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Identifying Bipolar Disorder and ADHD in Children

There is a perception that ADHD is an over diagnosed condition in children. There have been studies over the years that have challenged that perception, even suggesting that ADHD is under diagnosed.

One chilling study I read in 2010 reported that of the 62% of prisoners who responded to the questionnaire, 40% of the male prisoners met the criteria for ADHD. I would venture to believe that many in prison have never been properly identified or treated. I can’t help but wonder whether we could have changed the course of events for these prisoners had they been properly diagnosed and treated as children.

Of course, part of the difficulty in identifying ADHD in children is because it can be confused with bipolar disorder because there tends to be a lot of overlap between these two brain diseases.

There was another interesting study in 2010 that tried to determine the differences between these two diseases and the accuracy of the Child Behavior Checklist Pediatric Bipolar Disorder (CBCL-PBD) as a way to diagnose children properly.

The study found that children with bipolar disorder were verbally aggressive and argumentative, who responded with anger when frustrated. Children diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD exhibited significant levels of impulsive behavior and attention problems, but youngsters with bipolar disorder also exhibited significant levels of aggressive behavior and dysphoric mood.

Finally, the study found that the CBCL pediatric bipolar disorder profile did not accurately identify youngsters who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Though the news often reports that ADHD has sky rocketed in frequency in recent years, I suspect that some of those cases may very well be undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

These sorts of disorders are very real and have long-reaching consequences for children, teens and adults. I keep thinking of the prisoners in the first study I referenced, wishing we as a society could've helped all of these people before they dropped out of school and turned to crime believing they were dumb and defective with few options.

It is important to know the difference between pediatric bipolar disorder and ADHD, for reasons of medication alone: certain symptoms of bipolar disorder may get better with some types of ADHD medications, and other symptoms can surely get worse.

This is why it is so very important that a specialist in the field who daily works with these two types of conditions be the one to diagnose and treat your child. It can make all the difference in the world in the success of your child’s future.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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