Bipolar Teenager Dtories


These Stories and questions were submitted to my website to be answered and published to help other parents who might be experiencing them same struggles. These are just a sample of the 100s that have been sent in over the last fifteen years. I hope they are helpful for you!

Is my daughter bi-polar or a normal almost-teen?

by Robin 
(Waipahu, HI, USA)


I am a recently divorced and a single parent to an almost 13-year-old daughter. Since birth, she has been extremely emotional, strong-willed and prone to tantrums. As she's gotten older and matured emotionally in some ways, she still flies into instant rages and tantrums when she's upset. She screams, slams doors, pushes me, and stomps. She makes threatening postures and has shoved me. She persists and won't easily calm down. I try my best to keep my composure, and try to discuss what's going on with her later when she's calm. However, this tactic isn't working, as she is very reluctant to talk about it and just brushes it off. A short time after a screaming rage, she is smiling again and pleasant. I just don't know what's going on. I've gone with her for therapy several times, but now she's refusing to go back.

This behavior is typically a weekly occurrence. I love her very much and want to do what's best for her. Her biological parents were crystal meth users, and I wonder if the drugs are making her prone to this behavior. The mother was using during her first trimester. Or have my husband and myself been too indulgent and she's just plain spoiled? How do you tell the difference between bi-polar and the normal growing pains of an adolescent coping with changes our family?

I very much appreciate any insights you could offer.


Hi Robin

Firstly, diagnosing bipolar disorder is a complex process. A medical professional need sto make this diagnosis and it is based on your child meeting the demonstrated symptoms of mania or mania and depression. The behaviors you are describing may or may not be related to a mood disorder. 

Children who are born addicted to drugs or with systems compromised by drugs, can have an array of symptoms which affect executive functioning, mood regulation, impulsiveness, attention motor skills etc. 

On the other hand, yes, you may be making poor parenting choices that are contributing to her behavior. Kids need to be held accountable for what they do, and their needs to be natural and logical consequences in place to help teach them how to grow into responsible kind adults. However, I am not certain that this is the case. I know parents usually blame themselves for everything that goes wrong and it isn't really helpful unless it helps to create a clear path of better choices.

I can't really tell from the information what might be causing the issues, however, they do sound significant enough to warrant help. I think I would keep trying therapists until you find one she will agree to see. 

Good luck to you!


Kristen McClure

Comments for Is my daughter bi-polar or a normal almost-teen? Average Rating  May 04, 2011
bi-polar/spoiled child 
by: Carol 

My daughter was 9 before she was given the proper medication to HELP her control her mood swings. 
(medication alone is never the answer) 

My daughter is also adopted. I waited years for her and went through hell and back to get her. My love for her is unconditional in a way that people who haven’t adopted will never I get it...I really do. 
I question myself she it something else? Was I too weak a parent? Did my fear of losing her or her not loving me as 'mom' cause me to spoil her? Have I gone out and fought to adopt this child, given up my career, my friends, my entire way of life to save this child only to bring her home and ruin her? 
What I will tell you is this, 12 years into this and I STILL am not convinced I wasn't somehow to blame, but I have accepted that no matter how we got where we are, I will do whatever I need in order to help my daughter. 

After taking her to about 1200 different doctors one finally said to me 'write down all the reasons you think something is wrong with her'. The following is the top 5 reasons and what convinced me that maybe the doctors were child is Bi-polar: 

1.Total intolerance for anyone or anything that goes against what she wants at that moment. 
(when she is annoyed a 2 year old is treated the exact same way she would treat a 12 year old or an adult. She CAN'T differentiate) 
2. Angry outbursts that last for 2 or more hours. Punching, body slams, cursing, throwing things and self harm. 
3. Anxiety that led to OCD type behaviors. (was convinced she HAD to get rid of all the baby birds near our home...climbed on the roof to do so) 
4. Nightmares that prevented her from sleeping for more than an hour at a time. (This went on for SIX YEARS) 
5. Once fell on the floor in a fit of laughter that lasted so long and was so uncontrollable, she begged her father to help her breath. Then jumped up and punched me in the face. 

I hope in some small way this might help you find the answers you're looking for. I wish you peace as you go through this with your child. this and Question


My 17 year old is bipolar. His 14 year old brother is tired of him getting angry at him for no reason so he will no longer speak to him. My 17 year old is very hurt by the way his brother feels about him. They have not spoken in 2 months.


Hi Kim

This situation with siblings is very common when one is a special needs child. As difficult as it may be for the 14 year old to understand, your 17 year old has as illness that makes it more difficult for him to manage his emotions. Getting angry for seemingly no reason is part of the illness. I would sit down with them and tell them you want for them to speak if they are living in the house with one another. They will have to work out there own issues but you can still set rules and guidelines about whats acceptable in your home.

If siblings don't understand the reality of the illness, it can be more difficult for them to tolerate. Sometimes it helps to get siblings their own therapist, so they can have attention to their feelings and concerns. I will often do a session with a sibling just to explain the illness, and then refer them on to someone who can be there just for them.



by Michele 

Hello. My son has had mood issues since he was little. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, PDD, and bi-polar. His twin brother has had more severe issues than that! I have been struggling to find the right medicine cocktail to help him along with how to deal with him when he gets upset at me. He tends to curse and will even raise his hand to me. I don't know what to do! I am at my wits end! I used to take him to a therapist but he would never talk to them. He always blames his brother for everything. Even though his brother has more issues than he does, he still has to own up to his own actions. He is fine and happy one minute than if he doesn't get what he wants, he will react in a bad way like a toddler. My family don't think I punish him enough & I just don't know how to handle my parenting anymore. 


Hi Michele.

I don't know exactly how I can help but I can tell you a few things they may provide you some guidance.

Families very often presume to know what you should do to make everything right. I have a theory that people believe that all kids would be fine if you just parented them right because it gives them a sense of control. Please remember that this is not your fault!

No one wants to believe that they could have a special needs child that can turn their life upside down. In fact, people like their lives to be as predictable and as in control as possible. It's easier for others to just believe that your child is like that because you are a bad parent. Don't by into this. please.

Loved ones often make foolish suggestions and make you feel worse rather than giving you the love and support you need.

I suspect that there isn't an easy answer to any of the questions you have. However, I think that if you find a therapist who can related to your child on their level, talk with him and engage him around the things that are important to him, than you will be in better shape.

No one wants to go to a therapist they don't feel comfortable with, and often we ask teens to do that. 

Finally, do the best you can do to be a good parent. Stop blaming yourself for your child's special needs. Look at what you are doing that works and do more of it. Look at what you are doing that doesn't work and do less of it. Focus on your child's strengths. 


Kristen McClure




by NY 
(Charlotte, NC)


My 18 y/o son, John, suffers with bipolar disorder, mood disorder, PDD-NOS, high level autism, possible gender identity issues, and more. He extremely impulsive, easily fixates, constantly lies, steals from me, even broke into the house to steal my ATM card out of my purse. He is currently an in-patient at Presbys Adolescent Behavior Health Unit for time in 2 years. He is on medication which he doesn't take unless I remind him. I've been insistent that I would no longer allow him to live at home which has devastated him. He has been to counseling/therapy but because he doesn't think he's sick he won't talk, won't follow through with goal setting. I have been resentful, unsympathetic and ignorant but want so much to change my ways. 

I now understand he can't change so now I believe it's up to me. I love him more than my life and want so much to learn how to successfully live with him. He doesn't understand his illness nor does he believe there is anything wrong with him. I think he needs to understand what's happening to him before he can move forward. He's a drop out, 9th grade was the last full year he passed. Attended Dore Academy for 6 years & Manus for 1 but then wanted to go to North Meck with his friends. That's when it all fell apart and I've failed him ever since. I want to make this right before it's too late. And I am hoping that it isn't too late already. I need help to fix my broken family.




Hi Nancy

I appreciate you sharing your story with us. I would recommend that you attend the parent run support group. You can send me an email to ask about this.

It's common when children are sick with mental health issues for parents to have a difficult time understanding their abilities and limitations. It isn't helpful in anyway to feel guilty about the past, its only helpful to change how you respond in the future. Learning to love and accept your child for who he is an important step


Kristen McClure


by Tina 


This article is all well and good, but how do I teach my bipolar teen, who is about to turn 18 that her mouth is going to get her into trouble. She has no filter and says whatever she wants without any remorse. She is downright mean. When I try to show her that what she says is hurtful, she says I am ganging up on her. When I repay her nasty words with a nasty response to her, I am being mean. She does not see or care that she if verbally abusing everyone around her.

I am her parent and I am not allowed to set limits with her. When I do, I draw criticism and no support from my family or anyone else. She has no accountability and has not been required to take responsibility for her behavior. 

I was told to file incorrigible child charges against her. But then, I'm told that I am holding her back. If she is charged as an adult for something, her future will be ruined. Again, how is that my fault? Where is her accountability? If you break the law; you go to jail. Consequences.....does she have any or does her bipolar disorder excuse her from them?



Hi Tina. I am going to post your article online and see if other parents might offer you some advice. I know how difficult it must be, and I am truly sorry that you are not finding support and help from your community. Hopefully some parents will respond and provide you with some feedback or successful strategies they have tried.

Comments for Out of control
Walked on and heartbroken 
by: Anonymous 

I, too, am trying to cope with my teenage daughter who has become verbally abusive to her immediate family. She has been staying with her Grandmother for the last four months because I could no longer be an effective mother to my three younger children when she was constantly walking all over me. No discipline had any affect, she made it a point to only act out even worse when we attempted to discipline her. She has broken my heart, and I want so desperately to find a way to get her the help she so desperately needs. At this point, she is refusing to see the therapist. I believe that she is bipolar, but now have to determine how to get her to a psychiatrist for an assessment. 

