aspie. and man, it's hard to explain. When I ask him questions he just says "i'm fine, stop asking questions" (sometimes he yells). after he gets into trouble and i explain to him why what he did is wrong-he gets very upset and feels really bad but doesn't want to appologise (i do most of the talking.) latley, i've been having him practice "i feel...when that happens" and say what he could have done differently. but otherwise he has never said "i'm so mad" or spoken about how he feels.-he yells and argues -he just plays alone in his room if he wants to be left alone or fights with- his brother. he crys rarely, even if he's gotten hurt (tears up more often now with- the abilify). but he's very negitive often and gets agitated easily. i know there's times where he's frusterated or disappointed or just plain mad and doesn't do anything-doesn't speak or anything. but he will explode on his brother for any little thing! he's actuallly very sweet and caring and compassionate but his actions don't reflect this.
    sorry to get long winded, but what i'm seeing as mostly in the am/and evening. he can't function. a total spaz, obnoxious potty mouth and noises, hysterical-laughing that he can't stop. when i call him on his behavior he laughs uncontrolabley (it's not his normal laugh) he acts like he doesn't hear me and doesn't respond verbally to me speaking to him. (at these times he can't be left alone mostly for his brothers saftey). also when he sees something funny on tv he laughs and doesn't stop, like it sends him spinning out of control. i would call it hysterical. he can't get A GRIP. what do ya think? (complaining about my kid laughing to this for real)
  6. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    It may be the Abilify. Others here will know more about that. And the Concerta culd be wearing off, or it hasn't kicked in yet, depending upon when you give it to him. I'm just thinking that it's a pattern, since you see it most in the evening and early a.m., and with-bipolar, you won't see a pattern, per se.
    He sounds VERY much like my son.
    You're doing a great job, getting him to practice using words instead of exploding. My son is still learning, but he has improved immensely in the past 2 yrs. He is 13 now. We've been in therapy since cave man days. :)
    I hope you have a good therapist who can help script him and sort through the emotions.
    Have you heard of brushing? It's a technique to calm kids down. It may come in handy at night when he's hyper and you want him to settle down, do homework and especially, go to sleep. Melatonin helps, too, and it's safe.
  7. jcox

    jcox New Member

    My 7 y.o son was diagnosed with ADHD & BiPolar (BP) at age 3. When he was six his other diagnoses were added in including Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified. So it is possible for multiple diagnoses to be in the mix. E met the adult criteria for BiPolar (BP) at age three. He was one sick little boy. Nothing really set him off most of the time. He would just get this look in his eye where they got all big, glossy, and squinty along with this smile. The only way to explain it is that it looked evil. Then it was like something ticked in his brain and he went off into a rage for no appearant reason. Lots of aggression during those times. He began telling me about a man who lives in his belly and made him do bad things when he was about four. At age five he became very hypersexual which is common with children who have Bipolar. He has a long history of aggression from as soon as he could walk. He has been a hard child to figure out and treat. I have come to know the difference with his BiPolar (BP) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) stuff because his Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) behavioral issues seem to be brought on by misunderstandings, overstimulation, anxiety, and things like that when his BiPolar (BP) ones are for no appearant reason. There are different ways children cycle. Cycling is going from happy, to mad, aggressive, hyper, very depressed and back again. E is what they call a rapid cycler. For a long time he would go from happy to depressed and back again within a few minutes. Now that he is on Lithium which is doing a good job at stabilizing him he cycles different and much slower. Sometimes days in one cycle or longer. Lately he has been what we call baseline alot, which I am thankful for. I highly recommend checking out the CABF website at . There is a wealth of info there. I would have to wonder, if they are considering your son to have possible BiPolar (BP) if the Concerta is making him worse. It is common for the typical ADHD stimulants and SSRI medications to make our children worse instead of better.

    Here is his history:

    Infancy: When E was born he did not have a suckling reflex. The nurses had to teach him how to suck his bottle. He was irritable even as a baby crying a mad cry instead of a sad. He was easily over stimulated. He was bothered by lights, noise, cold, crowds, etc. He did not really like to be held much as a baby and preferred quick cuddles when he wanted them. He never crawled but developed a scootch sitting up at the age of about seven months. He reached the rest of his milestones at normal times. He did hate any change in routine or new places even as a baby. He was mad baby screaming of anger more than crying sad.

