Also referred to as the maniac depressive illness, the bipolar disorder is arguably the most controversial diagnosis. Webb (2006) argues that the controversial nature of bipolar disorder is mostly experienced when the patient is a child aged below 10 years. This, according to Faedda and Austin (2006) is because the condition is associated with symptoms that are so much similar to such other conditions as the Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Due to the overlapping nature of the symptoms, there is likelihood that physicians will misdiagnose the condition. What makes the condition even more controversial, according to Faedda and Austin (2006), is the actuality that it takes shorter cycles in children between ages 4 and 10 years. For this reasons, researchers (Webb (2006), Kowatch (2009) and Faedda and Austin (2006) recommend that prior to embarking on treatment, the parent or the care giver of the child should endeavor to seek a second opinion.
Kowatch (2009) explains that the condition is associated with severe symptoms. For instance, Kowatch notes that children in the case study bracket exhibit such extreme conditions as short, hot temper, a prolonged sad mood, feelings of worthlessness and an unexplained lack of interest in areas that could previously rouse interest in the child. Webb (2006) explains that pediatric bipolar or childhood bipolar is associated with unusual and usually, unforeseen changes in mood and energy. This, explains Pavuluri (2008), is the reason behind the hyperactivity that is characteristic of bipolar children aged between 4 and 10 years. The ultra-rapid cycles that are associated with pediatric bipolar may cause severe behavioral concerns and mood swings, that are characterized by depression and suicidal thoughts.
Research carried out by the American School Counselors Association (ASCA), indicates that, while there may be maniac and depressive episodes, there also are mixed states, which commonly occur during the ultra-rapid cycles (Kowatch, 2008). In the same light, Pavuluri (2008) explains that 70% of the children suffering bipolar disorder have exhibited mixed states at some point in time. Such mixed states are among the primary reasons why diagnosing pediatric bipolar is quite an uphill affair. Faedda and Austin (2006) argue that unlike other conditions and ordinary diseases, pediatric bipolar is difficult to diagnose because there are no laboratory tests involved. On the same note, Webb (2006) explains that there are no scales used in determining the extent of the bipolar disorder. On the contrary, explains Kowatch (2009), the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar for children between the ages of 4 and 10 ears is complicated by the presence of individual differences and a wide array of overlapping symptoms.
A proper understanding of bipolar condition in children aged between 4 and 10 years is quite instrumental in child development (Webb, 2006). This is essentially so because it is in this age bracket that that early intervention is exceptionally effective. Children aged between 4 and 10 years are mentally malleable, and this means that they can be molded to behave in a manner that is likely to be influential on their social development. Additionally, Pavuluri (2008) explains that early diagnosis can help the parents manage the condition through subjecting the child to a multidisciplinary therapy where psychologists, psychiatrists and general physicians work as a team in guiding positive behavior in the bipolar child. Webb (2006) notes that the social workers can as well be part of the multidisciplinary team as they will encourage and guide the parents on how to go about alternative approaches such as family therapy, which is considered more effective in enhancing a bipolar child’s social development.
Research findings indicate that management of the bipolar condition for children between ages 4 and 10 is easier compared to their adult counterparts. According to research, the most important thing for a parent or any social worker to do is to be proactive when dealing with bipolar children (Kowatch, 2009). Proactive measures here include taking suicidal signs and threats seriously because research indicates that bipolar children, as young as seven years have committed suicide over particularly petty issues such as attaining a poor grade in an assignment (Faedda & Austin, 2006). Another potent proactive move explained by Pavuluri (2008) is that parents should communicate the children’s difficulties to teachers and school authorities. This will help the child get the highly recommended special breaks and allowances as well as exemption from strenuous exercises.
Studies carried out by the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) indicate that bipolar children aged between 4 and 10 lead a better life in the future if they are subjected to family therapy, routines within the home environment and strict medication schedules (Kowatch, 2009). These factors reduce the possibility of a child developing thoughts about death, constant thoughts about sex and risky pleasure-seeking tendencies. Kowatch (2009) further explains that subjecting a child to routine procedures and activities can help improve the capacity of a child to concentrate hence attaining academic excellence. Additionally, Webb (2006) explains that the routine therapy will be instrumental in eliminating the tendency to oversleep and overeat, as such behaviors can result I other dangerous conditions such as excessive weight gain and fluctuating sugar levels.
Faedda, G. L., & Austin, N. B. (2006). Parenting a bipolar child: What to do & why. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Kowatch, R. A. (2009). Clinical manual for management of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Pub.
Pavuluri, M. (2008). What Works for Bipolar Kids: Help and Hope for Parents. New York: Guilford Publications.
Webb, J. T. (2006). Misdiagnosis and dual diagnoses of gifted children and adults: ADHD, bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, depression, and other disorders. Scottsdale, Ariz: Great Potential Press.