It is difficult for anyone on the outside of our inner circle to see that she could act this way. Her Grandmother is slowly seeing what I have been trying to tell her, but I can guarantee you that anger is much different when it is directed at YOU, and for WHAT?! It is all so maddening and heart wrenching. Best of luck to you in your journey. You certainly are not alone.


by Tracy 


My husband and I have a daughter who is almost 18 and a senior in high school. She has depression, OCD, and her psychiatrist thinks she may be bipolar as well. She is currently taking 40 mg. Prozac and 50 mg. Seroquel and she can still be extremely moody, upset, and unpredictable. She has had a boyfriend consistently since she's been in ninth grade. She always seems to have issues with wanting them with her . The boys she chooses are the kindest, sweetest guys ever and she seems to take advantage of their kindness. Most of them have followed whatever she's wanted and because she's so beautiful I think they stick around. However, as parents it kills us to see her treat them with so little thought. Some days she lays in bed and expects them to sit with her. She can be fun to be around at times, but others she is is moody and demanding. This senior year of high school has been extremely difficult for her and us. One boyfriend broke up with her and it left her feeling suicidal, upset, and very agitated. She would rage at us at times and then be crying the next. It has been awful. As parents we feel like failures and struggle with how our friends view our daughter; many don't like her because of her abrasiveness. This fall she leaves for college and we have serious concerns about her ability to live independently with another roommate. She is a bright, very, very creative, beautiful girl with a personality that would frighten most people. Do you have any other medication suggestions? She is currently seeing a therapist on a weekly basis, but we feel the medication needs adjusting.

Comments for H.S. Senior daughter with a needy, difficult personality. Medication suggestions?

Not being a psychiatrist medication issue are not my forte. However, There are basic protocols that are followed for specific diagnoses and OCD, although you don't reference it often is your description of your daughter response to a higher than average dose of antidepressants. Usually, double the normal dose that is prescribed for depression. But, if bipolar is a possibility then the Doc may be proceeding with extreme caution because starting low and going slow with the antidepressants is usually the rule. 

It's hard with teens to tease out behavioral instability from teenage instability, as so many of us with teens know emotional lability is so typical for teenagers. Adolescence is fraught with so much anxiety for parents and teens. I hope she has improved with time and found her stride. 


Mediation Refusal


I am the mother of an almost 14-year-old son who has just been diagnosed with bipolar. We are seeing a counselor who has a doctorate in psychiatry, and pharmacology. He has asked us to try medication for our son. But...our son REFUSES to take it. I am desperate to help him! We have tried everything, I don't know what to do. I don't want to hospitalize him, and my husband says he won't do that. I need advice on how to get him to try the med. I am truly scared for his future if he won't get help. His friend in 3rd grade had a mother who committed suicide and was bipolar. I know that is on his mind. Any suggestions?

Medication refusal 
by: Kristen 

Unfortunately, we know that medications are the most effective ways to help with bipolar. Is he open to trying other treatments? Will he participate in other aspects of treatment plans such as working on regulating his schedule? I wonder why your son won't take his medication? 

I think I would start by exploring all the reasons he is opposed to it. Perhaps empathizing and validating his concerns. 

It may be because he is afraid of taking medications, mistrustful of the doctor, or confused about his illness. Sometimes learning about what is at the root of medication refusal can make all of the difference in helping to change his mind. I would spend time really getting to understand the source of his hesitation. 

Sincerely, Kristen McClure



Hi, my name is Elizabeth and we have a teen son with bipolar. I thought my husband was bipolar as well, but he now denies this. His mood swings grow worse and worse over time. My son is actually doing a little better and has been on Abilify for approximately one month. We have called 911 several times in the past, and this is working against us.

The police who come tend to be very uninformed about bipolar and feel the need to lecture me (more so than husband) about how my son is a delinquent in need of DJJ more than anything else. They bring up how we have called in the past, how son has run away, smoke marijuana, and is now on probation--all "proof" that he should be in a detention center. 

My most troubling issue is that they have said more than once that is ok, even desirable, to hit our son to "teach him who is boss." The officer who came out most recently actually said to both my son and husband that he has punched his own teens in the face for not obeying!

I do not think any of this is good for my family.


Dear Elizabeth:

I am very sorry about your experiences with law enforcement. Punching a child in the face is considered child abuse, and/ or assault. I'm not surprised to hear police officers come uniformed.

Police are not mental health professionals and therefore there advice about specific techniques is out of the realm of their area of expertise.

This is similar to a teacher telling you your child should not be on the medicine they are on. A teacher is not a psychiatrist and therefore that advice is not helpful because they are not an expert.

I think perhaps we have spoke on the phone and you know of my feelings regarding treating a child who is mentally ill as if they are a criminal. Unfortunately this is a common occurrence.

I tell my parents that I work with in some instances, when they are unsafe, to call the police, however, I speak to the police and tell them what to do to calm the family and child down.

I have in the early years of my practice had to call the police to my office when children became violent, and essentially it worked the same way. There presence, should provide a sense of safety and for you and the child. It is often enough to shake the child up enough to shift out of their state.

I am sorry you have had this experience


Kristen McClure


by Anonymous

Well I'm 34 now never shared this with anyone in the world. I'm a classic extreme case of bipolar. I'm sharing my story to help other people and families understand. I always had something wrong with me at an early age. I always felt ashamed of myself always. Bipolar is like the weather extreme highs and lows an act of nature that's what bipolar is in extreme cases. s

Sorry for boring you but people need to know how bad it feels. I have never had many friends or family all my life from this disease i freak-out and feel ashamed how I have hurt everyone around me and myself. Well here's my story and all the truth and I'm a lost cause now but hope I can help someone, and professionals understand.

At an early age I was an angry child unbearable child to anyone around me. I remember my first day going to school I kicked the principal and destroyed his desk paperwork I don't know why I did it to this day. 

I remember that day but not much in my childhood. I always wet my bed till 14 years old and got punished for it I felt bad enough wetting bed and wasn't my fault. I have learning problems to my parents tried to help me. but no matter how hard I tried till this day; I still write like a 5yr old to this day no matter how hard I try. 

I can’t even roll a smoke like a normal person does no matter how hard I try. no one could tell me what to do as well not even the queen lol. don't know why I acted this way but it's a disease. I always hated school and never went from an early age from 7 years old police would come take me to school and i would tell them where to go. with bipolar in extreme cases no one can tell you what to do. my parents tried their best to help me but with extreme bipolar and sent me to shrinks but I told them where to go and smashed there office up don't know why I did it. extreme bipolar people hate authority and rebel. extreme cases of bipolar kids feel ashamed most of time like I do. at age 8 I got sent to children's home my mum said I'm going to a restaurant. got there I broke every window and runaway and they wouldn't take me. feel so bad for my parents why I acted this way can't explain it. it's a disease that controls you. a few months later i got send back there again and this time they took me in, I was alone and isolated there still with all extreme kids with family problems. Stayed there for a 6 months and one could control me or my moods. I felt alone and ashamed of myself I was only 8 . I wouldn't even go to school there told them where to go and only went when I felt like it. 

People could lock me up for hours and hours didn't worry me. I was a sad lonely boy with feelings of shame and anger. never made many friends my whole life as well, back to my shameful story. sp went back home when I was 9 and didn't last long I wouldn't go to school not unless I wanted to no one could make me. 

So, I got send to my dad's bailed in back of car from school at lunchtime from my school l friends and said putting me in a naughty boys home. I wasn't a bad kid just was lost and lonely and confused and can't explain why i was so angry bitter to my family and world. I got send to a yuppie boarding school as a punishment no one could handle me. so was stuck there for a year and a bit until kicked out. 

A bipolar kid like I was felt ashamed and lost and useless. tried to fit in but always was on another planet. Sorry for boring you this is a genuine story and hope helps somebody feeling what I feel. so, after that school got sent home to my mums. only lasted 6 months I would go to school if I didn't want to again. so I got put in hospital for problem kids. I would never talk to the shrinks just tell the to fuck off. wouldn't go to school there either and got locked up in a time out room I would sit there all-day and night didn't worry me and used every word under sun. I was only a kid and was to much for anyone in where naughty kids go. 

Runway and was so angry and just laughed when was in trouble. my actions weren't me but a disease I couldn't help how I behaved. an extreme case of bipolar is feeling of being alone and a loner who ashamed even to walk don road. I pushed everyone away who loved me. from there I went back home and wouldn't got to school my mum would give me 5 backs a day to go I wouldn't go just went and played video games was always alone and sad and lonely. got send to a family home after all my bullshit and anger. didn't fit in there either but lasted 3 years and went to school most days. I was a sad lonely boy who pushed away the world and scared of the world.

I'm 34 now lived with this way too long and beyond help now. bipolar is rare in a kid and an extreme case won't let people help just will be angry sad and runaway. people tried to help went though the system and wouldn't let anyone in. a bipolar kid has extreme moods won't let anyone tell you what to do if you don't want to do it. hurt family and friends. have trouble learning and be retarded in like writing and learning and doing things will try to them no matter what you fail at most things.

Ashamed sad and sorry are feelings extreme kids have. 

I'm 34 trying to get help but getting cut off everywhere I try. sad but true I want help but beyond that i see. bipolar is a disease that cripples’ people and we can't ask for help we are ashamed and guilty all the time. bipolar kids have no ambitions goals if untreated into adulthood. bipolar in kids is deadly and destructive and not their fault at all. 

You have highs and lows but never fit in and turn to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain its medication. bipolar kids are loners in extreme cases and scared of the world. the saddest thing for me i have tried to seek help and got kicked in guts and asked for help from a family member who researches stuff like this and brushes me off and says have got social anxiety disorder so sad .

Bipolar kids have many addictions and obsessive disorders and alcohol problems and sex problems like addicted to hookers for company not sex . ecstasy really helped me as a drug made me live again but can't get no more. I'm a lost cause but extreme bipolar kids hide their illness from everybody their world of misery. 

I could write a book how bad this disease is shame. I want help but can't get it so sharing my story on how it is. 34 untreated kill you and your family and the pain and sadness we feel is a death sentence for life. Well I explained my extreme bipolar I know I'm not the only one but this an extreme case of shame.


Dear anonymous. 

This is a tragic story. I can't thank you enough, though for sharing this with us, as I for one learned something that will certainly be beneficial to the people I help. I am quite sure that it took an incredible amount of courage for you to write this, and to share it was a selfless and compassionate act.

The things that happened were not your fault, and you did not get the help you need, probably because 20 years ago no one understood how to help you. You should not have been treated as a criminal when you had a mental illness, and I feel so much remorse and sadness and anger at reading your story that it will serve as a motivation to continue to do the work that I do with a renewed commitment.

I want to tell you that you are not beyond help. There are many, many things that can be done to improve the quality of your life. If you want to contact me directly, here; I am happy to find you some help.

Comments for Bipolar child and life of misery and shame into adulthood Average Rating 


by Janet 

My son is 16 years old and over the last 6 months he has changed drastically. He has what I call "meltdowns". He goes completely "insane", threatens the family, destroys property, uses abusive and derogatory language, and is very violent. He was diagnosed with ADHD as a small child, but he didn't have trouble focusing---just hyperactivity. 