    Toddler:At the age of one he began biting and hitting. When he was two he continued his aggressive behavior. At daycare when he was two there was an occasion where he cut a little girl in the face with a pair of child proof scissors. She needed several stitches. He often threw things at people. He used to wake up in the night screaming. He began being aggressive with the cats (putting them in a sink of hot water, pulling their tails etc.). He continued to be very upset about any change in routine or new places. He talked real good from the age of two, but had his own words for some things. Even now if he is talking about something, it is like his conversations are one way. That is all he can focus on. He would sometimes bite himself and bang his head on the floor.

    Preschool:When E was three he got kicked out of head start after only two months for being a safety risk to the other children because of excessive biting, hitting, etc. He continued to have a hard time socially and with too much sensory stimulation. He hated foods that were too hot, too cold, places that were noisy, certain lighting, refuses certain clothing, and smells everything. He was biting, hitting, kicking, throwing objects, scratching and spitting on them as well as teachers. He began touching children and teachers sexually at the age of three. He would touch children even in front of teachers. He began telling grown ups “You ****, you stupid, you ugly, you damn it”. He would even say this to strangers especially when he was having a hard time controlling his body.

    At about the age of three he also began raging. He would have episodes where he would get a certain smile, his eyes would turn glossy, and he would do the above aggressive behaviors as well as flail his body repeatedly. These episodes would last nonstop between two and four hours.

    When he was finished he would look so sad and say “What happened? Are you mad at me? Why is ____ crying?” He had no idea what had happened. He became more aggressive with the cats. There were two incidences where he threw our cat out the second floor window. He would hit her, kick her, bite her, pull her tail.

    Also at around the same time he began to have graphic night terrors. He would scream at night. We would go into his room to find him sitting up, but not responsive like he was still sleeping. After a few minutes he would be able to tell us about his night terrors which were very graphic. He would tell us things such as “There were snakes eating me to pieces. The sharks bit my body apart and I was all bloody. I was going over a bridge and I fell in the water and drowned.” He mentioned a few times how he could feel these things happening. He would be all sweaty, his heart would be racing, and he looked terrified. He had several incidences at another preschool where he touched his friends sexually even in front of teachers. He is quick.

    Age four he started hurting himself but not severely. He would pick scabs that he had on his legs, poke at his leg with child proof scissors until he bled, and bite himself. A couple years ago he also began having what my husband and I thought were hallucinations, but his counselors always pushed to the side. He would always tell me “My belly is telling me to do bad things”. He would sit there having conversations with “belly”. One day over the past summer he cut his foot on the stairs. He was screaming “Stop laughing at me”! I said “Honey nobody is laughing at you”. He said “Yes mommy my belly is laughing at me. Tell it to stop.” On other incidences he has told me that somebody else is in control of his body, that there is somebody in there who makes him do bad things, and other comments of that sort.

    He got suspended 5x in Kindergarten for "Sexual Harassment" (4x) and one Assault of another child by kicking her in the chest and threatening to kill her. This year he is doing better with the help of his 1:1 aid. Last year we had to hospitalize him for the first time in a child psychiatric unit. Although it was the hardest thing we ever had to do for him it was also the best.

    If you have any questions I will be happy to help you the best I can.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2010
  8. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    For us K was started showing signs pretty early.
    The first clear signs of BiPolar (BP) were the extreme raging for upwards of hours. Very violent. Because she also has sensory processing disorder (SPD) they wanted to only give her an Autism diagnosis which can look a lot alike especially with BiPolar (BP), but she was showing pretty clear signs of BiPolar (BP). I think unless you have someone who knows a lot about all of the kids conditions they can easily group them into one thing.
    Most of our kids issues overlap with their symptoms.
    K started with signs of of extreme Psychosis and raging, suicidal ideation, hallucinations. Extreme rapid cycling. She was 5 at the worst of it.
    She could still get a diagnosis of Autism of if we pushed for it, we may just for services. But we are treating her symptoms which is the smartest thing to do.
    Finding out if your kid is truly BiPolar (BP) is so very important due to how you medicate. K does fine on a stimulant, some don't, only a small dose.
    Her symptoms are the same whether she is on the stimulant or not. She is unstable!!! LOL
    If we take is higher she is a wreck.
    But the stimulant helps her get through school, some days.
    At this point she is running manic, we are going in for a medication evaluation. She is a tough kid to treat though.
    Because of her all of her diagnosis she has a huge mess of problems.
    Luckily she wants to be stable and she understands her disorder.
  9. dirtmama

