Tantrums or Toddler Bi-Polar?

by Jacqui Chavez
(Prescott, AZ, USA)

My grandson is 20 months old, red hair and delightful most of the time. Recently however, he has taken to rages where he will bang his head on the tile floor...seek out tile over carpet to inflect self harm. There is a history of mood disorder on both sides of the family. If there weren't enough, he has spent the last year with me while his parents drive a tractor trailer rig coast to coast; coming in intermittently for brief visits. Mom is home now and they are both with me for the time being. He has had a stable and wonderful babysitter for the past year and overall his life is stable. I don't want to jump the gun with a psychiatric diagnosis, but I worry we may not be addressing his tantrums appropriately. So far, we mom, grandma, babysitter are simply redirecting him and trying to keep him safe. He quickly responds and the storm is over as soon as it began. Could this just be a transitional behavior in response to mom being at home all the time?

Hi Jacqui

This is a great question!

Tantrums in and of themselves, even with a history of Bipolar disorder do not mean that a child has bipolar disorder. Parents will often bring children to me just on the basis of tantrums alone. Tantrums in children happen for many reasons, they can be one of the many symptoms of bipolar disorder, but also of many other things. It could absolutely be that his tantrums are a response to the other situations in his life. The fact that you are addressing his tantrums in a way that is keeping him safe and controlling them is good. Often tantrums in children that are bipolar are protracted and cannot be redirected. In any child, it can be merely a demonstration of unhappiness and frustration and not necessarily a sign of bipolar disorder. Obviously I cannot make a diagnosis of your child over the internet. That takes a professional in your state that is trained to diagnosis early onset bipolar disorder in young children. If you feel strongly that your grandson may be bipolar, please take him to a professional in your area.

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