In 5th grade, he said he could control it himself. We were having terrible problems with the "rebounding" effects of him coming off Ritilan at the end of the day, so we let him stop taking it---and he hasn't taken it since. 

He did great in school and everything seemed to be going better until last year. Then, he started acting strange. He started hanging out with different friends, experimenting with alcohol and drugs and becoming very difficult to handle. The doctor gave him zoloft and it didn't work at all, then cybalta, but it's like he just got worse. 

He insists that we buy him things that we can't afford and when we try to explain that what he is asking for is unrealistic, he gets violent. We bought him a beautiful car for his birthday and he said it wasn't good enough and went crazy and obsessed about how much he hated it. We finally gave it to our older son---who loves it. 

He wants me to buy him new clothes everyday and yells that I am going to hell for being selfish if I don't buy them. He says he is bored all the time and wants to go hang out with his friends so he won't be miserable. If I say no, he goes crazy and pitches a fit---I have had to call the police on him twice, now. 

He won't sleep at night and I can't get him to wake up in the morning. He told me that he sneaks out of the house and smokes pot after his "meltdowns" because it is the only thing that will calm him down. He says he hates his life and wants to kill himself. 

Currently he is taking Resperidone, but it isn't helping, either. They have finally decided to do testing for bipolar disorder. We start next week. He doesn't seem as depressed as he does violent and manic. Can this really be Bipolar Disorder? 

By the way, my ex-husband was diagnosed with a "mood disorder" after we divorced---but I don't have any specifics.
Certainly some of the symptoms you are describing are consistent with a mood disorder, however, if your son is using drugs, it may be that those are contributing or causing his difficulty. It’s nearly impossible to make a diagnosis when someone is using substances. It is important that he gets a full evaluation by a qualified professional.


Hi Janet

Requesting you buy him expensive things could certainly be a form of mission moding behavior which we see often in kids when they are manic. The again it’s difficult to tell because of the substance abuse.
I am so sorry about the difficulty you are having with your son. I know it can be heartbreaking to see your child transformed in such a terrible way. It is important for you to know there is a strong genetic component to bipolar disorder, and mood disorder is often bipolar disorder.

I would also suggest that you get him a full medical exam, as a thyroid condition can often be underlying some mood issues. I hope you are able to get the help you deserve, and your son can grow up to be a successful and productive member of society!


Kristen McClure

Comments for I think my son may be bipolar Average Rating  Sep 22, 2011
I know how you feel 
by: Belinda 

My son has been struggling with depression and mood disorders since middle school and it is getting worse despite many doctor appts and different medications. It really seems like it started in school when he began to be bullied in middle school. He has been on/off medication because we think he is better and then BOOM, here it comes again. He started hanging around one friend only and we became suspicious of drugs and we were right. Thank God we caught it early and he is now clean be still has depressive disorders. I'm at a loss of what to do for him. I feel bad like its my fault this happened. I pray that anyone who has a child in distress gets the help they need. I will continue to find a way to help my son so he can live a productive life and for once know happiness. May 13, 2011
please help... 
by: Anonymous 

i think my 16 yr old son may be bipolar. he has explosive anger,and usually directs it at me. he is failing in school,lacks motivation,he could be very scary when angered. he usually stays in his room. he hangs out with kids that are known to get high.but then again,the following day he could be the nicest person. i already asked him to go to a therapist but he got very defiant and said he`s not going. when he was young, he was the sweetest little boy-i know that boy is some where deep inside of him. please,some one out there, any advice ? i heard a lot of horror stories about putting the kid`s on bipolar medication. any help would be appreciated.... Oct 01, 2009
Thanks for the response 
by: Janet 

Just to be clearer, I wanted to let you know that the pot smoking a few times over the summer (or so he told me). 

Please note, I have been drug testing him at home, and all the tests are negative. He plays sports in school and gets tested there as well. All tests have been negative for drugs---but the crazy behavior still continues. 

He has also done weird things like burn himself on his arms because he is "bored".


by Christy Baron 

My daughter Wendy is 13. She has been diagnosed with oppositional defiance behavior, add and anxiety. Over the last 2 months she is getting worse. She was in a therapeutic home since Jan. and came home in August. She is having eating binges, sleep disturbances, sleeping with all the lights on and horrible rages mostly surrounding going to school. She is refusing to go to school again. She often has stomach aches etc for reasons not to go to school. She was placed in a home due to not going to school and her anxiety around this. She was doing well in the home but since she has come home things are rapidly going downhill. She is seeing a psychiatrist on Feb 3 and I am counting the minutes. The changes are eating, sleeping and the constant rages every day. Also, she will have sudden episodes of craziness like jumping on the bed and getting really silly like 3-year-old and making noises. I feel with the onset of these additional symptoms; bipolar disorder needs to be a consideration in the help she is to receive. We are going to family counseling, but she doesn't want to go and it is not helping. I feel like I am losing my mind. What do you think of this any help is appreciated



I think it is appropriate for you to consider bipolar disorder as a possible diagnosis for her behavior. Your description of silly behavior is not quite clear. You will need to talk to the professional you are seeing about that specifically paying careful note to any other signs of mania: (ie grandiose behavior, increase risk taking and energy level, decrease need for sleep). The more carefully and thoroughly you describe the behavior the easier it will be for your child to be properly diagnosed.

Be sure to carefully outline your child’s behavior for the professional that is evaluating your child . It also may be helpful for you to fill out the form here

I wish you luck in finding the best help for your Wendy!



Comments for I think my child has a bipolar disorder Average Rating 
Really sad! 
by: Samuel Depp 

Feeling bad for the child! It's not easy for a girl of just 13 to handle bipolar disorder; really a brave one. Thanks for sharing the article. I think your baby girl needs more attention and care. You shouldn't make her feel alone anytime moreover you need to spend lots of time with her. A father is the closest person to his daughter and this bonding should be there from the early childhood which will ultimately help your baby less stressful. Every parent should know about the Importance of father-baby bonding. Thank you. Dec 01, 2012
Acting like a 3yr old 
by: Dan Martin 

My daughter is bipolar, ADHD and has all the symptoms you just described. She absolutely acts silly and out of control sometimes. It's part of her mania.


by Tanya 
(Arkansas )

We have an 18-year-old daughter who just graduated high school a few weeks ago. She has suffered from depression since middle school but has also hinted since then it was more than just depression. She is very smart and was in the gifted program until high school. Which is when her behavior really started to get out of hand. She did graduate but it was like pulling teeth to make that happen. 1 week before graduation we had to take her to inpatient treatment for suicidal threats and abusing drugs. Mostly Xanax which she does not have a prescription for and cocaine. She also smokes marijuana. She totaled her car while high on Xanax a few days before we took her. She spent a week there and come home clear headed, optimistic and on medication for bipolar disorder. She has been home 3 weeks. We have had many disagreements about the rules for her to live here. We feel she needs to be home at a certain time, let us know where she is and who she is hanging out with, also absolutely no drug use at all. 

She feels she should be able to come and go as she pleases because she is legally an adult and that she should be able to use drugs if she chooses. She was also going to be given another car this time from her grandmother. She came home yesterday saying she was packing a bag and leaving. We were arguing because she hadn't been home in 2 nights and when she was here she slept the entire time. She was clearly high on something and not marijuana. She also had 2 guys with her we had never might before. We took the car from her and told her she can't have it or live here if she was not going to do what is expected of her. She left on foot with the 2 guys and says she is not coming back unless we give her the car back and let her do whatever she wants to do. 

My question is the article almost makes it sound like we should just put up with her bad behavior and poor choices. I felt it did have helpful information too. So is asking your 18-year-old, that all of this has just happened, to check in with us, to have a curfew and not do drugs to live with us, have us support her and help her go to college like she wants to much to ask of her?? I don't understand what limits we are supposed to be set if we aren't supposed to expect that much out of them.

Comments for How much should we be asking of an 18 year old Average Rating  Jul 29, 2018

by: Kristen 

Hi Tanya 

Your questions are really great, so thank you for asking them. 

Your rules and limits are reasonable, and the structure would be absolutely essential to your 18-year-old. 

You ask... 
"So is asking your 18-year-old, that all of this has just happened, to check in with us, to have a curfew and not do drugs to live with us, have us support her and help her go to college like she wants too much to ask of her??" 

No. Not. Part of the difficulty here is that you are dealing with a child who has substance abuse issues and mental health issues so it is more complicated. 

An eighteen-year-old is not an adult. And one with bipolar disorder and substance abuse issues has even more challenges than your everyday 18 year old. She does not know what’s best for her, you do. My advice to you would be to keep firm limits about curfew and check in and do not budge on them. Even if she is angry and defiant. It will be challenging to continuously stay calm and consistent but it's your only choice. 

I am not sure which article you read, but the idea behind being flexible with your bipolar teen is that you understand and are compassionate for the struggles that face your child when they have mood swings and meet them where they are at instead of applying the same discipline that you would to a child that does not have bipolar disorder. The things that they can't handle you don't expect them to handle and you provide more support and encouragement to them then they might be expected to need at the age they are at. However, you must stay calm and in control. Being the authority and the adult is always important. 

So, for example, although you might expect your 18-year-old daughter to take a full course load at college and work. You are open to the fact that because of her bipolar disorder your daughter might need to take fewer classes or work less than an 18-year-old who didn't have bipolar disorder. It may be that she can't handle the responsibility of a car or can't live on campus. 

When you add substance abuse into the mix of a bipolar teen, consistency, and consequences around drug use and curfew need to tighten up. 

I hope that clears things up!


My 16 year old, bipolar son verbally abuses me. I am having difficulty communicating with him because he will not listen to what I have to say. He name calls, uses profanity towards me and will physically push or grab me if I try to give consequences(ie. take his computer away). He is vindictive and threatens me. I have even called the police. I don't know the best way to handle this. He doesn't see his behavior! We have been in therapy for years and he is on Depakote. He is also in a substance abuse program. Please help!

Thank you,

Hi Caryn

Its difficulty for me to know exactly what’s happening, but it is possible that your child is not stable. Are these behaviors bound to a mood state? Many children only behave aggressively when they are manic? DO you understand the signs and symptoms of his mania and depression? Is he able to identify his mood states? Is he actively using? All these issues seem relevant.It seems like you also may need to work with your therapist to have a clear safety plan. It is never okay to feel threatened or to put up with that kind of behavior, and if necessary you need to look to the outside for help when it becomes dangerous.

