A management program for your teen’s bipolar diagnosis starts with awareness and support.
For ‘neurotypical’ teens, as they take their first steps into adulthood, hormones rage, peer pressure intensifies, and rebelliousness arrives. It’s an emotional time for sure. However, for children with bipolar disorder, puberty creates a host of other intense challenges. And, if a child’s condition doesn’t stabilize by the time puberty hits, everything associated with this developmental milepost is compounded and threatens to wreak havoc on every part of his and your life.
Unlike people whose disorder emerges during adulthood, teens diagnosed with bipolar disorder often find themselves in the whirl of physical and developmental flux. Of those who show symptoms of the disorder in childhood, many enter puberty with emotional turmoil, their ability to learn at school compromised, and, frequently, their self-esteem battered. Cognitive issues could cause frustration, which will, in turn, be amplified by the diagnosis. In fact, most of the developmental issues teens without bipolar go through are magnified for those teens with the disorder.
Time is of the essence
Demitri Papolos, MD, coauthor, with his wife, Janice, of The Bipolar Child, says if children aren’t diagnosed and treated by the time they get to be adolescents, “the effort to get them stable and to get them to acknowledge that they have an illness and to collaborate in treatment is daunting and often not successful.” The development of interpersonal skills and autonomy are “enormously compromised” and very different than an adult going through basic developmental stages. This illustrates how crucial a correct, early, diagnosis for children is.
Myths and Misunderstandings
Papolos has said childhood bipolar has been widely misunderstood. One of the reasons is the lack of studying of early-onset bipolar for the child psychiatrist. Because there was the myth for so long that bipolar did not exist in childhood, there were generations of child psychiatrists that didn’t know to look for the illness. The myth still lingers so it’s important for the correct diagnosis and treatment because incorrect medication could make the disorder worse.
When kids enter adolescence, they seem to experience things on a much grander scale. It seems that the teen rebellion and experimentation gets amplified and this goes for drug and alcohol use too. And when substance experimentation is coupled with either a manic or depressive episode, teens are at a greater risk of harm. This means parents have to be cognizant of this more so than with teens who don’t live with bipolar disorder.
A meaningful rapport
By asserting limits on excessive behavior, listening with respect, and trying to appreciate everything your child endures—from stigma and social ostracism to medication side effects— will help achieve a meaningful rapport between you that will help in many areas. Try not to see your child as a bundle of symptoms.
Because children with bipolar disorder don’t have “boundaries” already wired into them the way ‘neurotypical’ kids do, parents have to establish them. When children have both severe anxiety and defensive anger, their behavior will typically reflect those two dimensions. It’s a delicate tightrope walk between imposing constraints and regulating the impulses and drives of a teen who feels trapped.
Since most children are different in their needs for learning support, there are no one-size fits all answers. Solutions could be as simple as ensuring your teen has the proper sleep to function at school, to getting an Individual Education Plan (IEP) Model for certain accommodations within the school system. There are varied challenges, depending on the extremity of disorder but there are also resolutions to be had.
Having a lifeline to other parents can be invaluable! Besides an online forum being the most convenient, there is wonderful emotional support being in a group of others going through similar turmoil. And the simple act of getting to speak about the details of your struggles and your emotional pain is very cathartic. Perhaps most helpful are the nuggets of crucial information gleaned, such as being informed about certain studies, or new treatments.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community