Seeking Moms' Advice on Adhd/bipolar Disorder

Updated on March 07, 2007
H.D. asks from Franklin, PA
24 answers

My 13 year old son, who is the middle child, has been having problems. His grades have dropped, he cannot concentrate for very long. He has mood swings a lot. He cannot be in a crowd of people or he gets very nervous. Although he hasn't been diagnosed, the doctors have mentioned ADHD nad also bipolar disorder because his father is bipolar. I am worried about putting him on medication. Any advice from someone who knows about these disorders?

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L.K.

answers from Pittsburgh on

H.,

I would seriousely consider getting a 2nd and 3rd opinion regarding his diagnosis. He may have both or neither of these two conditions but you should read this article http://www.ablechild.org/patricia%20mark.htm

Also, have they tested him for anxiety disorders?

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R.

answers from Philadelphia on

My chiropractor has a program for ADHD for kids. Call him:

Dr. Shahab Bina
200 Monument Rd.
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
###-###-####

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J.S.

answers from York on

Hi H. my name is J.. I'm bipolar. I was diagnosed at 18yr. I knew something was wrong with me way before I was diagnosed. One helpful hit is make sure the Dr's take their time diagnosing your son. Dr. Kennedy at Meadowlands in East York is one of the best Dr.s ever. I had her until they made me go to an adult Dr. When diagnosing your son they should have you keep a log of his activaties, moods ect. and they should have him do the same thing. It can take a few months of loggin to find out if it's bipolar or ADHD but you wanna get the right one because with the right meds your son can feel and be a normal 13 yr old. The wrong meds can make him worse. My older brother was put on bipolar meds because they thought he was bipolar because I'm bipolar and the meds made him worse and he even got violent and out of control. Once he was put on the right ADHD meds he's now doing good. If you decide to do meds be very careful! Some anti-depressants can make depression worse and even cause suidal tendenance. I'm proof of that one. If you wanna talk more you can find me on aol... mom2myluv23.

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K.M.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi H.,

My daughter was on meds when she was younger, they first thought she was adhd, but the meds. they put her on ritilin
didn't really help, but with further testing and alot of pushing to get answer, she had a learning diorder, plus emotional problem, the put her on zoloft, which help her and she graduated with honors, plus since the school district couldn't deal with her problem, they had to pay for private schooling, the school was great they kept me informed on a daily bases,ther were some meds that i didn't loke how she was and informed the doctor right away that this meds weren't right, and they change it. don't let this go on to long because yr child is suffer now, and so will you, it long road, but the results will be worth it. please let us know how u make out.

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M.H.

answers from Washington DC on

I am 25 years old and have had undiagnosed anxiety/panic attacks since I was 7 years old. Please take it from someone who has been there: have your son diagnosed and treated. When I started having symptoms at age 7 the dr's said I was "faking it for attention" so I learned to hide it from everyone. When I was in my teens I did some reaserch and diagnosed myself, then later saw a dr for a real diagnosis and treatment. I wish every day that treatment had been offered to me from day one. This has had such a negative impact on my entire life, I can't stress to you the importance of taking cae of it as early as possible. I never liked the idea of taking meds myself, but I can promise you that the alternative is much much worse. There are some amazing meds available that can make your son feel so much better, not just for the anxiety but for the depression as well. Best of luck to you. If you'd ever like to talk more, you can email me at [email protected]____.com

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E.M.

answers from Washington DC on

I have worked with children as a teacher and daycare provider with similar problems. The things that I have noticed that help the most is a lot of love and support from parents. "Catch them when they're being good" and give a lot of positive feedback for these moments. Children with ADHD are able to concentrate for longer periods of time when they are doing something that interests them. If your child goes to public school, you don't have a lot of control of what's expected of him in school, but you have more control at home. Try to create opportunities for him to be successful at home as much as possible. I took medication for ADD, and it was helpful, so you could try that and see if that helps. I went through a period of time last year when I was experiencing anxiety attacks in crowds of people. My husband and mother in law also have this problem. I'm not sure if there's a specific solution, but what helped me the most was lots of emotional support and encouragement from friends and family to help build my confidence. I pray a lot and get strength and peace from God.

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L.O.

answers from Reading on

I have two daughters with Bi-polar. The only way they can even think of being able to function is by being on medication. Do not be afraid of the medications. You need to fight for whatever your child needs. However, be aware in the sate of PA a child at the gae of 14 can refuse medication and the parent can do nothing baout it. The laws Suck for us as parents! This is a long hard road this disease affect everyone in the life of the person that actually has it. You can always E-mail me at [email protected]____.com.