Good Luck
Kristen McClure

Comments for Bipolar Teen and Emotional Abuse Average Rating  Feb 22, 2016
Too much emotional abuse 
by: Anonymous 

I am so glad I found this site and pray that the people who have commented find me as well. My 13 year old daughter has had bipolar disorder with rapid cycling since she was 2. I have always been her target of any and every type of abuse you could imagine. She tells me she wants me to die, doesn't respect me, I could go on and on. We go to therapy every week, she is medicated, I am so tired of the battle everyday. I love my daughter with all of my heart but it's getting so difficult to be around her. I am at a loss and so his her therapist. I'm not a perfect parent and I have to deal with my own depression. It's hard not to believe some of the horrific things she says when u hear them on a daily basis. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Jul 17, 2013
Verbal abuse too much 
by: Anonymous 

I'm sad that others are going through situations similar to my own. My daughter is a teen that has been treated for child onset bipolar since 3. I use to be so much better at coping, researching skills to cope, & just connecting. My 13 year old son has only in the past few years become condescending too. Their Daddy died about 5 yr back & he use to do this when we were first married. It's dehumanizing to be told you should die & the world will be better off repeatedly. If I was in a primary grade on a school bus - it might hurt my feelings. Im told I have no friends & ppl just pity me. They smirk or laugh if I show reaction. This breaks my heart & immobilizes will. I have a 6 year old I try to focus on, redirect from negative - go to the park. I'm limiting my Internet usage bc of my emotional state, way too sensitive & know I'm drawing inward. It helps to know I'm not alone in my battles. After watching their Dad pass, it's hard to get angry. I've encountered a lot of cruelty & trying not to feel as a helpless victim. We are getting counseling. I'm not sure why (maybe its my perception) it seems everybody blames me as though it's a parenting or personality issue. I have never taken any satisfaction or felt power over making anyone feel bad so I will never understand. Is there any coping skills that seem effective in making the behavior stop? Or hiding successfully how it hurts so it can't be a tool for them to leverage power for when they are feeling bad? It has hit my health & my digestion system .. Like, it kills me inside already & literally it's killing me. I'm not getting online much but if you have any insight, I will read- even though I don't respond Feb 06, 2012
Emotionally and Verbally Abused too 
by: Anonymous 

I really feel for you as I have this problem with my 16 year old son. I feel like I'm in a bad and abusive marriage and there is no escape. I am trying to take the advice of Kristen and get some therapy myself. Deep down I know I am doing the very best I can, and I am sure you are as well. I KNOW the feelings of futility and hopelessness all to well, and if it's something you can do to help yourself, it will only add positively to your specific situation. Bless you as you go through the tunnels...may there be light on the other side! Feb 25, 2010
Abusive Behavior 
by: Anonymous 

Hi, I am so sorry to hear about your situation, but I completely understand your fears. A few years ago, my daughter tried to stab me with a pair of scissors. She also will, hit, kick, or push me while calling me abusive names. We have been through so many medications. Currently, she takes, risperidone, clonazepam, and Depakote and has been acting the best she has in years. We are still currently adjusting the Depakote until her blood work shows 80-120 so sometimes, I still get the abusive language & name calling, but I am no longer scared of her. One thing that has been helpful is getting involved in Church. We found a contemporary Church that has a Youth Rock Band. She has never wanted to go & would never go, but after two suicide attempts, I begged her to just try this new church & she likes it. Sometimes she doesn't want to get up still & we fight with her about it, but she says later that she is glad she went because she feels better after she goes. I really hope everything gets better for you & I am beginning to understand that treatment has to change as the bipolar disorder changes. She has also been diagnosed with PTSD from having an abusive biological father who is an alcoholic (and we believe is bipolar too), anxiety, and depression. Try not to take anything personally and if you are scared, take him to a hospital. I had to tell a social worker that I was scared of my daughter & I was embarrassed about it. However, I know if she would have really hurt me, she would have never forgiven herself. She tells me that she doesn't even think about what she is doing or saying sometimes and later cries about how horrible she treats me. Please do not hesitate to take him to the hospital if you think he is going to try to hurt you or himself. He will eventually thank you for it when he is better. Take Care. 


by D
(New York )

My daughter is 18 now and I always had difficulties with her attitude and behavior towards me. My husband and I separated when she was 4. I moved back to my hometown for family support. My ex-husband had visitation every other weekend and drove two hours to take her. He died in a car crash(drunk) 6 years ago. My daughter doesn't want to talk about his death and never really grieved out loud about it.

She has had many mood swings. My family physician prescribed her for anxiety medicine. She has mood swings with me. One minute she is kind and caring and then the next hour she is picking apart everything I do. I chew my food wrong....I get yelled at if I itch my leg... if I fiddle with a button on my coat...she gets upset....
She is very focused on her future of being a Physician's assistant and studies at college very hard. She had a 3.9 in her first semester. 
Do you think this is a kind of bi-polar disorder?
Some days it seems that everything I do bothers her.

I don't see her much now that she is in college. She comes home on holiday weekends and during breaks.

I just wish I could help her to get over the things that bother her.

Can you help me?

Thanks for reading my letter.

Dear mom:

First let me say how sorry I am that you are having difficulty with your daughter. Symptoms of irritability and moodiness can result from a lot of things. There is nothing in here that you are describing that would rise to the level of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but the process of diagnosis is complex. 

It certainly seems from your description, that your daughter is behaving in a way that suggests she is angry. Also, not processing her dad's death is concerning, because grief doesn't go away, but lays dormant waiting to be triggered.

You must be so proud of her achievements academically and her dedication to pursue her future as a physician's assistant. 

I would suggest, however, that if your daughter is speaking to you in a way that is disrespectful which is does sound like she is doing, that you set some boundaries with her and let her know that you won't be spoken to in that way. To some extent, it is not uncommon for adolescents to be moody and irritable, nor is it for them to be disrespectful and complaining to their parent. However, if it starts to impact your relationship negatively, and it often does, calling her out on this behavior is required. You can do this in the context of concern as well.

For example " The way you are acting towards me is not acceptable, and I am concerned about how angry you are or seem."

You can be there for her or encourage her to get the help she needs, but should not have to tolerate this aggressive behavior. 

If there is a history of bipolar disorder in the family, or there are clear symptoms that seem to suggest to you something more serious is going on, you may need to encourage her more forcefully to go get some help.

Good luck to you!

Kristen McClure



My daughter who is 19 now still have a problem with being dishonest, lying. 

It has been 2 1/2 years since we have learned she is bipolar on the manic side, we are still trying to find the right combination in meds. But how do we overcome the lying???? She is going to a therapist but I can only afford her to go once a week and the lying is not something we have been able to overcome, just when she starts to do good then she is caught lying again. I mean even to my face when I know for sure that what she is telling me is false. How do we move forward with any trust at all?


Even though we look at lying a pathological behavior, often it is acquired as a way to make others happy and avoid conflict. Bipolar teens in particular, may have trouble negotiating social interactions and asking and for and getting what they need in a constructive way. They have difficulties with problem solving, and any situation that provokes emotional intensity. If the lies seem to be about things that have to do with displeasing you ( ie telling you she took a positive action when she didn't, or telling you she didn't do something that will cause you to be disapproving), then it is likely that this is the reason.

This becomes challenging. The only way to shift this behavior in the context of the relationship is to emphasize the honesty and reward the honesty above all else. You would have to overlook the negative or undesirable things she is lying about and focus only on rewarding honest behavior. This could take time, and you would have to consistently change your reactions to her.

Teens with bipolar disorder also may lie to get control or feel more independent from their parents. Sometimes it appears to be driven by anger. In these cases, an approach to lying would look more like a constant discourse when you express that you feel skeptical and you want to trust her but historically, she has lied. You can work from the premise that most of what she tells you is untrue, and apologize to her for having to do that, but insist that until she changes, it would be naive to believe anything else.

The truth about lying is that it is a pretty intractable behavior. It is very hard to change once it begins, and frankly rarely is therapy successful at changing it.

Good luck to you, and hope your daughter is on the path to wellness.



Comments for Hopeless in lying Average Rating     


by R(CA)

My 19 year old daughter has bipolar. She has very low self-esteem and has had social difficulties and so sets the bar low for friends. She tends to hang out with people who use her for drug money, or even sex. She has had a traumatic adolescence; experiences have included the death of my husband (her stepdad) a rape and severe bullying at school.

I am a loving, present parent and a special ed teacher, so I have utilized every tool I can muster to help her, but I feel like I'm on a sinking ship. I tend to be protective and hands-on and she relies on me to help her navigate through the day. Our conflicts are always about the choices she makes with a certain group of friends. Awful things happen whenever she associates with them. Today I left work to help her through a particularly rough mood. After helping her get through the dark moments, I left to attend a meeting for an hour. When I returned, she had taken the bus across town to see the aforementioned "friends,' and lied about her location. When I said I was coming to get her, she admitted the truth and then said she was leaving for good. I was stunned. She came to get clothes and thankfully took meds with her. 
Last year after hanging out with this crowd, she had an episode so bad that she was in the hospital for weeks. 

She seems to be acting completely without impulse control and it frightens me because she does not seem to learn from natural consequences. I don't know where she is staying--the person who came for her clothes is completely new to me. I am at a loss about what to do.

Hi Robin.

I can understand how you would be concerned about her behavior. DO you have a good therapist and psychiatrist? I know that it is difficult to deal with your daughter being 19 in chronological age , but not really being 19. It's hard to know what kind of boundaries and rules to set because developmentally she isn't really that age.

I wonder if she is stable, as you don't talk about her stability. The other issues in her background complicate some of what might be going on also ( the rape and death of step dad).

I would recommend that you get a good therapist if you don't already have one. Building the infrastructure of emotional regulation is part of the job of parents of bipolar children.It's not normal for a nineteen year old to rely on her mother to get through the day, but it is normal for a 19 year old bipolar child too. In fact, it may be that you can use this closeness to bring her back in when she starts to make those dangerous and impulsive choices. I am truly sorry for the difficulties you are having and I hope some other parents will chime in her and give you some support.

Wishing you the best

Kristen McClure

      Jul 30, 2015
so painful 
by: Marie Madeleine 

It is so painful to read your stories... I`m so sorry you, ladies. 
Wish your kids to grow up and become better. I`m sure that they will appreciate your love and patience! 
Good luck! Be brave 
two daughters and lots of pain 
by: Dad at a loss 

I too have a daughter 19 (I'll call her #2) who left home this past week on an impulse even though she tells us it's been coming. She claims we're smothering her! This is a youg lady who has had trouble i school, socially and emotionally. My wife has helped her to cope, therapy, meds and as much as we can to help her to work to acheive a good bs efor life. 

