How do you get started?

by Debbie
(Colorado)

My son is 16 and has always been intense and one of those kids that always seems to be outside the box or stuck inside the box. To use a few cliche's... a square kid trying to fit in a round world. A black and white kid who has always had trouble with the gray zones.


I also have a daughter who is 13. She has always been a very even tempered by the book type kid. And then my youngest is only 3 and at this point a happy busy typical 3 year old. My husband is very even tempered like my daughter (thank goodness!).

I have personally struggled with depression in one form or another for most of my life and recently (Jan 2009) I have been diagnosed as Soft Bipolar or Bipolar Type 2.

Basically with me, it has disguised it's self as depression and escalated over the years. I never knew you could be "a little bit" bipolar" until now. Consequently, I have been doing a lot of reading to get my head around this new diagnosis for myself and talking with my family to prepare them for trying new medications that might not be so easy for me to adjust to and the long process involved.

In the process of all of this, it dawns on me how much my son exactly fits the profile of a bipolar teen (and looking back, even the younger child profile).

It's really the first time I ever read anything about children his age that actually fit him. His issues are not to the extreme of some I read about, but it has been escalating over the past year as far as mood swings. He is a great student, a very high intellectual thinker, but I have noticed him really struggling with his moods more and more.

It worries me thinking of him heading out on his own to college in only 2 years. We already have a family counselor that has been working with my son (and also the whole family in the process) on and off for a couple of years for some issues with self control and inappropriate behavior.

My question is how to go about approaching the process of exploring if in fact my son is bipolar? Can a teenager be a little bit bipolar also? I don't want him to go through what I have had to deal with for YEARS.

I want to help him but often don't know how. I know how to find psychiatrist and such since I have been down that road for years myself. I already have some recommendations for specialists on bipolar teens. Mostly I am wondering how to approach my son with the idea of exploring this idea?


Hi Debbie.

This is really a great question for several different reasons.

Firstly, in my practice I can tell you that my kids who have bipolar disorder may start out with bipolar traits, and these traits are on a spectrum ( that is what you mean when talk about soft bipolar.)

SO, for example, there are some young children who I work with who have intense anxiety and depression that later changes and becomes a diagnosable bipolar disorder.I am also sure you have heard of the research related to how many people begin with one of bipolar and later convert to another. Most often people who have a depressive unipolar episode may later evolve or turn out to be bipolar.

Some adolescents I work with had a late onset, but often there were symptoms and signs much earlier.

I have recently had an influx in my practice
of kids who have gone to college and begun to have symptoms of bipolar or panic that suddenly get worse and rise to the level of full blown bipolar. This is due to the stress often of the change and pressures that mount in college.

I would suggest you talk to your son about the genetic component and the diagnosis. Preparing him for the fact that he may now have or may later suffer from impairing symptoms of a bipolar nature.

I find education is the key to managing this disorder. The more you know the better off you are, the more prepared the better off you are.

Good luck Debbie

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