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L.S.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Hello H., My name is L. and I just wanted to assure you that not all medacations are bad but not all will work either. I know this because I'm 25 now but I was 13 when I was diagnosed as being bipolar with mixed state. Alot of doctors cant tell the difference with bipolar and adhd. He might not have both he may be more Bipolar. I was told that the two are alot alike but if he is having mood swings than he is more Bipolar. I have been on alot of different medications and some have worked and some have not. It;s trial and error. There are now so many differenr meds now, its unbelievable. I still have problems with it. I do know a great doctor who specializes in children who have bipolar disorders. If you would like to know the address please let me know. His name is DR. David Axelson and his office is in Oakland. (Pittsburgh) I hope something in this responce will help.

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A.W.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi H.,
I wouldn't wait. Take your son to see a psychiatrist. I say psychiatrist because they are the ones who can prescribe medication if necessary. You also may want to have him evaluated by a neurologist. I don't know you or your son but you may want to have him tested for drugs as well. It is not uncommon at his age to experiment and it is better to be safe than sorry. Mood swings and dropped grades are a good sign that something is wrong. Just be very cautious about medication. Doctors sometimes think it is a cure all and over prescribe just to appease the worried parents. So get several opinions but do it real soon!
I have a LOT of experience in all these things. and I am sure willing to help if you have any more questions.
Blessings,
A.

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J.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi H.,
Like you I also have three children. My eight year old is my oldest and he has ADHD,ODD and an undetermined underlying mood disorder which could be Bi-Polar. You can get some help at school determining the cause of this. My son has taken different kinds of medication and we still have not got it right because of the mood disorder. That makes it hard to treat ADHD because stimulants have a lot of side effects if the child is bi-polar. Make an appointment with a Psychiatrist not the pediatrician and also ask the school for a multidisciplinary evaluation. If your son is determined to have ADHD the school can accomodate him with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), he should not have to be put in a "special" class to get help. You as the parent will need to request an IEP once the eval is completed. You may want to check with your school districts website to find out what their timelines are, most schools have 60 days to do the eval and 10-15 days to get the IEP meeting finished and implemented. Adderall is seems to be working without side effects to help with my sons ADHD but we still are working on getting the doseage correct. I hope this is a little help to you. For more info you can Google 'ADHD and Education' for more help.

Good Luck

J.

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K.S.

answers from Washington DC on

I have two boys who had autism spectrum disorders, but don't, anymore. That's not because they were misdiagnosed, and I do not believe it was because they were "cured" of PDD-NOS. I believe that it is very, very hard to diagnose children. I think that ADHD and bipolar disorder are the diagnoses du jour. That does't mean that the symptoms aren't real, it means that they should be diagnosing and treating the family as a whole, not just one child.

That being said, that doesn't mean that your child doesn't need medication. But if a child is having difficulty to the extent that medication is a viable alternative, the whole family should also go into counseling. In fact, if you were taking care of a parent with Alzheimer's disease, the whole family should go into counseling. There are issues that crop up whenever a beloved family member is suffering, if nothing else.

My three-year-old was engaging in life-threatening behaviors, and I had him on three psychoactive medications at once. His quality of life skyrocketed. He made astonishing improvements. He's now five years old and he's been off meds for a year. But we've decided to put my older child back on meds because his psychologist says that he would benefit from medication that assists with concentration and focus.

When medication helps, it really, really helps. You may need to try more than one medication. But that is not the end of the inquiry. The whole family should work together on behavioral issues, and on maintaining balance, and to help him.

Make sure that, if he is getting medication, he is also getting psychotherapy. Make sure also that you apprise the school of what he is taking. They can tell you how he's doing during the day, and also if he breaks his ankle in gym class and needs medical attention, the school should be able to tell the paramedics what he's taking.

Good luck!

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C.M.

answers from Philadelphia on

I don't know if this is the exact type of help you are looking for but I hope it is ok. I am 27 yrs old and have bipolar disorder. Looking back I probably developed it around the same time that your son did. I did my best to deal with my depression and all of the symptoms that you are explaining that your son has. My mom chalked it up to just being a teenager. Knowing what I know now, I would have much rather have been medicated. I was officially diagnosed with this disorder about 5 years ago and up until recently have been on medication. The medication has done wonders for me. It helps to keep me rational if nothing else and doesn't make me to drowsy. (At first it did but that's with any medication). I am 5 months pregnant now so I don't take any of the medication that I was on, this is per my doc.

I guess what would be best is to talk to your son and see what his feelings are. He sees your husband and must see the difference that the medication and therapy makes. Ultimately I would talk to a pychiatrist. Especially since you don't have a formal diagnosis of anything right now. My family doctor thought that I suffered from depression and anxiety. He got a portion of it right but had I not gone to a psychiatrist, I would've never discovered that there was actually more hiding behind the surface. The more information you can gain the better.