We've given her as much love as a parent can and now in one impulsive moment she packed 3 bags and left home. I gave her a shot of reality and told her no car, don't want your boyfriend to come here on the property too. She walked up our 600 ft driveway to meet him at the end and left home. She's calls here every day to check in, and also today she called to ask me for more clothes. I told her NO! No clothes, no money, not a penny, nickel or dime, nothing. You left home and walked away from your family and now if that's what you feel is it, then after all we've done for you over 19 years. Don't call me again. I'm trying but it's harder for us then we know. I do however fell a relief tonight. Should I? I have felt for the past week like what the hell??? Do I deserve this, should I jump off a bridge? My son is young, not een a teen yet. We have loved all three of our kids no less hen the other. Our #1 daughter is an addict succeeding now in College. It's been the toughest past 5 years then any other time in our 30 years of marriage. Is tough love the answere here? It has worked for our other daughter casue I told her that if she stays sober I would support her thru her rehab but if she goes back to it/drugs I'm not sure I can do it again. the pain that she put herself thru and me, my other two kids, my wife and us all. 

We know however her creep bastard boyfriend has brainwashed her. When she got up to leave home after an angry impulsive confontation over her and her boyfriend who we don't like, she packed three bags and left. We had sat down on Monday to talk, having a nice conversation w then addressed her bastard boyfriend. After coming to me and texting my wife of how he wanted to support her we both go very angry with her. We asked her to get him to back down, he is way too much in our face. While my wife cried during the ordeal, I felt like crap her we go again but not at all emotional since I'm tired and have had enough. My daughter is 19 and has been given all the tools and support we can thru her young life, school, socially, etc. Our other child left us for rehab 5 years ago to drug addiction at age 18. She also had great difficulty dealing with that and the two of them with our patience have tried to build their relationships with some conversation leaving them both to work on it over time. #2 Feb 07, 2011
by: Connie 


I have a 22 year old daughter with bipolar. I understand what you are going through. My daughter has moved back home from living with her boyfriend in another state. My only advice is to hang in are not alone. I would make sure she has a pdoc and therapist. Is she on any meds righ now? My daughter is on seroquel, wellbutrin and topamax. She is seeing a therapist now for about three months which has made a great difference. It is so hard on us moms...we carry the greatest burden. Take care of yourself...that is so important. 
Charlotte NC


I just wanted to say how happy I am you had this information on the web. My daughter is 16 and was diagnosed bipolar and OCD nov 2010. Every day is a struggle but I still have her in this world. I went to therapy sessions and parent support groups and it definitely helped me understand her condition. Others in her life do not and it makes things much more difficult. Even my own family has told me I wasn't "handling" her well. I was letting her walk all over me. What they didn't realize is that all the stuff they saw was insignificant things. I picked my fights from the start knowing that fighting over the small stuff really wasn't worth it. However, when everyone around me was saying how I was doing things all wrong I started to question myself. Wondering if maybe they were right. I asked her psychiatrist and she said I had it right and those people were lacking information. Now your article confirmed it. So thank you for having this out there. I've sent it along to others to read and maybe grasp a better understanding of this disease my beautiful daughter suffers from.




We have a daughter, who is very intelligent, studying post university. She was diagnosed with bipolar about 5 years ago now 28. She is independent and lives in another city in her own apartment and cares for herself and her cat. 
we have gone through different phases when she will attach herself to either her father or myself for several months and then she switches allegiances. 

Right now we are both out! we have had some extended family problems and she blames us as to having caused them. In her mind we are fundamentally wrong, although she absolutely refuses to discuss situations with us. It is difficult because it is not the kind of relationship I HAD HOPED TO HAVE WITH MY DAUGHTER and it seems that I am damned if I do and damned if I don't. 

If we call there are long silences on the phone and no interest in conversation. I call to keep contact occasionally but don't know if I should do even that. She can not stand to be with us for more than a few hours at a time but seems to have no problem with others... I wish you could help me know how to deal with this. It hurts so much.

The kind of work that it takes is extensive, but I think you its certainly possible for things to change. Usually it require a commitment to family therapy. Emotional perceptions and intensity are much more intense in people with bipolar disorder. When they have good therapy, they too can learn skills to better manage those emotions. 

Thanks for sharing your story, and I hope that others who have similar experiences may join in and give you some advice

Hang in There 
by: Anonymous 

When you have a bi-polar relative it feels as if they are trying to sabotage your relationship with them. However, what is really happening is that they have such a low self-esteem that they are trying to save you by distancing themselves from you. They feel that they are not worthy of your love. 
I speak from experience. My spouse is bi-polar and now we are finding out that my daughter may be. 
Just hang in there and remember that bi-polar is a disease not a choice. Let your daughter know you love her no matter what and that you just want to be part of her life. If she allows you in great, if not at least you tried. Never blame yourself for the thoughts the disease causes.


Bipolar disorder hit my daughter's life as well as mine and my families like the TITANIC almost a year ago. As you may know it was a nightmare of a year mentally, behaviorally emotionally, socially and academically for her. She is only 16 and now because of all of the "road blocks" we have had to put in place for her and tight boundaries because of her poor decision making she is "counting down the days" till she is 18 so she can "move out" --I have no place to put that in my life or my heart as a mother as I AM the person who is the most patient and understanding with her each and every day and normally she thanks me daily and tells me she can't do it without me. How can I better help her in the future as well as myself?

She does have a good psychiatrist, supportive family doctor, great psychologist at school who she speaks to weekly, great home life and loving family support all around.

Thank you for your time and help. 




The truth is, it seems that you are in a pretty good position with your daughter as is she with all of that support in place.


1. All teenagers, whether they have bipolar disorder or not, go through this period where they want to leave the nest and rebel. What choice do you really have as a parent than to learn to accept this? You could argue, and struggle against this but the reality is she will need to learn what she is capable an incapable of on her own, like we all do. I would work on accepting that this is how it is, even though it will involve pain and likely some mistakes on her part as she learns how to be an adult with a mental illness.
2. I would talk with her therapist about how she can be a primary support during this transition. Many of my kids come back throughout early adulthood because they are more likely to share their struggles with a therapist than a parent. The therapist can serve as a surrogate parent during this time.

3. I would focus with your child on developing trust and allowing them to plan and make decisions without your interference or attempts to control. Often this strategy of providing complete support ( kind of a little sneaky) will result in them coming to you more for help and being more open to feedback than if you are arguing with them about what they are and are not capable of doing on their own.

I hope these tips have been helpful.

Good luck to you with your teenager!


Thank you Laura 
by: Linda 


Thank you for taking the time to tell your story about your son and for offering advice and help. Every little bit helps as you know. 
I will pray for your son as well. As you well know we all what the best for our children but we can't control what they ultimately choose. I can understand how scary it must be for all of you in your family that he wants to be on his own. 
Thank you again for your advice it really was very insightful. 
All the best to your son. I won't forget him in my prayers. 
Linda  Jan 18, 2012
Feeling your pain - 
by: Laura 

Wow - this sounds so similar to what our family is going through with our 18 year old BP1 son right now. He has decided to move completely across country so he can be out on his own. He wants to find his own way and be responsible for himself, rather than living in his parent's basement and attending community college here at home. He's worked enough to have accrued savings to support this, and so he's determined to leave. The only people he knows out there are a best friend from high school & his girlfriend, who both moved there 6 months ago. 

We are not averse to our children "fledging" and in fact look forward to it. With this son however, it's scary because of his illness - out there he will have to re-develop a support network and relationships with therapists and a psych. We are very worried for his safety since he tends to the impulsive side - he's had multiple suicide attempts in the past. We will not be there to pick up the pieces if/when things get out of control. He also tends to abuse substances and we aren't confident he will stay away from them out there. 

The best advice we've gotten? Release yourself from the responsibility for his safety - it's ultimately his job and not yours not that he's an adult. To support this, we're helping him identify situations that might come up and asking him "what would be a good way to address this?" or "what's your plan for this situation?" which shows confidence in his judgement, shows our support of him, and helps him to identify situations to plan for. Keeping the relationship intact and supporting him as he needs it are our key goals. Giving in to our anger over this and cutting him off from us/his support would certainly increase the odds of him failing so our choice is to help him succeed if we can. 

We are still very scared for him, and pray daily for divine intervention and guidance. Sorry not to have more advice than this - it's just a really hard situation. At the end, we can only say we did the best that we could as parents of a mentally ill child. Best of luck to you and your daughter! 





About two years I was adopted. When I was 6 I was raped, and ever since then I have been an entirely different person. My biological parents both had Bipolar and I'm almost positive I have it, but don't know how to approach the subject with my adoptive parents. They think I am just overreacting, like any teen does, but I know that it is much more than that. I go from being EXTREMELY happy and loving life to hating it and not wanting to live. 

I also don't really sleep regularly, forget a lot of things, constantly put myself in stressful situations, and completely blank out/stress out to the point I am not able to continue. I don't know what to do because I know that I need help .


Firstly I want you to know that what happened to you when you were six was not your fault. You didn't do anything to cause that to happen.

Many people who have experienced a trauma have post traumatic stress disorder, and the symptoms you are describing could also be accounted for by that. I cant make a diagnosis of course, because I don't have enough information and you are not my client. It is certainly also possible that you do have bipolar disorder.

Your feeling that something is not right is something that you need to pay attention to. You have been through a tremendous amount of stress just by virtue of the fact that you were adopted, and I assume you lived with your bioparents for a while or were in foster care system which is stressful and scary and doesn't provide you with the sense of safety or stability you need.

The most important thing to me is that you get help. Please tell you parents that you are feeling at times like you do not want to live. This is very serious and I want you to tell someone close when you have these feelings.

Tell your mom and dad that you want to see a school counselor or a therapist. This person can help you to figure out what it is that you are struggling from and how to get you help so you don't feel this way any longer.

Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a health care provider. If you have a mental health emergency dial 911.



by IMS 

My son is 15 and has been diagnosed as Bipolar and has been taking risperidone for the last 2 months off and on. 

