Bipolar disorder involves marked changes in mood and energy. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV), requires that, for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, adult criteria must be met. Although there is no professional consensus on diagnosis, behaviors reported by parents may include:
- an expansive or irritable mood
- extreme sadness or lack of interest in play
- rapidly changing moods
- explosive, lengthy and often destructive rages
- separation anxiety
- defiance of authority
- hyperactivity, agitation and distractibility
- sleeping little or, alternatively, sleeping too much
- bed wetting and night terrors
- strong and frequent cravings, often for carbohydrates and sweets
- excessive involvement in multiple projects and activities
- impaired judgment, impulsivity, racing thoughts and pressure to keep talking
- daredevil behaviors (such as jumping out of moving cars or off roofs)
- inappropriate or precocious sexual behavior
- delusions and hallucinations
- grandiose belief in own abilities that defy the laws of logic (ability to fly, for example)
Research suggests that there may be a strong genetic component to bipolar disorder, so a history of mood disorders or substance abuse in the family can be an important clue. Certain behaviors by a child should raise an immediate red flag:
- destructive rages that continue past the age of four
- talk of wanting to die or kill themselves
- trying to jump out of a moving car
Diagnoses That Can Mask or May Occur Along With Bipolar Disorder:
- conduct disorder (CD)
- oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD)
- attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- panic disorder
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Tourette’s syndrome (TS)
- intermittent explosive disorder
- reactive attachment disorder (RAD)
In Adolescents, Bipolar Disorder Is Often Misdiagnosed as:
- borderline personality disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
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