Try not to worry to much. I know it is hard especially when all you want is the best for your son. Let the research begin and don't be scared off but medication. I would definitely go to a therapist or a psychologist so that you could gather more info. Most importantly tell your son he is not alone and that even with therapy things can get easier.

Sincerely,
C.

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L.B.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi H., My son is 9 & was diagnosed ADHD at the age of 5. He had been through counselling, therapy & everything else under the sun.....the last thing I wanted for him was medication. But after all of these things, he was still having a lot of problems and it all came to a head halfway through kindergarten. He was having a hard time staying on task, getting along w/ other kids, cooperating w/ his teacher & eventually would get so frustrated he would start throwing things & hitting people. I had him evaluated by a psychologist who diagnosed him as ADHD. My family doctor then put him on Concerta. Within a week or so, he was a completely different child & I knew that I had done the right thing for him. My advise to you is this.....find a really good psycologist or phychiatrist that you feel in your gut you can trust.....tell then all of your concern w/ meds & anything else that maybe going on. Have him evaluated & evaluated again if you feel it necassary....but definately listen to your instincts before you go with what the doctor says. I hope this helps & good luck to you and your son.

L.

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D.M.

answers from Scranton on

My 10 yr old daughter has ADHD and was diagnosed a few years ago. For the longest time I tried to keep away from putting her on meds. I tried therapy and such and it just didn't help enough. She couldn't pay attention very long, couldn't sit still, became easily frustrated, etc. I was constantly being notified by the school. Finally about 4 years ago I gave in and tried meds. It was the best thing I did for her. Along with an IEP in school, her grades and behavior have improved greatly. She has been on two different meds. The first one she was on was Strattera for about 2 years. It didn't do enough for her though so then she was switched to Adderal XR, which has helped her a lot more. Different meds work for different kids. Now I'm 34 and I was diagnosed 2 years ago with Bi-Polar. I take meds for that as well. I couldn't function without them. My advice would be to talk to his doctor, get him tested for ADHD and get a definite diagnosis about the Bi-Polar. In my daughters case her pediatrician referred her to a phychiatrist and he tested her and gave the diagnosis. She also continues to go to a therapist as well.
D.

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T.A.

answers from Washington DC on

My oldest has adhd and bipolar disorder. He heard voices. His thoughts raced uncontrollably. His moods were very labile, he'd be thrilled one minute and rock bottom the next. We tried the adhd meds, which worked a little but made his racing thoughts worse.

We took him to a pediatric psychiatrist. We pushed for an answer. My sister is also bipolar, and we suspected our son was too. The psychiatrist confirmed our suspicions; she saw him on several occasions to be sure. She didn't want to rush into a diagnosis, which we thought was good. She recommended medication and the thought terrified us.

After a lot of thought, my husband and I decided to try some new medicine. We agreed to put him on medicine and the difference is like night and day. He can control his racing thoughts. His moods are easier for him to handle. And best of all, he doesn't hear the voices anymore.

When thinking about it I changed the label "bipolar" with "diabetes" or "heart disease". If he had diabetes, I wouldn't think twice about getting the insulin he needed. If he had some kind of heart problem, medicine wouldn't have been an issue. When I approached it this way, the decision was easier to make. We were improving his quality of life and for the most part, haven't regretted it.

The medicine we put him on has side effects (weight gain) so talk with your doctor and understand everything about what the medicine can and will do. If the first medication doesn't work or doesn't work well enough, try another. Or another.

You are your son's best advocate. Speak up for him. You'll be glad you did.

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C.L.

answers from Sharon on

try a behavior specialist, my partner and I have a child who has adhd and she needs extra support other then us to help her..also, a set schedule is good for people like this..I have found that with our child she functions better, if she has a schedule for everything and a set place to put things, so they do not feel like things are out of there control..bipolar on the other had they do have medication for kids that helps them deal with everyday anxiety...that will not make them into zombies, because we worried about that too.. A person called a TSS, is helpful too...

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H.K.

answers from Washington DC on

You may be able seek help through the school system. I know this because I am special education teacher at the elementary level. This may be especially helpful for finding out more information on the topic of ADD. Your school should have a committee that meets and provides assistance to students who are struggling; in our school system it is called a child study committee. By going this route, you may be able to ask for behavior rating scales to be given, such as the Conner's scale (but there are many others). These behavior scales can provide you with more information about your son. As for other routes other than medication, I have had parents put their children on special diets- I don't know much about this approach, but you may want to research that. I don't know much about bipolar disorders- it is not my focus. Best of luck.