I say off and on because he will think he is doing better and then stops taking it. When he stops taking it he gets violent.
He has thrown a dresser at me when he thought I was teasing him about his medication. What I said was that he needs to see that he does better on his medication. He also challenges my husband and if our younger children say something to him he will charge them and has hurt both of them. 
Just yesterday he was arrested for assault and threatening to kill my husband and my younger son. He bit my arm when I was holding him from trying to hurt my other son. 
My question is (i have many) how do we deal with him thinking he doesn't need his medication. He doesn't go to school we have set in motion Home Hospital school, he won't play sports(very talented) and he won't go to counseling. 

Our hope is now that he is in the Juvenal system they will help us get on board. 

How do we as parents support him without taking away from our other two children? We have a younger son who is angry and doesn't understand that we have "given" in to our older son and resents his brother for all the pain and drama he has caused in our family.


Medication Non adherence is common among people who have mental illness. Unfortunately ,the research indicates usually the reason people are non complaint with their meds is that they don't believe they are sick. When my children are non adherent, I point out all the things that have happened in their life that seem to indicate something is wrong, and emphasize that it is not because they are bad, but because they are sick. I may trace the family lineage of the disorder to illustrate that it is a genetic disorder and they are not blame. Sometimes this is helpful and sometimes it is not. When it is clear that this is not helping I abandon the strategy. Unfortunately there is some evidence to suggest that some people with bipolar disorder have a complete lack of insight into the fact that they are ill.

Another reason for non compliance is substance abuse. Substance abuse reduces the teens insight and makes it challenging for those around to assess the symptoms as well. Hopefully, your child is not using substances, but I would suspect it is a possibility.
Other reasons may exist, however. I would really suggest that you find a therapist that can develop a good rapport with teens who are non complaint. Obviously it may be medication side effects or ineffectiveness that is causing your child to refuse to take meds, or it may be a fear that it will be stigmatizing in some way or means that they are damaged. As I mentioned before the number one reason people are non adherent to their medication regime is not believing they are ill, but these are also possibilities.
I don't know with your son what in particular is causing him not to take his medication, or refuse therapy, but my guess is that it is probably his lack of insight into his illness. I would suggest that you have a talk with him, and start to figure out what may be something that you could use to motivate him to take his medications. Then whatever it might be use that to help persuade him to take his medications. If he is not open to persuasion it is helpful to find something to bargain with.

I hope that involvement in the juvenile justice system does help your son. It is important that those involved focus on gaining his trust so that they can wield some influence rather than forcing him to comply out of fear.

Regarding Siblings

There is no easy answer here. Siblings need to understand that they have a brother or sister who is sick due to mental illness. I would spend as much time educating him about this as possible, and get him into therapy so he can process these issues and get some assistance navigating through the stress this causes him. 

Focus on safety is of paramount importance, and arrangements may need to be made for him to spend time with friends or family when things are particularly heated at home.

Additionally, you may need to go to great extremes to ensure that your other children don't get neglected. It is likely in the face of this that it may be easy for that to happen. Key to this is to get the help you yourself need, and use your support systems that are in place as much as possible. Repeatedly check in with the others about how they are feeling and what they need to feel safe and nurtured.

Good luck!




by Susan 

My daughter has been diagnosed with bipolar and OCD. She is a junior in HS. The past two years have been disasterous in terms of her ability to succeed in school. She does have a 504 in place, but the accommodations do not help her with her focus and ability to complete her work. This past summer she enjoyed a period of stability (no stress from school) and we thought it might last into the school year. Three weeks into the semester, however, and she seems to be headed for a manic cycle. My question what point is it a good decison to look into another school arrangement entirely? Like independent study or homeschooling. My concern is that, when stable, she loves to be around her friends. I wonder what effect being home all week would have on her. She might want to go back to school two months from now when she is feeling better...

My dilemma is that while I want her to experience HS, I think it is unreasonable to expect her to navigate it while going through an unstable period. Kids can be cruel...a few have already started calling her "psycho." Heartbreaking. 

So sorry for what your child is going through!

My rule of thumb is if the child is being destabilized by school, and we are looking at possible hospitalization or destabilization than its important to look at pulling them out. I do think that it is important to weigh the loss of friends into that equation, but if you are very creative about it, you can preserve those friendships and that social contact. 

It may be important to look at putting an actual IEP in place, as this will hold the school more accountable to the accommodations. Of course, I would also include your daughter in these conversations to some extent. 

Whether or not to home school is a difficult decision for many parents, but I usually support that option when the school is a hostile place to the children I work with.

Good luck!

Comments for Public HS, Independent Study, or Homeschooling? Average Rating  Nov 04, 2015
Very informative 
by: Jack Redford 

Three weeks into the semester, however, and she seems to be headed for a manic cycle. My question what point is it a good decison to look into another school arrangement entirely? 


Mother of 18 year old boy that just moved out on his 18th birthday...before he graduated high school.
We have had daily crazy happenings since the day we got home from our family vacation. Nothing has been normal since then. Our son has been to a psychiatrist and seeing a therapist for 4-5 years and has been medicated that long. He's always been on an anti-depressant and mood stabilizer. The current book we are reading on bi-polar states not to use an anti-depressant even though his psychiatrist prescribed it. What's your advice?

Comments for Anti-depressant? Average Rating

by: Kristen 

I am not a psychiatrist, however, the current wisdom is to start "low and slow" with antidepressants. They can be used with mood stabilizers at low doses once a child's mood is stable to help them with their bipolar disorder.



My 18-yr old son is bipolar and won't see a therapist. He's dropped out of school and having trouble getting motivated to get his GED & to get a job. How can I help him? He fights me on everything and says he can't stand living with me. Help!


Hi B

If your son is not motivated it is likely he is not stable. If he fights you on everything it is likely he is not stable also. It can be hard when kids are 18 because you don't necessarily have the authority you once did. The medications are the most important piece. If he is in denial about his illness and not willing to seek help, all you can do is continue to try to encourage him to see someone to help him manage his moods. The right therapist can certainly make a difference. I usually ask kids to make a four session commitment and then tell them if they don't want to return that's fine. Usually by then Ive won them over.

Good luck to you B

Kristen McClure




My daughter is almost 20, and has suffered from bipolar "symptoms" for approximately 7 years now. As a child (up until about 6th grade), she was the happiest child you could ever meet. She was confident, outgoing, and had many friends and interests. At some point during middle school, everything changed. She became very distant, had a very difficult time communicating with us (mom & dad), and gradually things got much worse. 

She began "cutting" in 8th grade, got involved with pain killers and became addicted for over two years, has been pregnant three times, got accepted to a very good college but only stayed for a month and ended up dropping out. Over the past couple of years, she has been in therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy). 

She has also tried a wide variety of medications that never really seem to make much of a difference. She temporarily seemed to be getting better and signed up for classes at a local community college. To make a long story a little shorter, she has since dropped out of school again - mainly due to her most recent pregnancy. After having two abortions, she decided to keep this baby. (of course my husband and I were just devastated). Ironically, while she was pregnant, for about two months, her entire mood changed. She was happy, pleasant, and almost like the person she used to be so long ago. (which makes me question a possible hormone imbalance). About two weeks ago, she lost the baby. You can only imagine how devastating this has been on her. 

She no longer has any interest in doing anything. She hangs out with her boyfriend most days and nights, smokes a great deal of pot, does absolutely nothing around the house, asks for money often, and never, ever talks about the next step in her life. My husband and I strongly disagree on how to handle/discipline her on a daily basis, and are even thinking of having her move out on her own for awhile. We desperately need advice and direction. Currently the only medication she is on is clonopin. She doesn't really want to try any more medications, which means we need to find an alternative. 

My thoughts were possibly taking her for hormone testing. Any information you can give me would so greatly be appreciated. Thank you. 

Dear A
Firstly, I am sorry for the trouble you are having with your daughter. I think it is important to know, that a 20 year old with bipolar that has been this severe, may always struggle even if stabilized. We believe the longer someone is unstable, the worse the illness can get.Your child, from what you describe has never had stability since the onset of the illness. 

Bipolar is a brain disorder and you need the best medicine and medical care to fix that. That includes medicine and therapy.

Your daughter should have a psychiatrist that has a tremendous amount of experience with bipolar, and who is willing to work with the family. The therapist, the same.

The loss of the child and the abortions have probably complicated her recovery. I would recommend the therapist also have a sensitivity to how difficult these losses must be for her.

If your daughter had cancer, it would be unheard of to do an incomplete trial of chemotherapy and expect a change. Would it not?

Half treatment doesn't work nor does partial medication. I believe with the proper care and medication your daughter and all people with bipolar disorder can get better. 

Good luck to you in your search.


Kristen MCCLure


by D

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 D
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


My sister son is 16yrs and is doing his 10th Final. He doesn't have self esteem at times. Now he lives with me as he conflicts wit my sister(His mother) and his father and his younger brother. As i don't have children i have enough time for him, and he shared a lot about him with me which he never did with his mother. He was even using drugs (Hashish). Sometimes he is very sad and says that he is always trying to do one step ahead comparing to other children even in school and ends up in problems. 

For example he told me when he saw his friends smoking he started drugs, when his mother says to do something he tries to do opposite. He keeps on saying no body understands his feelings. He cries fast. For studies I have to push him, but he has a good memory and can learn very fast.He definitely has extra caliber in studies if e utilize it. Still he fears exams.

Some times he is aggressive and threatening to get some things within no time (Some gadgets,pets etc). Even though he listen to me more than his parents, when he is in some moods he even avoids me. Somehow he makes us to say YES for his demands.

Actually after staying with me we can notice a lot of change in him like stopped smoking, cut off his friends circle, stop roaming outside etc. But not concentrating on studies and telling me he cannot control his emotions at some times. And on ther times he hugs me and confessing for what happened and crying a lot. We have taken him to NIMHANS Bangalore and they suggested the medicine Cipram 20mg daily for him and couldn't diagnose what exactly is wrong with him.

Is he a bipolar or not? Where can i get treatment for this kind of illness? Please advise me.



Hi N

I am so sorry to hear of the difficulty you are having with you nephew. He is certainly lucky to have you. I do not not know if he is bipolar or not, however, Celexa is an antidepressant and could perhaps cause further problems if he is Bipolar. I can tell you it does sound as if he is struggling with some difficulty with his moods. Certainly, what you are describing is anxiety and depression.

Part of what makes it difficult to know what is happening is that he is, or was using drugs. Many of the mood disorders ( anxiety , depression, bipolar disorder) can't be diagnosed unless the symptoms were there before the drugs, because effects of drugs can often be similar to the symptoms of those mental illnesses.

You don't mention your nephews family history which is also significant when looking at these issues. 

