Bipolar Disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed and/or undiagnosed in children for several reasons, even though, even though the symptoms of bipolar may be very obvious to the parents of such children. There are several reasons for this:

  • 1. Many children that actually have Bipolar Disorder are still being misdiagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), because the manic symptoms of Bipolar Disorder mimic ADHD.
  • The official guidelines for diagnosing Bipolar Disorder that are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) used by the American Psychiatric Association, outline criteria based on classic adult symptoms. Very little was known about Bipolar Disorder in children when the latest edition of the DSM-IV was published, so even today, children with Bipolar Disorder are still being diagnosed based on the same adult criteria.
  • Although heredity plays a major part in the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, it is still overlooked in diagnosing young children as having early-onset Bipolar Disorder, as it is still prominently believed in the medical community that Bipolar Disorder does not begin until the late teens.Reports from parents are now indicating that symptoms of Bipolar Disorder can emerge as early as infancy. Mothers often report that children later diagnosed with the disorder were extremely difficult to settle as infants and that sleep was fitful. They also state that these children seemed overly clingy, and that they often had uncontrollable, seizure-like tantrums or extreme rages from a very young age that were often triggered by the word 'No.' It is easy to see how these reported behaviors could be misdiagnosed as other behavioral problems, and that Bipolar Disorder could be overlooked.
  • 'Red Flags' for Bipolar Disorder in Children

    Symptoms of mania include elevated or irritable mood, and a decreased need for sleep. They may also exhibit racing speech, and increased amount of speech, as if they just can’t seem to 'turn it off.' They may have grand delusions, which may start as play-acting, but continue longer than they should. Physical activity may increase and may include excessive involvement in fun but risky activities. Mental activity may also increase, but they may show poor judgment. In severe cases, hallucinations may be experienced.

    Symptoms of depression include long periods of sadness and perhaps even crying spells that may or may not have an obvious cause to them. They may sleep too much or have trouble with falling asleep or staying asleep. They may seem to be very tired all the time. They may have low energy, which may or may not be because of their sleep problems. They may show increased agitation and irritability. They may be withdrawn, and no longer show interest in activities they normally enjoyed. There may be an observable and significant change in their appetite.