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T.B.

answers from York on

My oldest, almost 9 years old, was diagnosed with severe ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome. We worked on the ADHD first and I was VERY against medicating such a young child for an extended period of time. We tried changing his diet by following the feingold diet (feingold.org) and I think it did make a difference, however it wasn't enough for him, and the other children were really starting to be annoyed with him. Between myself, my husband, and my son's father, we all decided to go ahead and put him on medication. We had to try a couple of different meds to find the right one, which I also hated.

Now the ADHD is under control but the Aspergers is taking over our lives. Good luck to you!

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J.T.

answers from Pittsburgh on

This happened to my sister. They put her on all kinds of medication and, regardless of what was ACTUALLY happening, refused to just listen to her. Personally, I think that most diagnoses are handed out like lollypops at a bank, though some kids really do need to be medicated. From what you wrote, it just seems that he is being 13. before placing him on anything, see if you can have him evaluated further. Sometimes kids this age just get emotional for any number of reasons and this causes changes in everything around them. Maybe just some counseling and a mild antidepressant can help.If you have him further evaluated, and still come to the conclusion that he is either ADHD and/or BiPolar, at least you can feel more comfortable about the decisions you make regarding his care because you will know more. I also suggest educating yourself on these disorders. I wish I had some books or websites to offer you. If either of these issues do affect your son, the more up to speed you are, the better you can help and be a part of his treatment. I'm sure that I mentioned things that other moms have suggested or that you already know, but I hope I was also able to help some. I wish you luck.

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R.A.

answers from Lancaster on

H.

i have ADD and my parents were told this when i was younger and they did nothing about it. I was never told i had it eaither went threw school.was put in special ed classes and was always hyper could never stay on task. knowing all this m y parents still never told me. I was in collage and my advisor said something to me pointed me in the right direction and came to find out i had this then asked my parents about it and they said ya we know but we didn't want to do anything about it cause we didn't like the meds. Please i beg u not to do the same to ur child i am now on med and doing great.

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S.P.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi H., my oldest who is now 19 has had problems since he was 8. he was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD then by 13 he was diagnosed with bi-polar. The medication process was really difficult and he was on so many different combinations which made his weight go up and down, take blood test frequently and caused sleep loss. My age 17 with the help of his school and family we leaned him off the medication and so far a year later he is fine. It was a tough road and there was even times where he had to be hospitilzed which was very hard for us. We went through many drs because the mental health system has so many changes. I advise you to ask his school to do an IEP and take it from there. I wish you luck and would love to talk to you if you want.

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L.W.

answers from Scranton on

Hi Its a good thing you mentioned the middle child thing in your request because as a middle child myself and my younger sister (the middle chid of my mom's second marriage) i have noticed that mood swings sensitive to other peoples opinions and just general sensitivity to everything whether its not enough attention or getting punished is very common. I would talk to your doctor about the nervousness it may be anxiety though. because his father is bipolar then you may need to pay a little more attention to his mood swings but as long as they aren't serious then i would probably just think its a middle child syndrom thing . As far as the adhd thing goes my younger brother and one of my younger sisters(of the second set) have adhd and the only symtoms i have noticed that would really stand out is when he is involved in something like watching a program on tv does he get so engulfed that he doesn't even hear you talking to him or is he overly curious constantly getting into stuff just because he wants to see what would happen or to satisfy his curiousity these are things that i have seen in my brother and sister that have helped my mom and their doctor diagnose the adhd just be careful that you aren't putting him on unneccesary meds because i was put on unneccary meds and it effected my outlook on medication (i refuse to take anything more than tylenol unless it is life threatening).
I hope this helps you and your son :)

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L.H.

answers from Pittsburgh on

hi H. im L. 33 y/o my son is 15 and he is adhd and my daughter is 12 she is adhd and bipolar. they both take meds and trust me they really help. if u have aol or yahoo im me we can chat. [email protected]____.com or [email protected]____.com. i have a few things that might help ya. so drop me a line if u would like. thanx L.

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D.W.

answers from Pittsburgh on

The most important thing is to get him to a child's psychiatrist to get him diagnosed correctly. My 10 year-old daughter has been diagonsed ADHD/bipolar and has been on medication for a few years. Don't worry about putting him on medication if that is what the doctor prescribes. These disorders are chemical imbalances in the brain and sometimes require medications to set the balance straight. My daughter is a different child now that she is on medication. She still exhibits behaviors but she actually feels better.

If you don't have a child psychiatrist, you can send a letter to your school and request that they do a school psychiatric exam. They are required by law to do this if you request it. Your reasoning for requesting this is because his grades are dropping. This is done at no cost to you and if something is diagnosed, this will help your son get the additional support that he needs in school.

This can be a long tough road (trust me I know), but you must be persistant to help your son.

Next question: Bi-polar in Children.