I can imagine it is difficult to get good treatment where you are. If you do give your nephew those medications please watch him carefully.

Perhaps some other people will write in closer to your location and provider you with some helpful information.

Good Luck, 

Kristen McClure


by Jackie

I'm 19 years old and have bipolar 2 disorder. doctors say it started when i was in the 4th grade. From that moment i was constantly struggling in school, home and with "friends" I had at those times.

the two main things i struggled with, and still do from time to time, was my family, but more so myself. i was so confused constantly and so afraid all the time of what was going on inside my head. it was like i was on a never ending horror ride at a theme park. it got so bad, when i was about 9 or 10 years old my mom and i were eating dinner. right out of the blue i looked over at her and asked straight up " i going crazy?". 

i don't exactly know how to describe the intensity of the emotions i felt. but to give a good idea, take what the "average" person feels (anger, sadness, scared, even happy) and try to multiply it times 50, maybe even 100. to try to lesson the intensity i would self mutilate. it started at an early age. at the time i just didn't know what else to do. all this continued all the way to my first 9th grade year. yes, i failed that year. the reason for that is because my disorder got worse, i got into drugs and alcohol, i constantly skipped school and i was hospitalized a few times. now, to most people being hospitalized in a psychiatric facility means that person is "crazy". nope. 

at least not for me. i know now that i was hospitalized because i was not safe from myself, my friends and family were not able to help me, i needed to get on medication and i needed to be in a safe, neutral environment. in the end, it really did help. it helped me A LOT! i learned so much. BUT, i was willing to learn. when i was able to take all the coping skills i received and created, and place them in my daily life, i was able to control my emotions, for the most part, and the bigger picture became clear enough for me to find my path in life. 

now, at this point in time, despite all that I've been through and endured, i have NEVER felt this balanced and in control.....i even find myself laughing and smiling everyday. i found my path to recovery, i took baby steps the whole way, i fell and learned, i got back up and continued on. what helped me the most was finding people who understood me and what i was going through. my family had no clue. they still don't. but they try REALLY hard to understand. that made it kinda worse for me at times. 

most of the time i just wanted them to leave me alone so i could deal with it myself on my own time. and as for my friends.....up until about two years ago most of my friends were bad influences. now, I've learned how to choose my friends wisely. the friends i have now help me stay on the right track.....and they love me for me. they know everything about my past. bipolarness and all. hahaha.

yes i had my therapist and psychiatrist, but what helped most was a support group i went to. so, really REALLY long story short, it will take time, effort and a lot of love and support from those around a person to help them with their path to recovery, no matter how old or young that person is with bipolar disorder. speaking from my own experience, the more positivity that person is surrounded by, more doors will open. it took me four years to get to where i am today. but you know what, it was all worth it.

Comments for Bipolar teen......looking to help as best i can..... Average Rating  Jun 13, 2010
by: Jackie 

when i was first diagnosed i too was in denial for a long time, for many reasons. my main reason was that i was afraid of being "labeled" as psycho, crazy or anything of that nature. so instead of trying to cope with my disorder, learn about it and face it, i tried to ignore and run from it in every way possible. i think its absolutely wonderful that your trying to understand your daughter, for my mother explained to me many times her trying to understand me and what i was going through was very difficult. as of now i have two books on bipolar disorder and one book on psychology that helped me quite a bit. the two bipolar books are "The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide by David J. Miklowitz" and "Bipolar Disorder For Dummies". As silly as those may sound they've helped me understand my disorder on a factual level. the psychology book is "The Complete Idiots Guide To Psychology". all of those books gave me a clinical perspective on my disorder and gave me actual facts, however, i have also read a couple of books written by people with Bipolar Disorder or people with loved ones that have Bipolar Disorder. Those books gave me a more personal and internal perspective. The only book i can remember was called "Cutting" but i cant remember who the author is. i used to have a problem with cutting and decided to read the book to understand it better myself. i got all my books from Borders book store and Barns And Noble. the only website i've looked into is kristens, so i'm not sure what is on the internet that can help. in all honesty, the only reason i have been able to cope with my disorder was because i accepted it and CHOSE to understand it instead of continuing to deny or run from it. it did take me a while to do so. for me it was a self-paced process...and a slightly slow one at that. i too neglected to talk to most people, especially my family. i cant tell you why your daughter is doing the same, because it may be different for her...but for me, i didnt share what i was going through not only because i didnt know how to but because i was afraid to. afraid of how my family would react to what i was thinking and feeling. i would get very upset if anyone would ask me questions that i didnt know how to answer or didnt want to answer. all i wanted my family to do was be patient with me, love me as one's family would, let me know everyday that they were there for me whenever i needed them and reassure me that eventually everything would be ok. i hope i have managed to help you Cindy. if you ever have anymore questions, please feel free to comment here and i will gladly try to help as best i can. i wish you and your daughter the brightest of days, biggest of smiles and best of luck. ~Jackie~ Jun 12, 2010
Good for you! 
by: Cindy 

Hi Jackie, I am a teacher and parent of a bipolar 16 year old. I am struggling to understand what she is going through, as she doesn't share. Your story has given a bit of insight into what she may be going through. She is in denial and keeps stopping her meds which throws our lives into chaos. I am struggling to find a way to help her and survive these awful times. We are in a very rural area and lack services to support us. Have you found any books, websites or other resources that I might be able to tap into? You are a smart young lady and seem to have found the balance a person needs in life. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Apr 12, 2009
by: Jackie 

it wasnt just guts and willingness that got me through it was the love of those around me and the knowledge of what was happening to me. I am very glad to know i've helped in whatever way i did. that was my main goal in telling my story. i'm glad i was able to help you with your son. if at anytime you have a question and what not feel free to ask. i'll continue to help as best as i can. good luck and i hope things go well for your son. he has quite a journey ahead.....and it will turn out for the better i'm sure =) 

~Jackie Apr 07, 2009
by: Renee 

Hi Jackie, 
First, I want to say that I am in "aw" of your guts and willingness to share your story. You have not only helped the parents that are dealing with their bipolar child, but you have also helped many children/teens understand that they are not alone in their feelings! What a gift you gave to not only me, but I am sure many others. 
Let us know when you publish your first book about your coping/survival skills, I will be the first in line to buy it!! 
I will share your story with my son, 15, and anyone else who struggles to understand the inner chaos! 


by S(Sacramento, CA)


I have been practicing the suggested RAINBOW techniques. Very helpful. What would you suggest when the mother is also Bipolar and trying to deal with both of them at the same time. They seem to often trigger each other.



For those of you who don’t know, RAINBOW stands for Routine, Affect Regulation, “I can do it”, No negative and live in the Now, Be a good friend and Balanced lifestyle for parents, “Oh how can we solve this”, and ways to get support? They are just ways to think of the most important factors in parenting bipolar children. These same techniques are helpful with adults who have bipolar!

This is an excellent question. I really think an acknowledgment and an awareness of the illness and how it impacts the family among everyone would be useful.

Good therapy for your wife, with a focus on how to monitor her stress level recognize her moods and how her mood affect her ability to parent may be helpful.

The rainbow techniques are helpful with adults as well, and practicing them with your wife in the context of parenting your child is a great idea.

I think the awareness and acknowledgment is important because more often than not, I see mothers or fathers who will faithfully learn how to recognize their child's mood states, and how to manage their child's mood states. They will come to therapy to help their children every week. 

However, when it comes to themselves, there is a lack of awareness of their needs and at times almost a denial. I see the rest of the family partake in that. It takes a long time for me to help the family realize they have to take care of themselves, understand themselves and commit to monitoring and managing their own stress level. 

Many times I think parents just don't recognize that they have to care for themselves if they can care for their child. They think its selfish, or can't see the long term benefit. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary and certainly in the child's interest to make that same level of commitment to your wife, or to yourself!

Thanks so much for your question, and good luck to your family!

Comments for Daughter (12) and Spouse are Bipolar Average Rating   Dec 01, 2012
I feel your pain 
by: Dan Martin 

I completely understand and feel your pain, my daughter is very similar. Advanced language skills, loves writing, gore, and very intelligent. Our house too is a war zone with the main difference being that my wife is Bipolar too and my daughter 14. Getting her to the dr is the right thing to do and medication is the first step in a long journey. I would also suggest your husband become more aware of mental illness. Beating her (and many times he and you are probably justified in feeling like it!!) won't help anything. With a bipolar child you need huge amounts of patience. You found this page do your in the right place. Good luck and god bless! Jan 29, 2011
suspected 12 yr old daughter is bipolar 
by: Anonymous 

After much research and observation, I feel my 12 yr old daughter is bipolar. She gets angry with every no that I say. She is verbally abusive, and blurts out inappropriate things. She is full of anger toward her brothers and the rest of her family. She speaks so quickly I can hardly understand her. She is gifted in Lang. Arts, and is an outstanding writer. She is obsessed with gore and laughs at people getting hurt. She has friends, and is a beautiful dancer and cheerleader. At school she is a model student, but now is not completing her work and getting F's because of not doing homework. She is very forgetful, cannot focus and is always distracted. If her cheer leading squad does not get 1st place at competitions she throws a fit, verbally abusing her team and me. She doesn't care who hears her. She refuses to take a shower(once went a week) and will not wear a coat in the winter. She has an appointment with a psychiatrist soon. I filled out a questionnaire about bipolar symptoms, and she fits almost every one. She has severe anxiety, mild OCD, and her counselor feels she may have high functioning Asperger’s. My daughter has had issues since she was in kindergarten. She did not like to be held as a child, was very intelligent at a young age, and certain noises and sensations drive her crazy. Our household is a war zone. Her father yells because he doesn't know how to handle her. I try to reason with her but she gets verbally abusive. We are in need of help. I plan to get counseling for all of us, but my husband is going to be difficult. He thinks the only way to discipline is to beat the crap out of her. (He hasn't done this yet.) We are frustrated and confused. Any advice would be great.


by carroll 
(Wichita, Kansas.)

My grandson is 17 and was sweet and considerate as a child. He is bipolar and keeps postponing learning to drive, even though his parents have signed him up for classes, and even though he is very smart and can drive a golf cart, for example. He is very rebellious right now, and his somewhat older friends drive him around. Even though it will take him a long time to actually drive alone in his state, his parents want him to take this step toward independence, and at least learn. Have you heard of this? Suggestions? Carroll in Kansas.

Dear Caroll

Usually I hear the opposite from parents, that is, they are not wanting their bipolar kids to drive and the kids are pressuring them. My guess is he is anxious, if anything, or why else would he be avoiding it? Unless, of course, it is just because he wants to do the opposite of what they tell him.