    dirtmama New Member

    I appreciate all your responses. It's so hard. My difficult child (8) seems to have a little bit of everything. I'm reading a book about asperger's. When I think back to ages 3-6, there was more aggression and violence. (attempting eye surgury on infant brother, chasing brother around with a hammer, theatening to bring a gun to school and shooting another kid in kindergar) Before the start of stimulants. I'm a helicopter mom, so noones gotten hurt bad- i have to be! He has fits now but not to the extreme. (thats what his brother does-he's the rager -i know what a rage is). is it possible to have bipolar with-out the rages? it is a spectrum thing though, right? same as asperger's- he has alot of traits but i'm not sure.(and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)) difficult child is really outgoing and smart so i think it blinds alot of people, the adults. he definetly has severe ad/hd symptoms but he was diagnosed by a play therapist and family phys. noone believed how bad it was.(and still can be) and sure it's gotten better with medications but we still have extreme times at home and difficult child is a compulsive theif every where he goes, very immature for his age (my 5 year old has surpassed his maturity level) he has a miserable relationship with his brother.he brags about all his friends but never gets invited to parties or playdates. I kinda wish i could just take him off his medications and plop him down in front of the neuropsychologist. so we could get a clear picture. instead they just keep adding medications per symptom. i'm going to talk to the neuropsychologist about this. and this time i'm going to be prepared! i'm sending in copies of report cards and testing the school has done (dead ends), notes from teachers, the parent report thing from this forum.he's going to think i'm Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but i'm sick of getting nowhere. i need answers and i'm going to get them. does anyone have advice about 1st visit to neuropsychologist...what else can i bring or do to organise a thorough view of my difficult child?
  10. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Gosh, you've got a lot going on!
    I took my son off his medications when we did the neuropsychologist testing. It didn't matter much ... it seems like he can make it through the day with-o medications but at night, or the next day, everything hits the fan.
    I know what you mean about continually adding medications.
    with-spectrum disorders, it is so hard to tell with-kids. They are all so different, although I would venture to say that no matter what he has, assume that his emotional level is about 4 yrs younger than his actual age. When I realized that with-my son, it made a huge diff in my behavior with-him.
  11. dirtmama

    dirtmama New Member

    Now my husband and i are at odds. argueing about the same subjects all weekend long...(but really having the same concerns). i talked to the family phys. (who's refered us to neuropsychologist) on fri and wants to add a mood stabilizer to the mix. he told us to try to hold out on the concerta in the am and see what happens. difficult child was in melt down to uphoria and hysterical and obnoxiuos...we made it from 5:30-7:30 am. then broke down and gave him the concerta (i was about in tears). i don't know why but the concerta helps. I respect the dr as an md and as a parent but he has absolutly no clue what it's like dealing with- a difficult child. he proceeded to give me parenting advice (bless his heart). My husband was floored and was/is opposed to adding any more drugs.(he doesn't do any research and barely goes to dr apts) we haven't even seen the n.psychiatric yet. (on the waiting list) the fam phy is consulting with- np. i got a book on bpkids and read it till midnight. wow! its uncanny. i told my hubby he's got to read some of it before we both go in talk to to fam phy. both of us together. we are going to tell him that we arn't comfortable with- him perscibing all this with-out the neuropsy even meeting our difficult child. even though i now understand what they are trying to do. doesn't it go against some sort of ethics to handle mental health and these drugs this way? we are so overwhelmed and exhausted!

    BY the way...yesterday i took him out all day to a flower show and lunch and shopping and you'd swear he was a easy child (exept for the minor nagging and rushed mode) we had a great day:angel3: unfortunetly it aways ends with- hysteria... eventually.(and everyday begins with- it)
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2010
  12. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I respect the dr as an md and as a parent but he has absolutly no clue what it's like dealing with- a difficult child.

    Ohhhh, yeah, been there done that. Sigh.

    You did the right thing. If it works, it works. YOU're the mom!

    So sorry about your husband. been there done that, too. It took yrs but now we're both on the same page. Just what you need, eh? ;)

    Sounds like you hit your son's limit yesterday with-the flower show. Cut it short by 1 hr next time. He was overwhelmed.
    Also, if the show was in an auditorium with-fluorescent lights, you may want to get him a hat with-a bill, and sunglasses, to help with-the glare. I get headaches from those lights, and both my kids, easy child and difficult child, screamed whenever I took them into Hallmark stores when they were babies. Their lights were different--very bright and probably flickered a bit, which I wasn't aware of at the time.