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Bipolar Disorder and Adolescents

Symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents may look like other disorders

Traditionally bipolar disorder has been thought to first show in early adulthood – and more often in females.  Bipolar disorder was considered to be quite rare as few as 20 years ago, to be more exact. The first emergence came in the early 20s, mainly in females. But, our knowledge about bipolar disorder has grown rapidly in the last 20 years.

Instead of the single manic-depressive diagnosis – which included diagnostic criteria of both depressive periods, alternating with manic periods – described as “euphoria”?

Those who did not have clearly rhythmic, alternating periods of a “happy” and frantic manic phase with a classic depression period were mishandled, misdiagnosed, mistreated, or dismissed.

Bipolar ChildrenIn addition, it wasn’t really known that bipolar disorder could start in adolescence or even childhood, or that there are different types of bipolar disorder.  Today, it still isn’t “officially” recognized in the “psychiatric bible” – the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but at least more practitioners do know that it exists.

Today, we don’t exactly know what causes bipolar disorder (only that there is a genetic link of some kind, and often some past trauma). But, we can at least identify adolescent and childhood bipolar illness.  We also recognize a variety of different types of bipolar disorder (Such as mixed manic episodes, rapid cyclers, people without a depressive phase, hypomania, dysphoria rather than euphoria and cyclothymia). We also have a “catch-all” type – Bipolar NOS or “not-otherwise-specified”.

Adolescent or childhood bipolar disorder is official known as: “early onset bipolar disorder”.  In fact, childhood bipolar disorder can be more serious than a similar disease in adults and may have slightly different symptoms.

Symptoms of bipolar illness in children can often be more severe, and the cycling period may be more frequent.  Children also have more mixed episodes.  Children also have slightly different symptoms – so even the depression phase of the cycle may not be obvious.

Pediatric patients (children and adolescents) with bipolar disorder may have:

Bipolar Disorder in Children•    Abrupt mood swings
•    Periods of hyperactivity followed by lethargy
•    Intense temper tantrums
•    Frustration
•    Defiant behavior
•    Chronic irritability

These symptoms have to appear in more than one setting (school and home) and cause “distress”.

The problem is that many of these symptoms may look like other disorders.  They might be disorders such as ADHD, childhood depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, conduct disorder, premenstrual syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder and others. The danger might come from a misdiagnosis and improper treatment.

Bipolar disorder is treated with anti-manic agents (lithium), anti-convulsants (Depakote, lamotrigine) or atypical antipsychotics (Abilify, Risperdal).  In many cases, anti-depressant won’t be needed.  Treatment for other disorders like ADHD or depression may make bipolar disorder worse. Childhood bipolar disorder is something that desperately needs treatment as the distress caused to the patient, and the family can predispose the youngster to

•    Drug or alcohol abuse
•    Stealing
•    Involvement with law enforcement
•    Poor social integration
•    Poor academic performance
•    Suicidal tendencies
•    Premature sexual behavior

The Balanced Mind has a good self-check list of symptoms that can help a parent or a teen decide if bipolar disorder might be an issue.  Self-testing is not always accurate and should be discussed with a doctor, (preferably with test results in hand).  Not all doctors accept pediatric bipolar disorder. Parents may have to seek advice from more than one mental health professional and be aware that insurance may not cover the illness.

Melissa Lind

Dispelling a Few Myths about Bipolar Disorder

Dispelling myths about Bipolar Disorder

Hello again, fellow wackos and electronic rubberneckers!Bipolar?

If you’re here because you’re like me—just a little “off”—then welcome. If you’re here to learn about bipolar disorder, stick around, because I know a thing or two and I like to talk. If you’re here to watch the train wreck happen, hoping I’ll melt down and post something crazy about the talking wombats that live in my refrigerator and their TV viewing habits… well, you’ll probably be a little disappointed. I may be a freak, but I’m not crazy.
Yeah, that’s right. I just called myself a freak. I figure if other people are going to call me that, I can probably get away with saying it myself. Wacko, nutcase, loony, psycho… There are lots of things people say about bipolar disorder, and many of them just aren’t true. Let’s take a look at a few of those things right now.

Bipolar Myth #1People with bipolar disorder aren’t really sick.
Bipolar SkelletonSome people say that bipolar disorder is “all in your head.” They say things like “everyone gets depressed. You just need to suck it up and deal with it like everyone else.” If this is true, then diabetics just need to get over their illness, too. I mean, too much sugar is bad for everyone, right?
Just as a diabetic’s body doesn’t process sugars properly, a person with bipolar disorder’s brain doesn’t process dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine quite right.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Take it from research scientists at the University of Michigan who’ve studied Abnormal Brain Chemistry Found in Bipolar Disorder. They know what they’re talking about.
I’m just some freak, remember?
So, you can tell me I don’t have a “real” disease and that I just need to deal with it, but first you gotta tell Ms. Diabetic to eat six Twinkies and deal with it. Go ahead. I’ll call 911 while she’s chewing.
This myth is so prevalent that insurance companies are allowed to treat it—or more accurately NOT treat it—like it isn’t a “real” disease. The last health insurance I had would pay for 80% of the bill if I had to have major surgery, but only 50% if I saw a doctor for bipolar disorder. Also, they limited the number of times I could see a doctor for treatment to 12 times a year. Tell you what… let’s limit diabetics to 12 insulin shots per year and see how well they do.
What? We shouldn’t do that because they could get sick and die?
Well, people with bipolar disorder die, too. In fact, without proper treatment, 20% of them commit suicide. That’s one in five, folks. I’d say that constitutes a serious health risk. Maybe this bipolar thing is a real disease after all.

Bipolar Myth #2People with bipolar disorder are beyond hope.
He’s got bipolar disorder. He’s crazy. He can’t be helped. He’s a lost cause. Or is he?
The fact is—he isn’t. Bipolar disorder is one of the EASIEST conditions to treat. There are several effective medications, some of which have been in use for quite a while. Lithium, for example, has been around since the 1950’s. Lithium doesn’t work for everyone, though. That’s why there’s Lamictal, Depakote, Zoloft, Tegretol, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Effexor, and a partridge in a pear tree. A psychiatrist can tinker with medications until he finds a combination that works.
Medications can help, but so can just talking. Talk therapy did me more good than any pill ever did. However, without the pills, I probably wouldn’t have listened to anything when I was at rock bottom.
The point is this: people with bipolar disorder CAN be helped. So if you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, don’t give up. There is hope.
Well gang, it looks like I’m over word count. I told you I like to talk! We’ll talk some more next time when I dispel a few more myths about bipolar disorder.
So to all my friends and fellow freaks, until next time… keep fighting!

Bruce Anderson

Read more here: Words As Weapons And Another Bipolar Myth Dispelled