Wednesday, 12th August 2020

This Month's Magazine
How do you know if your child has ADHD or Bipolar Disorder?

How do you know if your child has ADHD or Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose in children, and often a child diagnosed as ADHD can have bipolar disorder which is misdiagnosed. By Dr. R. B. Prats

  1. Bipolar disorder has a genetic component. The National Institute of Mental Health says that more than two-thirds of people with bipolar disorder have at least one close relative with the illness or with clinical, or “unipolar,” depression. However, having relatives with bipolar disorder does not necessarily mean that you will have it.
  2. There is a Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ), a tool designed to help you recognize the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, which can be taken, and results discussed with your doctor, if you have personal concerns.
  3. The Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation estimates that at least 750,000 American children and teens have bipolar disorder, but
    most are undiagnosed. Many times, children with bipolar disorder are given a misdiagnosis of attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder
    (ADHD). There is a difficulty in diagnosing bipolar disorder in children. People with bipolar disorder often spend years suffering through their illness before they are properly diagnosed. You would therefore be advised to discuss your son’s condition with his doctor and it is also your right to obtain a second opinion should you feel this is necessary to be.

Differentiating between children with mania and those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder represents one of the biggest challenges. Both groups present with irritability, hyperactivity and distractibility. So these symptoms are not useful to identify either of the causes. But, elated mood, grandiose behaviours, flight of ideas, decreased need for sleep and hyper sexuality occur primarily in mania and are uncommon in ADHD.

Below is a brief description of how to recognize these mania-specific symptoms in children. suicide.


  • Elated children may laugh hysterically and act infectiously, happy without any reason at home, school or in church. Anyone would think the child was on his/her way to Disneyland. Parents and teachers often see this as “Jim Carey-like” behaviours.
  • Grandiose behaviours is when children act as if the rules do not apply to them. They believe they are so smart that they can tell the teacher what to teach, tell other students what to learn and call on the school principal to complain about teachers they do not like. Some children are convinced they are they are superhuman and even “fly” out of windows.
  • A flight of ideas jumping from topic to topic in rapid succession when talking and not just when a special event has happened. - Decreased need for sleep, sleeping only 4-6 hours and not tired the next day.
  • Hyper sexuality without any evidence of physical or sexual abuse.These children act flirtatiously beyond their years, may even try to touch the private areas of adults and use explicit sexual language.
  • It is most common for children with mania to have multiple cycles during the day varying from giddy, silly highs to morose, gloomy suicidal depressions.

It is very important to recognize these depressed cycles because of the danger of

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