As a psychiatric nurse with ten years experience working with children and adolescents, I am worried about the trend to diagnose earlier and earlier with a major mental illness. Because of the stigma attached still, I do worry about the self esteem of these children who are so vulnerable to what others say and think about them.
Before I left that population of patient, it appeared to me that more and more children and youths were getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Most of them displayed irritability, impulsivity, aggression, and mood swings. Some of them even had hallucinations–both auditory and visual. I wondered if the effect of natural child development was being subverted into an illness, but after caring for many of these youths, I realized that we do have a growing problem. I don’t know if this is a societal problem or a genetic problem or what, but we do have a problem.
I am “just a nurse” and I do not diagnose anyone, ever. I simply wonder and sometimes express my own personal opinion about a specific issue as it presents itself. If you have a child who exhibits the signs and symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, please have them examined by an expert in the field. If they are suffering from this particular disorder, then the sooner they get help the more likely it is that they can get on with a normal life. That is what we all want for our children, isn’t it?
When are mood swings, temper tantrums, and aggressive behavior the sign of pediatric bipolar disorder, and when are they just normal development? When is the desire to spend time alone a sign of shyness, and when is it a hallmark of early onset depression? How can a parent find the right expert to help him decide whether to treat his child with antidepressants that have been designed for and tested on adults, not children?
The difficulty in answering questions like these, according to experts at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is exacerbated by the inability of many children to describe or express their emotions, and the paucity of experts in pediatric psychiatry. Below, we’ve adapted NAMI’s 10 steps to help parents and their health-care providers make an accurate diagnosis of mental illness.
1. Record keeping
Organize and keep accurate records related to your child’s emotional, behavioral, social, and developmental history. The records should include observations of the child at home, in school, and in the community. They should be shared with the child’s treating provider to help in making a diagnosis. The records should include the following information:
- Primary symptoms, behaviors, and emotions of concern
- A list of the child’s strengths
- A history of when the child first talked, walked, and developed social skills
- A complete family history of mental illness and substance use disorders (many mental illnesses run in families)
- Challenges the child is facing with school, social-skill progression, developmental milestones, behaviors, and emotions
- The times of day or year when the child is most challenged
- Interventions and supports—including therapy, medication, residential or community services, hospitalization, and more—that have been used to help the child, and their effectiveness
- Settings that are most difficult for the child (e.g., school, home, social situations)
- Any major changes or stresses in the child’s life (e.g., divorce, death of a love one)
- Factors that may act as triggers or worsen the child’s behaviors or emotions
- Significant mood instability or disruptive sleep patterns
Families know their child best and their expertise is essential in securing an accurate diagnosis for their child.
To finish reading the other two pages of this article, please click here. This is a very informative article and one that every parent needs to read.
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