Need Advice Teenager- Bipolar or Depressed?


New Member
I need some advice. My daughter is 14 and has been given so many diagnoses to the point where its not even funny. We lost an immediately family member in November, suddenly in an accident (he was young). In February, my daughter was under partial hospitalization where they diagnosed her has major depressive disorder with anxiety. She was discharged from that one in April. Within two weeks of her being discharged, she wound up being hospitalized (suicidal ideation) for a week. I can't say that I liked the first place we went, I honestly thought they should have kept her longer (my insurance company would have allowed it all they required was a physician conference with them. The second facility, which I did like better, gave her PTSD, Major Depression re-occuring and Interiment Explosive Disorder (spelling?). She was discharged in June and seemed to be doing better for a while.
Lately, I can tell her mood is diminished. While both facilities brought up the prospect of her being bipolar, facility 1 told me that as parents we would know (this is our oldest daughter and first time dealing with a teenager). Facility 2 told me that they don't like to diagnose bipolar in adolescents. So my question is, as parents, how did you know you child was bipolar? I know the mood swings, but how is it different from depression? Any experience or advice you could give me would really be appreciated.
She's currently on 150mgs of Zoloft. She was previously on Prozac (from facility 1) which didn't seem to do much (even though it was higher dose).

Baggy Bags

Active Member
It doesn't seem right that they would put that on you like that. Is there another psychiatrist you could ask if this is standard protocol, or if it just sounds crazy to them too? I was sure for years that my mom was bipolar, but after really studying personality disorders (for my son) I have come to realize that it is probably a lot more complicated than just bipolar, if she's even bipolar at all. I don't know, it just doesn't sound right. That should be their job, not yours. I mean, of course, parents should educate themselves about the diagnosis, and if they don't feel it fits, it should be taken into consideration for final diagnosis, but to completely put it on you like that - "you would know" - makes me think that they don't know.

Try to get 3rd, 4th, 5th opinions if you can.


New Member
I'm sorry you're going through all this! We went through something similar with our son. The challenge is that bipolar looks a lot different in kids than it does in adults so it is hard to diagnose. For many kids, it shows itself as aggression. Like Baggy Bags said, try to get 3rd, 4th, and 5th opinions if you can. Four doctors in, we found someone who identified the bipolar symptoms. We still don't have an official bipolar diagnosis, but he's finally on medications to treat biopolar which made so much difference (until puberty, but that's another story).


Well-Known Member
I agree with the others my son was first diagnosed as bipolar at 17 after many other diagnosies. I was also told they don't like to diagnose it as a child. It is an inexact science and can be frustrating to find a doctor that works for you. It is good that you are doing this while she is relatively young and will accept the help. My son is much older now and his diagnosis has been confirmed but he has additional issues. Find a dr both you and she can trust.


Well-Known Member
Sometimes a diagnosis is made by a positive response to specific medications, used to treat bipolar, like vonnie says about her own son. A psychiatrist guessed, prescribed the bipolar medications, and voila, they worked. But then to complicate things many medications will work on different symptoms. Even on maladies they were not created for They call this sometimes off label.

When practitioners diagnose they frequently do rule outs. Which is to say for example, rule out psychosis, not otherwise specified. They are saying: prove it is not that.

They are not saying positively it IS one thing or another. Because it is hard to know, often, without a lot of observation

In my experience there can be as many diagnoses as diagnosticians. Unless there is copying going on, one following the other. Or like my son, he tells them something he himself copied from a friend and the psychiatrist writes down what he says.

I am not trying to undermine confidence. But this is not rocket science.

There is a kernel of truth in what you were told. Your experience as a parent is valid. But if you are anything like me, fear and denial undermine "knowing."

If it were me I would TRY to not get hung up on the diagnosis and focus on the behaviors, caring for her and yourself. (But as i said, I get scared, and fixate on what scares me.)

I am a great believer in expressive arts therapies (art, dance, music theater, etc.) , exercise and movement and the outdoors. Equestrian and equine therapy (horses) have been efficacious with the mentally ill young. There are therapeutic riding programs that are free and sliding scale.

Take care. This is very hard. I hope you stay with us awhile for support.
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Well-Known Member
Although she is being.modest, Copa is a psychologist. Please listen to her. She knows more about this than most of us and is very smart.

I like her alternative therapy ideas too!

I am 64 and had this all my life and to this day some psychologists will say bipolar 2 (mild bipolar), some will say mood disorder not otherwise specified and some have said long ago unipolar clinical depression. It is no doubt I get very depressed without an antidepressant. But what the exact diagnosis is nobody knows. There are no blood tests to verify, and the flawed DSM changes faster than modern technology. What is a given today is gone tomorrow in psychiatry. It is an inexact science. Much guesswork.

I agree with trials and doing what works best for your child and not getting hung up on labels.

Light and live!
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Active Member
Hi there,

My younger stepson is possibly bipolar. He is 16 and does not yet have a definitive diagnosis. He attempted suicide and came as close to succeeding as possible - he was revived by hospital staff and kept alive on life support for a full week before he began what has been a semi-miraculous recovery.

He was placed on antidepressants which triggered a manic phase lasting about one month - this was the first clue my stepson may be bipolar rather than unipolar - that and the suicide attempt. Bipolar individuals are statistically much more likely to attempt suicide.

The last we heard the psychiatrist was going to wait to see if YS has another manic episode within the next 12 months. If he does, he will receive the bipolar diagnosis.

In the end, it's probably more important to ensure our children have the best possible quality of life. And yes, this often includes psychiatric medications. I would monitor your daughter to see if she is responding well to her prescriptions, and if she has any side effects.

I believe, and this is just a gut feeling, that YS is most likely bipolar. Bipolar individuals have an intensity and a drive that is uncomfortable to witness. It's like they are amped up to 20. One almost feels assaulted by their energy. And this is how YS can feel to me. It's the "turbo mode" in my eyes that differentiates bipolar from unipolar depression. I have dealt with unipolar depression and when it has been very bad, it's taken all my energy to simply get out of bed.

As long as you are working with medical professionals you trust, you'll likely have to let it all unfold as we are doing.

I am sorry for the recent loss in your family. I wouldn't count this out as a major trigger for your daughter's struggles.

Does she have an IEP in school?