Confused about diagnosis

by Jennifer
(New Jersey)


My 5 year old daughter (almost 6) was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD by 2 different doctors. She takes a stimulant medication to help with her hyperactivity and focus. Her biological father had a severe form of Bipolar disorder. (He passed away last summer).

In the past I suffered from severe depression. The medication she is on only helps her minimally. She has frequent mood swings, outbursts and tantrums. Other times though she is an angel .She is extremely smart and mature for her age.

Granted, shes been through a lot in her life that could be the cause of the misbehavior. I am starting to suspect the problem could be bipolar disorder. (Shes also got extensive allergies).

How do I tell the difference with ADHD and bipolar and how likely is it that she could have it? Sorry such a long letter.

Hi Jennifer

That is a good question, but I think you need a qualified professional to make that can't really be done without alot of information about your child and the history of her life and symptoms.

There is overlap between those disorders. Additionally mental health diagnosis is not like, medical diagnosis. The categories aren't perfect and most of them are in fact very flawed.

Generally there are several rules of thumb in determining the answer to your question.

Firstly the professional will need to figure out if your child has a mood disorder. If your child has symptoms of ADHD, but also has severe rages, sleep disturbance, signs of depression, and dramatic energy and attention swings during the day, it may be worth considering that they have a mood disorder.

IF thats the case then the professional would need to figure out if the signs of add are caused by the mood disorder or seaprate from the mood disorder.The best way to do that is to treat the symptoms of the mood disorder.

The doctor would then likely prescribe a medication to address it.

If the medication seems to address most of the symptoms, and the severe attention and hyperactivity are still there, than your child may have ADHD and bipolar. Ditto with ODD.

Hope you are able to get the help you need.


Kristen McClure

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