Don't Read These Symptoms the Wrong Way

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Fredrik Broden for Newsweek

In evaluating a child’s behavior, many psychiatrists will view these symptoms as evidence of bipolar disorder, but author Stuart L. Kaplan, M.D., sees other explanations.

IRRITABILITY OR FREQUENT DISPLAYS OF ANGER

Irritability is found in up to 76 diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It’s often seen in children and adolescents who regularly refuse to listen to authority figures, a likely sign of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

EXCESSIVE TALKING, RACING THOUGHTS, INCREASED ACTIVITY

These symptoms are also typically found in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Eighty percent of children given the misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder are also diagnosed (correctly) with ADHD.

DECREASED NEED FOR SLEEP

In bipolar disorder, this is defined as feeling rested after a minimal period of sleep (for example, three hours per night). But children with ADHD may find it difficult to fall asleep at night, or may sleep restlessly.

ELATED AND SILLY

The connections between this behavior and any disorder are not well studied. In fact, these seem to be part of normal childhood.

GRANDIOSITY OR EXCESSIVE SELF-ESTEEM

The unrealistic belief of being especially important is found in bipolar disorder in adulthood. In children, it may be found in those who believe they can break rules without consequences. It may well be part of normal child development.

VERY INTUITIVE AND VERY CREATIVE

These are listed as symptoms in a well-known questionnaire to identify bipolar disorder in children. Rather than being symptoms from the DSM, however, they’re desirable qualities that many parents attempt to nurture in their children.

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