In general, my perspective is teenagers are less skilled to drive than adults. They are impulsive, and often reckless, and if they have bipolar disorder, they may have side effects from the medications that impair their driving as well.

However, I also understand the parents, if they believe he is skilled and mature enough, wanting him to learn this skill. I would recommend finding out exactly what it is that is getting in the way of him doing this. Certainly, you can't make a 17 year old do anything!!

What an interesting question. Thanks for sharing.


Kristen McClure


by Lori 

I have a Bipolar teenager who is 15 and was diagnosed only 3 years ago. We have been struggling with teaching him to take responsibility for his actions/words etc. However, we are also learning that yelling and screaming does NO good, in fact my child shuts down when he believes he is being yelled at or when he believes he is right. Recently, my husband and I were out for the evening and my child came home about 25 minutes late. His Uncle & Grandmother were at the house and came off angry asking where he was at. I figured a fairly normal response since he was late and it was dark and they had no idea where he was at. He responded by stating he lost track of time. We are working on that with him, when he becomes involved with video games etc, he loses track of time. He got into a verbal argument with his Uncle, my son became defensive and then after being yelled at he shut down. He ignored his Uncle and balled up his fists, something he does when he is angry & frustrated, he has never hit anyone. His Uncle took this as a threat and bent down to further agitate him and ask him to "come on boy. Come on" I assume trying to get my son to hit him. My son could not take anymore and bolted out the door and ran off. My son is angry and upset with his uncle. He states that he feels like he was disrespected and pushed into the situation that caused him to cuss and run. I would like to know what we can do as parents to help my son not feel as though he has to bolt out the door or yell profanity when he feels as though he has been pushed to his limit. He will be in high school next year and I know that as soon as the other kids find out that he will either cry when provoked or get mad and run away that they will try to get him to do this. I want to be able to help him face the ignorance of family and people in the world with his dignity in tact. I want him to learn how to cope with situations and come out as the better person. How can I help him accomplish this when he is already having to tackle this with family, who should be on his side?

Thank you

Hi Lori

This is an excellent question, a great question. I don't think there is an answer to how you can get him to react in a better way. When children who are bipolar feel threatened, their whole physiology responds as if they are under attack. They get in a fight,m flight, freeze mode just like they would if they were in real danger. 

In this scenario, the best option was for your son to run, as I can't imagine fighting would have had a good outcome. 

Frankly that behavior is outrageous from his family member, and educating family members about his illness and what you will tolerate in relation to how he is treated is about the only option I can think of. My thought is his uncle has his own issue he needs to work through! I am sure you are in agreement.

I think I would work to do the best I can to set up a safety plan for your son and allow him to know that you have his back and are protecting him when family members get aggressive. Educating them and setting limits is also important.

It may take some time before he understands how to navigate high school. I would try to ensure support is in place by meeting with the staff of the school prior to his arriving and educating them about this dynamic and his illness. 

Good luck

Kristen McClure


My name is N and I live in upstate NY. My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5 and about 2 years ago, he was diagnosed with bi-polar. 

He takes 40mg of Straterra, 1250mg of depakote and 1800mg of neurotin. It seems to really help him but my husband doesn't seem to really understand bi-polar and get's very frustrated with our son. Giving our son simply rules like no one is to be in the house when we are not home and you are not to leave the house when we are not home. He doesn't seem to grasp it. Last night he allowed a friend over when we were not home and we grounded him. Our son's most precious thing is his CELL PHONE!!!! My husband took it from him and broke it!!

He told our son that because he broke the rules about not having anyone in the house while we are not home, he broke his phone!! I feel he went overboard with breaking his phone and stuck in the middle!! What are your thoughts and can you help us with discipline for our a bi-polar child??? I don't want to put more stress on our son, but he also needs boundaries!! My heart breaks because he struggles so and because my husband and my son always bump heads!! PLEASE HELP!!!!


Hi N
This sounds like a challenging place for you to be. Kids who have bipolar disorder often do not respond to normal discipline and parenting, and it can be challenging to get them to follow rules. Men have a particularly hard time with their sons, because they feel like they should know what to do and be able to get things under control.

One of the best approaches with kids like your son is the collaborative problem solving approach. You can learn about it by googling it. There are videos where you can watch it in action being demonstrated by the creator, Ross Greene. 

Here are the basic assumptions:
Kids do well if they can. If they have the skills they would be using them, because all kids want to do well. If you believe your child is behaving badly, or trying to make you angry, your approach to addressing their behavior will be different from if you believe they are lacking the skills and have difficulty solving problems.

Parents with children with special needs, need to be flexible and accepting of what they are dealing with, rather than parenting their child in ways that are ineffective just because they think the child should listen.

When a child's environment has stress in it that they cannot navigate successfully, you often see it as a behavior problem

So, if for example your child is breaking rules about having his peers over, this particular approach would stress that the child is somehow feeling stressed by this and unable to make good choices about following rules. This is often the case with kids who are trying to fit in.

Finally the most helpful concept may be three options for problem solving, which adults usually try to use to solve problems with kids. 

Plan A, Unilateral problem solving ( what your husband did) 
Plan C dropping the problem completely ( what we often do) 

Plan B is where we want to be and what we want to be doing. Go to the website Lives in the balance and click on Plan B to see this in action. Essentially this is about respectfully working with kids to address issues that you know are present when you are not in crisis.

Hope this helps.

Good Luck

Kristen McClure


by ez 

I have a 15yr daughter who was dx w rapid cycling bipolar disorder/pathological liar/histrionic personality disorder. In addition to having severe depression.

My family has struggled with this for the last yr and a half. I am now at wits in regarding how to help her. She is manipulative and has lost her bonds w younger siblings. I find it very difficult to communicate w her and continue providing guidance and support. 

I feel I can only keep her safe. She has threatened suicide many times and harm to our family. I have neglected my husband and 2 younger children because it is exhausting dealing with her everyday. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. she portrays to be uncaring but i know deep down she miserable too. What more can I do for her yet protect my family/myself?


Firstly, let me say how sorry I am for the challenges you are facing with your child. Mental Illness is not something that is easy to deal with in a family, but it is important to realize that it is the illness that is causing your child to have these difficulties. 

I believe that children and adults do the best they can to be socially adaptive. If people are having a hard time coping with stress sometimes they make poor behavioral choices. It’s because they don’t have the skills, not because they are trying to harm others. Often people diagnosing kids forget how harmful the terms they use can be, and how much damage they can do. I never use the word manipulative to refer to children’s behavior because the it implies malice. I don’t believe that this is the case. Kids who do not know how to ask for what they need directly, sometimes use creative ways to get their needs met. Looking at her behavior this way can lead to more productive solutions.

All of the behaviors you are describing are due to her mental illness, not her being a bad person. Although I know how challenging the behavior of bipolar teens can be, it’s important to keep in mind that these are just her attempts to function the best she can.

It is for this reason that good therapy is so important. She needs help, you need support and your family needs support dealing with the challenges this mental illness brings. If she is regularly threatening suicide, and to harm your family, she is not stable. She needs her medications adjusted or a higher level of care. 

Neglecting your husband and two your children is likely to build resentment and unhappiness. Therapy can help you to learn how to balance this and how to be more realistic about what you expect from yourself.


by S(WA)


I am the mother of a bipolar 18 year old female. We are recently on our own after separating from my verbally abusive husband, who is an untreated bipolar. She also has a history of ADHD, epilepsy and self harm (cutting). My daughter wants to feel good and is seeing a counselor and psychiatrist, but has great difficulty keeping daytime hours and taking her medication as necessary. For many reasons, she is emotionally more like a 13 year old than an 18 year old, and it has been next to impossible for me to have a baseline of expectation for her self care. 

I would like to know if it is reasonable of me to expect she keep daytime hours, keep food out of her room (big issues there), and take her medications as directed more often, and if so, how to best encourage these behaviors by means other than modeling positive behavior, praising good choices, and active listening (which on the whole do not appear to be terribly effective)? I would appreciate any input on the matter.




I do not know your daughter so it is difficult to answer the question of if it’s reasonable. I tell my teens that they have a reverse sleep wake cycle, and that they need to keep this in mind when they are applying for jobs or scheduling school. My philosophy is that they function better if they are allowed to be on a more natural schedule for them. I encourage parents to make reasonable accommodations for that.

Keeping food out of her room? Again I do not know her. My suggestion would be to communicate to her that you would like for her to try to work on that, but that you know it’s difficult for her, and praise praise praise rather than criticize when frustrated. You may have to let it go. Keeping a clean food free room may be the least of your worries, or hers as she gets older. It’s also an issue common to teens that aren’t bipolar, and it doesn’t mean she will have this habit permanently. Communication is one of the most important pieces. Regardless of what the issues respectful no aggressive communication will be more appropriate and effective than any other method. 

There are all sorts of tools to help kids with remembering medications. Pill boxes, alarms etc. I think you medication would be the most important issue out of the ones you mentioned. You should expect that she will work towards taking her medications and make every attempt to help her to get there. Medication non compliance could result in a hospitalization; therefore I would devote the most time to that!

Good luck



Comments for Reasonable Expectations: How to best encourage self care and healthy behaviors?? Average Rating  Click here to add your own comments Aug 26, 2010
Reasonable Expectations 
by: Renee 

After reading your story, I felt the need to add my two cents about expectations. Our son is 17, diagnosed w/bipolar, attention and anxiety issues. Our expectations change according to how his mind set is that day and we never criticize what he does attempt to do. We choose what is the most important thing for him and that is for him to be safe and the only assurance we have with that is medicine. I am in complete control of his medicines...non-negotiable! Everything else is negotiable, well except for the obvious, no knives, guns etc...! 
Reasonable expectations come with stability and her time not yours. You can promote it, expect it, but let it go if it doesn't happen. 
With help from her psychiatrist, her sleep cycle may be altered with a med adjustment, just a thought. 
Food in the room, as long as it is not bringing in creepy crawlers, so what! Close her bedroom door. I have to admit, a couple days a week I extract the plates and glasses, collect the mold and harvest penicillin...ha ha 
Lastly, don't be so hard on yourself! You are doing the best you can, spend time with people who can help lift your spirits and laugh. Laughing about situations is the best medicine for you!! 
Best of luck to you, 
One more thing you can join the support group on this website, there are a lot of parents in your same situation and they can advice or just listen and understand! 

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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.